In cases of drug poisoning in dogs, the most common cause is unintentional overdosing of medications. Veterinary pills are easily over-consumed by dogs, since they are usually flavored to make them more appealing, and easier to swallow. If these pills are kept in an accessible place, a pet will quickly and easily consume them.
Besides veterinary pills, the other common factor in drug poisoning is the reckless administration of over-the-counter drugs by a dog owner without prior consultation from a veterinarian. Often, what is not taken into account is that the same drug dose given to a human cannot be given to an animal. Incorrect dosages will often result in overdosing and drug poisoning. Even as little as two tablets of an acetaminophen pain reliever can cause severe organ damage in a medium-sized dog. Because animals do not have the natural enzymes necessary for detoxifying and eliminating drugs, medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are a major cause of drug poisoning in dogs.
If you suspect your dog has had access to drugs, you will typically find evidence, whether it is an empty container, or a box that has been torn apart. If your pet has begun vomiting before the entire pill or capsule has digested, you may find whole pills, or the undigested exterior of a capsule. If the drug was liquid, it will be more difficult to differentiate the liquid drug from the rest of the content in the vomit.
The most useful information you can give your veterinarian is what type of drug was ingested by your pet. Even if you are not entirely sure how much of the drug was ingested, your pet's doctor will have a point from which to begin treatment.
Dogs affected by drug poisoning may show symptoms such as:
- Overdosing of veterinary pills
- Consumption of human drug:
- Sleeping tablets
- Diet pills
- Heart pills
- Blood pressure pills
You will need to give a thorough history of your dog's health and recent activities. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, taking into account the background history of its health, including the onset of symptoms. Diagnosis and treatment will be wholly dependent on the symptoms and information you are able to give to your veterinarian, as well as your dog's current behavior and the results from any tests your veterinarian conducts.
For immediate first aid, try to induce vomiting with a simple hydrogen peroxide solution of one teaspoon per five pounds of body weight, with no more than three teaspoons given at once. This method should only be used if the drug has been ingested in the previous two hours, and should only be given three times, spaced apart at ten minute intervals. If your dog has not vomited after the third dose, do not use it, or anything further, to try to induce vomiting. Do not use anything stronger than hydrogen peroxide without your veterinarian's advice. If your dog has already vomited, do not try to force more vomiting.
A final word, do not induce vomiting if your dog is unconscious, is having trouble breathing, or is exhibiting signs of serious distress or shock. Regardless of whether your pet vomits or not, you should rush it to a veterinary facility immediately after the initial care, as there may be an antidote for the specific drug your dog has ingested.
Always consult your veterinarian on the appropriate medication and the proper dosage for your dog. He or she will base this on your dog's breed, size and age. Otherwise, make sure you keep all drugs and medications in a safe place that is not accessible to your pet, preferably in a locked cabinet.