Drug Poisoning in Dogs


PetMD Editorial

. Reviewed by Hanie Elfenbein, DVM
Updated Feb. 28, 2019

In cases of dog poisoning, the most common cause is unintentional overdosing of medications.

Prescription pet medication is easily overconsumed by dogs, since it is usually flavored to make it more appealing and easier to swallow. If these medications 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 administration of over-the-counter drugs by a dog owner without prior consultation from a veterinarian.

Many over-the-counter and prescription medications used for people are toxic to dogs. Additionally, 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 one dose of an acetaminophen (Tylenol®) pain reliever can cause severe organ damage in a medium-size dog. Because animals do not have the natural enzymes necessary for detoxifying and eliminating drugs made for humans, medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are a major cause of dog poisoning.


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, though you may need to look in your dog’s favorite hiding spots.

If your pet has begun vomiting before the entire pill or capsule has been 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.

Bring any information you can with you to the veterinarian, such as the pill or liquid drug container, and any pills that you can find. Your veterinarian is not there to judge you; she just wants to know what your dog got ahold of so that she can treat him properly.

Dog poisoning symptoms include:


  • Overdosing of veterinary pills

  • Consumption of human drugs including but not limited to:

    • Antihistamines

    • Sleeping tablets

    • Diet pills

    • Heart pills

    • Blood pressure pills

    • Ibuprofen

    • Acetaminophen


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog's health and recent activities. Your veterinarian will perform a comprehensive physical exam on your dog, taking into account their health history and the onset of symptoms.

She is also likely to recommend blood tests. Some drugs will affect the body quickly while others are more slow-acting, and this initial blood sample will act as a baseline to monitor progression or improvement.

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.


Most importantly, do not induce vomiting in your dog, as this could cause further damage. Contact your veterinarian for guidance and next steps. 


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. Make sure you keep all drugs and medications—for pets and people—in a safe place that is not accessible to your pet, preferably in a locked cabinet.

Remember that pill bottles are child-proof, not dog-proof.

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