Poisons (General Overview)

By PetMD Editorial on Sep. 16, 2010

The modern world is home to many chemicals, airborne substances, drugs, and plants that are poisonous to dogs. This article links to several everyday treatments guides for exposure to some of these common and dangerous substances.

What To Watch For

Some poisons are more obvious than others. Consider chemicals, paint, or tar on the skin, for example. Others are more insidious, from ingested plant material and drugs to surreptitiously consumed chemicals and inhaled substances.

Any sign of discomfort, agitation or pain must be investigated. Disorientation, vomiting, restlessness, staggering, depression, convulsions, lethargy, loss of appetite, twitching, dilated pupils, ulcers, diarrhea, heart palpitations, and coma can all be caused by various poisons.

Immediate Care

Those toxins for which immediate care should be sought include the following (click on the terms to open the guides):

Skin contact

  • Tar
  • Petroleum products
  • Household chemicals
  • Paint or paint remover
  • Gasoline
  • Stinging nettles
  • Bufo toad venom
  • Flea and tick medication


  • Smoke
  • Tear gas
  • Insecticides
  • Household chemicals


  • Alkalis
  • Acids
  • Household chemicals
  • Petroleum Products
  • All drugs

Poisonous Plants

  • English ivy
  • Foxglove
  • Hemlock
  • Mushrooms
  • Mistletoe
  • Oleander
  • Peace Lily
  • Tulip

Immediate Care

Call the Pet Poison Helpline (1-855-213-6680) or your veterinarian immediately upon ingestion or exposure to a known or possible toxin. Moreover, do not induce vomiting or offer any antidotes without the advice of a veterinarian, toxicologist, or poison control specialist.


  1. Keep your dog away from work areas where contaminants are used.

  2. If you can’t keep your dog away, ensure all chemicals are safely contained and stored out of reach of inquisitive paws and noses.

  3. Do not keep poisonous plants in or around your home and watch for them while taking your dog outside.

  4. If you use insecticides and/or rodenticides, follow the instructions carefully and make sure the dog cannot reach the treated area(s). The same goes for dog-specific insecticides (flea and tick collars, shampoos, etc.)

  5. Keep human medications stored in a safe and secure location. Label them carefully and keep count of how many are in each container. This information will be extremely useful in case of ingestion or an overdose.

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