View All Slides

Top Ten Tips for Handling Pet Poisonings & Ingestions

PetMD Editorial
Updated: October 13, 2020
Published: November 02, 2012
Share this:
Accidents Can Happen

You are careful about keeping potential poisons out of your pet’s reach — of course you are! You have them closed up tight in a cabinet, high on a shelf, or zippered up tight in a handbag. Still, accidents can and do happen. In the event that your pet does ingest something harmful, time is of the essence. Knowing what to do can mean the difference between life and death.

#10 Know Your Poison

Did you know that even a little bit of garlic can be fatal to your cat? Or that just a few grapes or raisins can cause sudden kidney failure in dogs? These and other things we might not consider can be found on a list of toxic substances at Pet Poison Helpline, and at the ASPCA.



#9 File it So You Can Dial it

 The last thing you want to do in an emergency is scramble for a phone number. Today — right now! — store the number for Pet Poison Helpline in your phone. The number is (855) 213-6680.


#8 Don’t Wait

When the item is not toxic, but is still potentially life threatening, don’t take a wait and see approach. Some dogs will swallow entire toy balls and even utensils, and cats are well known for swallowing needles attached to thread; not the sorts of things that can be brought back up through induced vomiting or allowed to pass through the intestinal tract.

#7 Leave it to the Professionals

Never induce vomiting or administer a home remedy to your pet without first getting explicit permission from your doctor or equivalent professional. That means no milk, no castor oil (or any oil), no hydrogen peroxide, no activated charcoal. Depending on what was swallowed, vomiting may not be the best solution.

#6 Be Honest

Okay, so you took the wait-and-see approach and now it is three days later and your pet is not looking at all well. Don’t be ashamed to tell your veterinarian the truth. If you fudge the truth, your doctor won’t know how severe the problem might be. If you have an idea of when the poisoning or swallowing occurred, make sure the doctor knows too.

#5 Make a List of Symptoms

Maybe you are not so sure that your pet swallowed something, but you suspect he might have because he just “ain’t doin’ right.” (That’s ADR in vet-speak.) Make a list of all the symptoms and call your veterinarian anyway. If it’s the middle of the night, call Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 213-6680. Don’t rely on community forums or advice from friends for safeguarding your pet’s health.

#4 Collect the Evidence

If you know, or even suspect, which substance your pet ingested, take the packaging or item (e.g., a plant) with you. Do not throw it away!

#3 Even the Yucky Stuff

If your pet is vomiting or passing diarrhea or feces, collect some of it to take with you to the veterinarian. The faster your doctor can look at these samples under a microscope, the faster your pet will be treated with the right antidotes.



#2 Think Worst-Case

Your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline rep will ask you how much of the substance your pet ingested. Don’t be on the wrong side of the safe side with this. If it is even possible that your pet ate a lot of pills, a whole pack of gum (

Xylitol poisoning

), or a whole leaf and stem, go with the worst case scenario and tell your doctor that your pet might have swallowed it.

#1 Prevent, Prevent, Prevent

Hopefully you are reading this to be prepared and not because your pet is having a problem right now. If the former is the case, our last piece of advice is to prevent any of this from ever happening by always keeping everything that can be harmful to your pet out of his reach off of counters and locked up tight.

Additional Slideshows