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June 2

dog food poisoning

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Home / Dog Health / dog food poisoning

Updated: June 2, 2021

In an earlier article on what dogs should not eat, we highlighted a whole bunch of foods that a dog should ideally not get their paws and mouths on.

While that is great for general knowledge on what not to feed dogs, sometimes our dogs have different ideas about what they actually want to eat. They then root around in the trash or open the fridge without our knowledge.....

And wolf down a whole bunch of grapes or something worse.


Yes, dogs can get food poisoning too, and depending on what they eat, can be deadly!


In this article we focus on that scenario on dog food poisoning: the signs and symptoms of dog food poisoning, what to do if you suspect it in your dog, and what to give a dog for dog food poisoning.


Causes of dog food poisoning


In general, dogs don't get food poisoning very often because their stomachs can handle a lot of weird food without actually hurting them.

However, when it does happen to them, its most likely due to the dog eating indiscriminately - anything left on the ground, bugs, garbage, and the like. 

Sometimes, eating indiscriminately, can lead to deadly circumstances, like eating leftover grapes, or any of the foods toxic to dogs.


So here are the more common causes of food poisoning in dogs, and how best to prevent it from happening.


Garbage/Compost


Probably one of the quirkier aspects of having a dog - dogs love to root around garbage and our leftovers, thinking they're delicious foods.

But beware! A lot of the times, this garbage can be quite deadly. The mold or rotten foods can produce very toxic, dangerous bacteria that can cause severe stomach upsets in dogs.

Severe toxic reactions can even land them in the hospital.

This is what vets like to refer to dogs as 'Garbage Gut' - it refers to the normal diarrhea or vomiting due to eating indiscriminately. 

The best way to prevent this is to secure your garbage so that your dog can't access it (Seal the garbage in a garbage can, fence up composting areas of the backyard etc.)


Dead Animals


Some dogs love to roll around on the bodies of dead animals - it's also not unheard of for the dog to actually EAT parts of the body!

Typically these carcasses are rotten or decaying, and so your dog eating these will most likely give them some form of tummy upset.


The easiest way to prevent this from happening is to leash your dog when you're walking them - especially if they're being taken on hikes where animal carcasses are fare more common than urban streets.

Alternatively, make sure your dog is very well trained to leave it and return to you if your dog prefers going around without a leash.



Fecal Matter


Similarly to dead animals, dogs love fecal matter for their... Smell.

And a lot of the times, dogs will want to either roll around on it, or eat it,

Dogs eat poop for a variety of reasons, and all of them generally lead to one thing - usually either them vomiting, or getting a bad case of stomach upset, and thus, 'food' poisoning.

Same rules apply - either leash them, or have them trained very well to return to you if you ever see them sniffing around any fecal matter.

This can be common on hiking trails, and even some natural parks, where some irresponsible dog owners don't pick up after their dogs.


Recalled dog food or treats


This one might be a little trickier to handle - sometimes a dog food manufacturer creates a bad batch of dog food, and needs it to be recalled. 

We usually won't know until it's announced - just observe your dogs when eating new dog food,  especially if they display symptoms of food poisoning.

It would be best to directly check the FDA website for pet food recalls in this case.


Raw or undercooked food


If you recall in our article on what dogs should not eat, raw or undercooked food is one of them.

The reason is simple: if the meat wasn't handled properly, they could contain traces of salmonella bacteria, or worse - have some mold hidden somewhere on the meat.

Yes,  this includes even those that you find in the supermarkets.

This is the easiest to solve - simply make sure that if you make your own dog food, make sure it's fully cooked.


Does my dog have food poisoning?


Not all of us have the luxury of monitoring our dogs all the time (not even with the cameras!), and inevitably food poisoning in dogs can happen even if we try our best to prevent it.

There are a few sure signs of dog food poisoning, and thankfully they're quite similar to humans, so its easily recognizable:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Stumbling, staggering or lack of muscle control
  • Blood in the stool
  • Difficulty urinating or discolored urine
  • Lack of appetite
  • Hyperactivity
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

Diarrhea and vomiting are the more typical of the food poisoning cases, and usually if they have no other symptoms, it can be generally considered as a mild case of food poisoning.


Caveat on dog food poisoning in puppies


Puppies generally have weaker immune systems as they haven't been exposed to the common bacteria and viruses in the environment, so any kind of food poisoning, even mild, should be treated with care.

Even puppies with minor food poisoning should be brought to the vet instead. They might require more supportive care, or even intravenous fluids if they're unable to retain whatever water they drink!


When in doubt, bring them to the vet! 


What to do if my dog has food poisoning


If you suspect your dog has food poisoning, try fasting your dog for 24 hours after they start vomiting.

You can offer water, but no food during this time.


Vomiting typically should not last more than a few hours either because the stomach is fully emptied, or the food is already digested.


A good test for the seriousness would be if your dog has diarrhea or vomiting symptoms, but can hold down any water they drink.

If they don't vomit the water out, chances are it's a mild case of dog food poisoning and is less worrying.


If it's generally mild, it is generally advised that you give your dogs a bland diet of plain white rice, plain boiled chicken or turkey for 24 - 48 hours to give their systems a chance to recover.

Once you see an improvement in their symptoms and see them return to their active state, you can then slowly resume their normal diet.


But, If they continue vomiting during the 24 hour period, It's safer to bring them to the vet for checking.

If the dog doesn’t vomit within 24 hours, but begins to vomit again after the 24-hour period, they should also see a vet.


However, if your dog displays the more severe symptoms, or you suspect that they have ingested something toxic like grapesbring your dog to your vet immediately! 


FOOD TOXICITY WILL KILL YOUR DOG VERY QUICKLY AND PAINFULLY IF NOT ACTED ON QUICKLY!


Specific type of dog food poisoning


Not all food poisoning in dogs are made equal, and some situations are worse than others.


My dog drank some alcohol


It seems innocent enough, but dogs cannot drink alcohol. At all. 

According to the ASPCA, any alcoholic products can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, damage to their nervous system, and in large enough amounts, death.

If you suspect your dog drank some alcohol but don't know how much, call your vet immediately for advice!


My dog ate bread dough


Similarly to alcohol, dogs cannot eat any bread dough, for quite a few reasons.

Firstly, the yeast in bread dough will produce ethanol, which will cause the same alcoholic poisoning in dogs.

Secondly, the yeast will cause the dough to rise, which can be extremely uncomfortable for your dog's stomach.

This can lead to stomach bloats and twisting, which is a life-threatening emergency for dogs.


My dog is eating trash


Sometimes you will see dogs eating garbage when you're out, and that can be very dangerous for your dog.

The trash contains a lot of dangers, from moldy, toxic food to small sharp items that can block or puncture your dog's internal organs.

Consider dog proofing your trash or garbage area when you're out.


My dog ate some raisins, grapes or sultanas


If you suspect your dog has eaten raisins, grapes or sultanas, drop everything and bring them to the emergency clinic IMMEDIATELY.

Grapes have the unsavory reputation of causing severe kidney damage to dogs, and in large quantities, will kill your dog very quickly.

The obvious symptoms of grape poisoning for dogs are lethargy, weakness, decreased urination, and abdominal pain, usually within 12 hours of grape consumption.


My dog ate a sugar-free sweet (xylitol)


Similarly to grapes, if you suspect your dog has eaten any food that contains xylitol (a sugar substitute), drop everything and bring them to the emergency clinic IMMEDIATELY.

Xylitol can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) as quickly as within 10 minutes of consumption, and lead to liver failure and death quickly if not stabilized by a vet quickly.


My dog ate some food with toxic sauces in it (garlic, onions, etc)


Sometimes a dog steals our food from the table without us realizing it at all.

Worse still, if the dog steals food that has sauces made with garlic, onions, or leeks.

Those ingredients are very toxic to dogs, and toxicity will happen regardless of amount eaten.


If you suspect your dog has ingested any food that contains these ingredients,  drop everything and bring them to the emergency clinic IMMEDIATELY.

These foods can cause lethargy, weakness, blood in urine, followed by severe anemia, organ failure and death.

The best remedy against this is to ensure that your dog doesn't beg at the table with the 5 golden rules of dog training.


My dog ate chocolate


You know the drill now - if your dog has eaten chocolate, drop everything and bring them to the emergency clinic IMMEDIATELY.

Chocolates, both milk and dark contain very toxic compounds to dogs and they can cause serious complications like internal bleeding, seizures and death if a large amount was eaten.


My dog ate raw meat


Thankfully, raw meat is a lot less toxic than the previous few foods present in the households.

Depending on the source of meat, it can cause mild diarrhea and vomiting in dogs, or if the meat is rancid/rotten/moldy, can cause more serious problems in dogs.


That said, in generally it's best to just cook the meat instead of giving dogs raw meat, unless they're very used to eating raw meat from a reputable source.



Most of the above are already covered in the article on what dogs cannot eat, so check that out for a full list of prohibited foods for dogs!





What if I suspect someone poisoned my dog on purpose?


This one is a tricky one.

If there are people around your neighborhood (or just unsavory people all round) who hate dogs, they might intentionally set food traps for dogs with the intent to harm.

It's difficult to accuse and prosecute anyone doing that unless you have hard evidence, sadly.


However, prevention is better than cure - to lower the chance of this happening, make sure that your dog is properly trained and you leash your dog as much as possible when outside.


If you suspect that your dog was poisoned by someone however, bring your dog to the vet immediately, and contact the local police as well. The vet might be able to detect toxins with diagnostic testing, and have a good chance that your dog will be okay after a few days.


Summary


If in doubt, or if you're worried, contact your vet and bring them to the clinic immediately.

In such cases, it's better to be safe than sorry. Your dog's life might be at stake!

At best, it's a minor issue and your dog will be fine after a few days. At worst, you would have nipped a potentially dangerous situation for your dog in the bud.


about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.


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