Poisoning and Intoxication



Ethylene glycol is a sweet tasting liquid used as an automotive antifreeze. Pets may drink the compound necessitating prompt treatment since ethylene glycol can cause permanent kidney damage. Hospitalization and intensive treatment are required to treat most antifreeze poisonings since severe kidney damage can occur rapidly. Periodic blood tests over the course of treatment not only reflect your pet’s response to medical aid but also help direct the type and intensity of treatment.


Arsenic is a highly poisonous substance found in some ant and snail poisons, rodenticides, insecticides and various plants. All animals are susceptible to arsenic poisoning, but the effects depend on the arsenic type, amount consumed, general health of the animal and rapidity of treatment. Signs of arsenic poisoning may be delayed for several hours after ingestion and include neurologic disorders, blood disorders and even death.

Garbage and Contaminated Water Intoxication

Dogs and cats are scavengers by nature and may eat rotten materials or drink contaminated water. They might ingest bacteria, toxins, plastic, glass or other foreign matter that could obstruct or injure the digestive tract. Food develops dangerous levels of bacteria or toxins if kept at 45 – 140 F for over 3 hours. Water puddles may contain harmful bacteria or toxic materials, ranging from antifreeze to pesticides. Common signs of garbage intoxication include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Suspected cases of garbage intoxication should seek medical treatment.

Heat Stroke

Since dogs and cats do not sweat as people do, the cooling benefits of large scale water evaporation from the skin are not available to them. Panting and radiation of heat from the skin are their main means of controlling body temperature. If the air temperature and humidity are high and air circulation is low, these protective mechanisms become inadequate. Body temperature can increase dramatically, resulting in collapse, severe shock and death. Brachycephalic (mushed faced) breeds, such as Persians, Himalayans, Pugs, Bulldogs, Pekingese and Boxers, are especially susceptible to heat stroke, since their restricted breathing doesn’t allow sufficient air exchange for rapid heat loss.

Insect Bites and Stings

Most dogs and cats with insect stings or bites produce slight swelling and redness at the site. In some cases there is generalized swelling, hives, pain or itching over a large area of the body. A few animals suffer serious allergic reactions with difficult breathing, collapse and even death. Multiple stings or bites intensify the overall reaction.

Organophosphates and Carbamates

Organophosphates and carbamates are insecticides that are widely used for killing fleas and ticks and other insects on dogs, cats, plants, etc. Pets become poisoned with these chemicals through improper use, accidental ingestion or inhalation. Rarely, pets may even be sensitive to a specific insecticide despite proper application. Organophosphates and carbamates poison pets by preventing the normal breakdown of neurotransmitters that propagate nerve impulses to muscles and organs. This results in over-stimulation of these structures. Signs of toxicity include excessive salivation, muscle twitches, seizures and even death.

Snake Bites

Poisonous snakes cause serious illness or death in many pets each year. Snake venom mainly affects the vascular and/or nervous system of its victims. The majority of snake bites in the United States are committed by rattlesnakes, water moccasins, copperheads and coral snakes. Signs of snake-bite poisoning vary with the species of snake, volume of venom injected, location of the bite, weight and general health of the victim.


Strychnine is a powerful neurologic poison used in various pesticides. It is often placed in baits such as meat, grain and peanuts which may be accidentally eaten by pets. Deliberate strychnine poisonings can also occur on occasion.


Warfarin is used as a rodenticide which interferes with normal blood clotting and results in fatal hemorrhage. Dogs and cats may eat warfarin via rodent bait or ingesting rodents poisoned by the product. Signs of warfarin toxicity include depression, labored breathing, bleeding in the skin, gums or eyes, bloody stools and/or urine.