The Top 10 Most Frequent Dog Toxins

Categories: Dog Health Care
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Charles Hurty, DVM

Grove Veterinary Clinic

Newport, Oregon

The Top 10 Most Frequent Dog Toxins

As the new year arrives, I would like to inform you about some of the 10 most common toxins that our canine companions encounter.  This is list that is generated each year by the veterinarians and toxicology experts at the Pet Poinson Helpline (  Knowing this list and taking precautions to avoid exposure to these various toxins could prevent injury to you pet and potentially save his/her life.

(1) Chocolate is the number one toxic substance ingested by dogs.  Bakers and dark chocolate are the most toxic and dangerous to dogs.  Milk chocolate can also be problematic, but typically larger quantities of milk chocolate need to be ingested for problems to arise.   One rule of thumb that works: the more bitter the chocolate, the more toxic it is.  Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, both of which can cause hyperactivity, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, and even death.

(2) Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in many foods (candy, diet cookies, chewing gum, etc.) and medications (nasal sprays for example).  Xylitol is the number two toxin ingested by dogs.  We encounter this toxin fairly frequently at the clinic.  This substance causes a rapid drop in blood sugar and can potentially cause liver failure.  Immediate veterinary care is recommended if your dog has ingested this compound.

(3) Unfortunately, we see toxicity related to the inappropriate ingestion of human non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) quite often at the clinic.  Human NSAIDs, such as naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil), and acetaminophen (Tylenol), have no place in veterinary medicine and are quite toxic to dogs.  Kidney failure, liver failure, and intestinal ulcers/perforations are possible after ingestion of even small amounts of these NSAIDs.

(4) Over-the-counter cough, cold, and allergy medications can be extremely problematic for dogs.  Those medications that contain acetaminophen (Tylenol) or decongestants (pseudoephedrine/phenylephrine) are highly toxic.  Be especially careful with these medications, as they are often flavored or coated with substances that our dogs find appealing.

(5) Rodenticide (mouse/rat poison) ingestion is the number five toxin on the list.  This can be a devastating situation for our pets.  These poisons cause bleeding, seizures, kidney damage, and liver damage.  Unfortunately, this is a common poisoning that could so easily be avoided.  I have written about this toxin for Dog Gone News this past year.  We see the tragedy of this ingestion all too frequently and it is just gut wrenching to see these cases.  If you think your dog has ingested some mouse/rat poisons (D-CON, Brodifacoum, Bromadiolone, etc.), immediate veterinary care must be sought; do not wait.

(6) Grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs.  Even in small amounts, we have seen grapes and/or raisins cause kidney failure in dogs.

(7) I get a couple calls a year about insect or ant bait stations.  These are the little plastic discs that you can put out to deal with insect and ant problems in the house.  The substances in these bait stations are actually not the problem; they rarely cause a problem.  However, the actual plastic station can cause intestinal irritation and possibly an obstruction.

(8) Amphetamine ingestion is the number 8 toxin reported to the Pet Poison Helpline.  Amphetamines are medications that are used to treat ADD/ADHD in people.  Medications in this class include Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse.  They can cause tremors, seizures, heart problems, and even death in dogs.  Please be careful with these medications.

(9) Overdoses of glucosamine joint supplements are also fairly common.  This can happen sometimes, because the supplement is flavored to make it more appealing.  Sometimes the products contain Xylitol (number 2 on our list) to make them more appealing.  Typically an overdose of glucosamine supplement will cause intestinal signs, but there have been some reports of liver failure in dogs.

(10) Silica gel packets and oxygen absorbers are frequently ingested by dogs.  Silica gel packets, which are found in new shoes, purses, backpacks, etc., are rarely a concern.  However, the oxygen absorbers that contain iron are a major problem.  The oxygen absorbers are found in food packages, such as beef jerky, pet treats, or other consumables, and can cause iron poisoning in dogs.