Category : Poison And Toxicity

How to Dog-Proof Your Trash Can

By Aly Semigran 

When it comes to making your household safe for your pet, it doesn’t just stop at locking up the medicine cabinet or avoiding bringing home certain plants. Another major consideration is learning how to properly secure and dog-proof your trash cans.

From the kitchen to the bathroom, the trash cans in your home contain various dangerous threats to your dog, ranging from expired medications to rotten foods.

Learn why it’s important for your dog to stay out of the trash, and what you can do to prevent any harmful incidents.

The Dangers of Kitchen Trash Cans for Dogs

Because of the smells emanating from kitchen trash, dogs are instinctually drawn to what they perceive as a meal in those bins.

Their urge to find out what’s in the trash, however, can lead to more than a messy kitchen floor.

“Things dogs find in the trash may be harmful to deadly—everything from poisons to string to gums and candies containing Xylitol to bones or rotting food,” says training and behavior specialist Caryl Wolff of the Los Angeles-based Doggie Manners. “[These things] mean an expensive trip to the veterinarian, at the very least.”

Dr. Allison Witherow, of Allison Animal Care in Savannah, Georgia, has seen the results of animals getting into the trash firsthand, including a patient who ingested a wine cork.

“Whenever an animal eats something that he or she is not used to, there is always the possibility of gastrointestinal upset like vomiting or diarrhea,” Witherow warns. “If there is raw meat in the trash that an animal ingests, the bacteria in that raw meat can cause infections or expose him or her to parasites just like it could in a person who eats raw meat.”

In addition to raw meat, other toxic foods to dogs like chocolate, grapes, and onions can “result in serious illness and hospitalization,” Witherow explains.

Your dog accidentally getting into the trash is not only a risk to him, but may pose a problem for you and the rest of your family. “If your pet takes something out of the trash and carries the garbage around the house, there could be trail of contamination,” says Witherow. “Or a young child or a baby can unknowingly come into contact with harmful medications or germ-filled food.”

But veterinarians warn against trash other than food, too. Wrappings and packaging can create blockages in a dog’s intestinal tract, Witherow notes. Discarded kitchen cleaning supplies also present a poisoning risk if pets ingest or lick them.

Denise Herman, the founder and head trainer of New York City’s Empire of the Dog, also reminds pet parents that the trash can itself may be dangerous for dogs. “It’s possible for a dog to actually get stuck in a trash can with an automatic closing lid,” she says.

The Dangers of Bathroom Trash Cans for Dogs

While your bathroom trash can is likely smaller than your kitchen one, it doesn’t mean there are fewer risks for your pet getting into it. In fact, the access is likely easier, as the trash can is lower to the ground and may not have a lid.

Witherow warns that bathroom trash cans may hold medications, gels, or cleaners—items that could pose a potentially deadly risk to pets.

She also points out that personal hygiene accessories like razors can lead to internal damage if ingested by a pet. Even discarded dental floss can be a danger to the gastrointestinal tract, Witherow says.

How to Dog-Proof Your Trash Can

There are simple—but important—steps that pet parents can take to dog-proof their trash cans.

According to Donna Dougherty, the owner of Go Green Cleaning Experts in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the location of your garbage can is pivotal. She recommends keeping trash cans—with secure, tightly fitted lids—in pantries or closets, or underneath the sink, preferably closed with a child-proof lock.

It’s not just containing the trash itself that will make a huge difference, but eliminating the smells that beckon to your dog and his powerful nose is also an effective preventative measure.

“Empty your trash can frequently. Or after dinner, place your scraps in a plastic bag and place the bag in your garage or take it out to dumpster,” suggests Dougherty. “This way the smell is not lingering there for your dog the next day when you go to work.”

Another helpful tip Dougherty has for pet parents is to place weight in the bottom of the bin so that dogs can’t easily knock over the trash can and spill its contents on the floor. “Bricks, stones, weights, sand in a bag will help to secure your bin.”

Last but not least, when cleaning out your trash bags, whether in the kitchen or bathroom, make sure the bag is securely closed and out of reach from your dog.

What to Do If Your Dog Has Ingested Something From the Trash

“If a dog has eaten trash, a pet parent needs to, first of all, try to determine what was in the trash. If there was a known toxic substance or medication, then a list should be made,” says Witherow. “It is ideal if you can estimate the amount of the toxic material or the amount and strength of any medications.”

Concerned pet parents can also call their local ASPCA poison control center to discuss what has happened with a veterinary toxicologist. But Witherow always suggests contacting your veterinarian if you think your pet has ingested something from the trash.

“Even if the items in the trash are not obvious toxins, if your dog is acting ill, you need to get in touch with your veterinarian,” she says. “I never recommend that you induce vomiting unless it has been recommended by the toxicologist or by your veterinarian. Some substances become more dangerous if vomiting is induced.”

Keeping Your Dog Away From the Trash

Herman says that keeping your dog away from the trash starts early. “One of the easiest things to start with is to make sure the dog doesn’t begin a pattern of scavenging,” she says.

She suggests tapping into your dog’s scavenging instincts by offering him safer alternatives like pet-safe bones and treat-filled toys. “Meeting the dog’s needs for chewing and hunting-type activities is one way to funnel what is a normal behavior into a safe outlet instead of a dangerous outlet,” says Herman.

Wolff recommends finding ways to keep your dog distracted and happy, in order to make the trash seem like a less appealing target. This might include tiring him out with exercise, leaving him toys to play with, and making sure he is well fed before you leave him home alone.

She points out that pet parents can also take measures into their own hands. Simple steps—such as closing bathroom or kitchen doors, or hiding the trash can away behind a closed door—are good options. Pet parents can also try crate training the dog to avoid messy and dangerous mishaps when no one is home. 

See Also:

Poisonous Plants for Dogs

Many plants are toxic to dogs. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to discourage them from chewing on or ingesting any vegetation, especially the following plants.

The following plants are the most toxic to dogs and should never be made available to them under any circumstances:

Castor bean or castor oil plant (Ricinus communis)Cyclamen (Cylamen spp.)Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia)Hemlock (Conium maculatum)English Ivy, both leaves and berries (Hedera helix)Mistletoe (Viscum album)Oleander (Nerium oleander)Thorn apple or jimsonweed (Datura stramonium)Yew (Taxus spp.)Any mushroom you cannot identify as safe

These types of vegetation are to be avoided for a variety of reasons. Do not plant them near your home or bring them inside as plants or cut flowers:

Amaryllis (Amaryllis spp.)Autumn crocus (Colochicum autumnale)Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis)Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)Chrysanthemum (Compositae spp.)Flower bulbs of any kindFoxglove (Digitalis purpurea)Jerusalem cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum)Larkspur (Delphinium)Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis)Marijuana (Cannabis sativa)Peace Lily or Mauna Loa Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp.)Pothos (both Scindapsus and Epipremnum)Rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum)Schefflera (Schefflera and Brassaia actinophylla)Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)Tulip/Narcissus bulbs (Tulipa/Narcissus spp.)Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

These tougher-leafed or woody specimens are also poisonous and should be avoided in and around your house.

AzaleaBoxChinaberry treeHorsechestnutLaburnumOleanderPrivetSago PalmRhododendronWisteria

You can also visit the Pet Poison Helpline for their Top 10 Plants Poisonous to Pets, and the ASPCA for their extensive list of Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants.

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Hanie Elfenbein, DVM


Dr. Elfenbein graduated from the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2016. She currently practices in…

How to Protect Your Pet From Toxic Blue-Green Algae

Reviewed for accuracy on August 27, 2019, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

It’s a terrifying headline that keeps popping up lately: Harmful algal bloom kills beloved pet.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website, harmful algal blooms (HABs) have been reported in every coastal US state.

Blue-green algae spottings are on the rise; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that it’s a major problem in all 50 states.

Here’s what you need to know about harmful algal blooms and how you can keep your pets safe.

What Are Blue-Green Algae?  

Blue-green algae are not actually algae at all—they’re a type of bacteria called cyanobacteria.

Cyanobacteria are a group of microorganisms that can be found in any aquatic environment as well as many locations on land. These microorganisms occur naturally, and they make oxygen and help cycle nutrients in the environment and food chain.

However, there are several species of cyanobacteria that produce very potent toxins called cyanotoxins.

What Makes Blue-Green Algae Toxic to Pets?

These cyanotoxins include toxins that affect different parts of the body—for example, neurotoxins (brain), hepatotoxins (liver) and dermatologic toxins (skin)—and some can cause serious and even fatal illness for humans and pets.

Cyanotoxins are more commonly fatal for our pets because they are more likely to swim and drink from potentially contaminated water sources. People, on the other hand, would be less likely to jump into or drink water from a water source that has a bad smell or a visible algal bloom.

What Causes Algal Blooms?

An algal bloom is a rapid increase in a population of algae within an aquatic environment.

Harmful algal blooms consisting of blue-green algae tend to appear in nutrient-dense waters under warmer environmental temperatures (most commonly seen during mid- to late-summer months).

Recent studies suggest that environmental changes have played a large role in the surge in number of algal blooms seen across the US.

According to a 2013 study, “Mounting evidence indicates that global climate change, watershed degradation and increased nutrient loading of freshwater systems are contributing to the increased frequency, severity, extent and broader geographic distribution of harmful algal blooms (HABs), including cyanobacteria HABs (cyanoHABs).”

How Can I Protect My Pet From Harmful Algal Blooms?

The best way to protect your dog from exposure to harmful algal blooms is to never let them swim in or drink from lakes, ponds, and other potentially contaminated bodies of water, especially if they have visible algal blooms or a bad odor.

The EPA’s page on pets and toxic algae says not to let your dog swim or drink if:

The color of the water is off. (HABs can be bright green, blue, brown or even red, and can sometimes look like paint floating on top of the water.)The water looks like it has a slimy film or foam on the surface.It has a pungent, off-putting smell.

Reporting and Tracking Harmful Algal Blooms

If you suspect that a pond, lake or water source is contaminated with blue-green algae, you should report it to your state’s health department.

The EPA provides a list of resources for reporting potential HABs for each state. By reporting these instances, you can not only help prevent other people and pets from exposure, but you can also help researchers to understand, track and prevent these blooms.

You can also check your state health department or environmental protection department to see if they have an online tracking system set up.

For example, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has an Algal Bloom Sampling Status tool that provides a map with testing results for various bodies of water. They also provide a way to report a potential algal bloom so that the water can be tested.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation also has a HABs Location Map that displays reported and confirmed HABs within the State of New York.

Signs That Your Dog Has Been Exposed to Blue-Green Algae Toxins

Symptoms associated with exposure to harmful algal blooms vary depending on the type of cyanobacteria involved and the toxins they produce.

Hepatotoxin-Producing Cyanobacteria

For example, exposure to a hepatotoxin-producing cyanobacteria can lead to:

VomitingDiarrheaBlood in the stool or black, tarry stoolPale mucous membranesJaundice

Neurotoxin-Producing Cyanobacteria

On the other hand, symptoms associated with neurotoxin-producing cyanobacteria typically include:

DisorientationWeaknessMuscle twitches and tremorsSLUD (excessive salivation, lacrimation (tearing), urination, and defecation)Difficulty breathingSeizuresHeart failureParalysis

Exposure to Harmful Algal Blooms

Exposure to HABs can lead to death. However, hepatotoxins tend to work a little more slowly—and, therefore, respond better to treatment—while neurotoxins can act so quickly that dogs can’t get to the veterinarian in time to be saved.

What to Do If Your Dog Has Been Exposed

If you suspect that your dog has come into contact with water containing blue-green algae, wash them off immediately using clean water. If your dog has ingested water containing blue-green algae, get to the nearest veterinarian as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, there are currently no antidotes for the toxins.

As long as a dog is not neurologically impaired, it may be possible for the veterinarian to induce vomiting and/or give medications like activated charcoal or cholestyramine to prevent absorption of more toxin.

Subsequent veterinary care and the dog’s prognosis will depend on the type of cyanotoxin a dog has had contact with and the severity of their symptoms.

With appropriate and timely treatment, some (but unfortunately not all) dogs that have been exposed to blue-green algae can be saved.

By: Kendall Curley

Featured Image: Bukatsich

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Dogs

Carbon monoxide is produced by all sorts of everyday equipment: older cars not equipped with catalytic converters, barbecues, or propane heaters and cookers, to name just a few. And in an enclosed space, the levels of gas can quickly become poisonous for dogs.

What To Watch For

A dog near a carbon monoxide leak will first demonstrate lethargy. Unless supplied with fresh air, the dog will eventually fall unconscious and die.

Primary Cause

Carbon monoxide poisoning is generally caused by leaky equipment. This may occur in enclosed, unventilated spaces, though even large areas like garages can become a death trap if the leak is not plugged quickly.

Immediate Care

It is vital you move the animal suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning to a wide, well-ventilated area. However, do not put yourself in danger while attempting to rescue the dog. If he has stopped breathing, perform artificial respiration. And if after you check his pulse you notice his heart has stopped, perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) as well.

If breathing restarts, contact your vet immediately for advice on how to proceed. If the dog is still not breathing, continue CPR and artificial respiration (if possible) while you transport the animal to the vet or emergency hospital.


All equipment that uses propane or produces carbon monoxide as a by-product should be serviced regularly — for your safety as well as your pet’s. Never leave the engine running while a car is in the garage or, if you are performing maintenance on the vehicle, open the garage door and keep the area well-ventilated.

Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs


Antifreeze, or automotive radiator coolant, is the most readily available source of ethylene glycol. This colorless, odorless, possibly sweet-tasting liquid is highly toxic to dogs.  

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, ethylene glycol is the second most common cause of fatal poisonings in animals. This is likely due to the readily availability of antifreeze, its possible pleasant taste, and the fact that just a small amount can be fatal. The Humane Society Legislative Fund estimates that at least 10,000-90,000 animals die each year from antifreeze poisoning. 

In 2012, manufacturers in the United States started adding a bittering agent to antifreeze to combat this problem. However, there is currently no evidence whether this has made the product less palatable to dogs. 

Unfortunately, dogs can easily get into antifreeze when it leaks from cars. They can drink from puddles of antifreeze or just step in them and lick the antifreeze off their paws. Even ingesting just a little antifreeze can be fatal—less than ½ a teaspoon per pound can be enough to kill a dog. 

Antifreeze poisoning affects the gastrointestinal tract, liver, brain, and kidneys. Once ingested, ethylene glycol is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and metabolized in the liver, leading to acute kidney failure. 

Aside from antifreeze, there are many other sources of ethylene glycol, including windshield deicing agents, brake fluid, motor oil, photography developing solutions, wood stains, solvents, inks/printer cartridges, eye masks, snow globes, and winterized toilet bowls.   

Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms to watch for, what to do if you think your dog ingested antifreeze, how antifreeze poisoning is treated, and tips for keeping your dog away from this toxic substance.

Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs  

The symptoms you’ll see depend on how long it’s been since your dog ingested antifreeze.

Stage 1 (30 mins – 12 hours after ingestion): Unmetabolized ethylene glycol has very similar effects to ethanol, so at this stage, a dog may appear intoxicated. Central nervous system (CNS) signs may include depression, stumbling, a “drunken” gait (ataxia), muscle twitching, decreased reflexes, and trouble getting up/standing. You may also see vomiting, increased thirst (polydipsia), and increased urination (polyuria).   

Stage 2 (12 – 24 hours after ingestion): After 12 hours, your dog may temporarily appear to recover and act relatively normal. During this period, the ethylene glycol is being metabolized into toxic metabolites. Even though your dog may seem normal, underlying damage is occurring. You may see an increased respiratory rate, but you won’t notice the increased heart rate and beginning stages of dehydration.   

Stage 3 (36-72 hours after ingestion): In the final stage, the toxic metabolites will be built up in sufficient quantities to cause severe kidney failure, which may lead to seizure, coma, and death.   

What to Do If You Suspect That Your Dog Ingested Antifreeze 

If you think your pet has ingested antifreeze, seek immediate veterinary attention. Antifreeze is very quickly absorbed once ingested and starts forming toxic metabolites quickly. Any delay in care can be deadly.  

Given the life-threatening nature of antifreeze poisoning in dogs and the specialized testing and treatment needed, your dog will most likely need to be treated at a 24-hour emergency and specialty hospital. Dogs need to be treated within 8-12 hours of ingestion but have the best prognosis if treated within the first 5 hours. There is no time to lose in getting them to the emergency veterinarian.  

Once a pet shows signs of kidney damage, the prognosis is extremely poor. The bottom line is that if you suspect at all that your pet may have ingested antifreeze, go to the closest veterinary emergency room immediately.    

How Do Vets Test for Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs? 

In many cases, pet parents don’t actually see their dog ingest ethylene glycol. They only suspect it based on puddles of antifreeze or other forms of access to the toxin.

In this case, your veterinarian will start with a physical examination and bloodwork. Unfortunately, immediately after ingestion, these blood tests won’t usually show anything yet because it takes time for the ethylene glycol to metabolize and create toxic byproducts.

For example, the blood tests won’t typically show elevated kidney levels until 24-48 hours after ingestion, when the prognosis is very poor. Vets may also look for calcium oxalate crystals, which will show up at least 6 hours after ingestion.   

That’s why it’s best to go to an emergency clinic. Many emergency vets use a test that can measure levels of ethylene glycol in the blood using test strips. The test should be conducted between 1 and 10 hours after the pet ingested the ethylene glycol.  

How is Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs Treated?

In many cases, when a dog has ingested a toxin, the standard treatment is to induce vomiting. However, vomiting is not usually useful for dogs that have ingested ethylene glycol because the toxin is absorbed too fast. If your dog has any neurologic signs, such as acting drunk, trying to make them throw up can lead to a choking hazard.

Instead, your vet will try to prevent the toxin from metabolizing into its more dangerous forms. The preferred antidote is 4-methylpyrazole (4-MP, fomepizole). Dogs that are treated with 4-MP within 5 hours of ingesting antifreeze tend to fare better.

Your dog will be hospitalized for observation and administration of 4-MP for 36 hours. IV fluids and additional supportive care will also be given to treat dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, vomiting, and nausea. 

Ethanol was also used as an antidote since the mid-1970s but has fallen out of favor due to negative side effects, including increased central nervous system depression. 4-MP has fewer side effects than ethanol with similar effectiveness.

Once a pet has elevated kidney values, their prognosis is poor. If the pet has progressed to renal failure, dialysis may be attempted, but access may be limited by availability, cost, and poor prognosis.  

How to Prevent Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs 

Prevention and education are the keys to preventing antifreeze poisoning in dogs. Here are some helpful tips:

Be aware of possible sources of ethylene glycol (antifreeze, windshield deicing agents, brake fluid, motor oil, photography developing solutions, wood stains, solvents, inks/printer cartridges, eye masks, snow globes, and winterized toilet bowls).

Keep antifreeze stored in a sealed container away from pets.

Immediately clean any antifreeze spills.

Watch for any suspicious puddles in driveways or garages and keep your dog away.

Featured Image:

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Veronica Higgs, DVM


Dr. Veronica Higgs is a 2010 graduate from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.  She then completed a 1-year rotating…

Are Hydrangeas Poisonous to Cats and Dogs?

Hydrangeas are plants with broad, flat leaves and large flowers that come in a variety of colors, like pink, red, purple, blue and white. While undoubtedly beautiful, are hydrangeas poisonous to dogs and cats?

Technically, the answer is yes, but before you panic and toss your beautifully potted hydrangea bush in the trash or clear them out of your garden, there are a few things you should know.

Find out how hydrangeas can affect dogs and cats and what you will need to do if your pet decides to nibble on one.

What Makes Hydrangeas Poisonous to Pets?

According to the Pet Poison Hotline, the leaves, flowers and buds of the hydrangea plant contain a chemical known as amygdalin.

Amygdalin is a cyanogenic glycoside found in many plants. In its natural form, amygdalin is not toxic; however, when it is metabolized by the body (whether it be human, dog or cat), it produces cyanide, which can be toxic to mammals. All parts of the hydrangea plant contain amygdalin, but the highest concentrations are believed to be in flowers and young leaves.

Hydrangea poisoning is dose-dependent. That means that your pet must eat a certain amount of the plant in order to show signs of poisoning. Smaller pets are at a higher risk of poisoning simply because they have to consume less than larger pets do to become sick.

The good news is that hydrangea poisoning in dogs and cats is rare, because a very large amount of hydrangea has to be consumed for pets to manifest symptoms. Since symptoms are usually mild, cases often go unreported.

Symptoms of Hydrangea Poisoning in Pets

The most common symptoms associated with hydrangea poisoning are related to the gastrointestinal tract. Dogs or cats that consume enough hydrangea leaves, flowers and/or buds can suffer from vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, hydrangea poisoning can cause lethargy, depression and confusion.

What to Do If Your Pet Has Hydrangea Poisoning

Signs of hydrangea poisoning occur within about 30 minutes after ingestion. If you notice any of the above symptoms after your pet has been playing near or sniffing a hydrangea bush, call or take your pet to your veterinarian immediately.

Bring a sample of the plant with you, including leaves and flowers, so your veterinarian can properly ID the plant. Your veterinarian will ask you some questions and perform a physical exam. Since poisoning can mimic other conditions, your veterinarian may also run some tests to rule out other problems. Tests may include bloodwork and a urine test to make sure your pet’s organ function is normal, as well as x-rays to rule out other causes of digestive problems.

Follow all your veterinarian’s recommendations to get your pet back to good health.

Treatment of Hydrangea Poisoning in Pets

Treatment of hydrangea poisoning depends on several factors, including the severity of the symptoms and the size, age and overall health of your pet.

Timing of ingestion of the hydrangea may also influence treatment. If it was within 30 minutes, your veterinarian may recommend inducing vomiting to remove the poisonous plant from your pet’s system.

In severe cases, treatment can include hospitalization for monitoring as well as intravenous fluid therapy to flush out toxins, correct dehydration from diarrhea and/or vomiting, and provide support for your pet.

Treatment for gastrointestinal issues, including medication and a bland diet, may also be prescribed. Once the vomiting and diarrhea have run their course and the toxin has been eliminated from your pet’s system, prognosis is excellent.

If your pet has ingested any part of a hydrangea bush, the sooner your pet receives medical attention, the better the prognosis is and the higher the chance of a full recovery.

The best way to prevent hydrangea poisoning is to avoid keeping the plant where your pet can access it. If you choose to have hydrangeas, keep the plants at a height that your pet can’t reach and be sure to remove any leaves or flowers that fall off the plant. If you have cats, cover the plants with netting to prevent access, or move the plant to a room that’s off limits for your cat.

Pet-Safe Alternatives to Hydrangeas

If you want a pet-safe alternative to hydrangeas, consider the following list:



Tiger orchid


Burro’s tail

African violets



Fern (Boston fern, rabbits foot fern)

Black haw

Camellia (common or mountain)

Pansy orchid

Snapdragons (common or withered)



By: Dr. Sarah Wooten

Featured Image:

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Sarah Wooten, DVM


Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists,…

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Weed?

Reviewed for accuracy on August 26, 2019, by Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM

“My dog ate weed—now what?”

You’re not alone in asking this question. According to a veterinary study in Colorado, incidences of marijuana intoxication in dogs increased dramatically following the drug’s legalization.

“An increasing number of pets are being diagnosed with marijuana toxicity,” says Dr. Jim D. Carlson, a holistic veterinarian and owner of Riverside Animal Clinic & Holistic Center, located in the Chicago area. “As marijuana laws are changing, so is the exposure that pets have to the drug.”

While marijuana toxicity may be common, it’s a serious condition that requires swift recognition and treatment.

Are Some Forms of Marijuana More Toxic to Dogs?

Since the legalization of marijuana is more widespread, it’s now available in many different forms. From the plant to oils and edibles, there are plenty of opportunities for dogs to get their paws on some weed.

However, each of these types of weed have their own risks for dogs.

“The toxin in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is highly concentrated in the flower buds and tiny leaves on top of the plant,” explains Dr. Ibrahim Shokry, BVSC, MVSC, PHD, professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine.

“Marijuana leaves have less than 10% THC. Oils and butters used in making candies and food products contain the highest concentrations of THC—up to 90%—and are the most toxic,” says Dr. Shokry.

What If Your Dog Ate an Edible?

In addition to THC, many edibles contain other dangerous ingredients.

“Edible forms can add to the toxicity, as they are often formulated in combination with ingredients such as chocolate, which can be lethal in high enough doses, and butter, which can cause GI upset and potentially pancreatitis,” says Dr. Caroline Wilde, staff veterinarian at pet medical insurance company Trupanion.

Symptoms of Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs

While most humans experience fairly pleasant effects from marijuana, dogs don’t simply get the munchies and take a nap.

“Clinical signs develop within minutes to hours of exposure and last for hours to days,” says Dr. Shokry. “They are mainly signs of central nervous system depression.”

Clinical signs include:


Sensitivity to loud noises

Low heart rate

Dribbling urine

Dilation of the pupils

Low or high body temperature

Additional symptoms include:


Irregular heartbeat

Urine retention

Dr. Rachel Barrack, founder of Animal Acupuncture in New York City, says that extreme cases can cause:



Comatose state

Dogs experience these distressing side effects more strongly than humans.

“Dogs have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains than people,” says Dr. Barrack. “Therefore, the effects of marijuana are more severe and potentially more toxic.”

Don’t Be Scared to Take Your Dog to the Vet

If you suspect that your dog ate marijuana, seek immediate veterinary care, without hesitation.

Your pet’s health is more important than any embarrassment you might feel, and it’s critical to be honest with your veterinarian.

It’s also important to inform them of the exact type of marijuana your pet has eaten, as different forms have different toxicities.

“Rest assured that you aren’t the first person to come in with a case of this nature,” assures Dr. Carlson. “We are only in the business of providing the best care for your pet, not judging or getting law enforcement involved if you live in a state where marijuana isn’t legalized.”

What Tests Will the Vet Do?

Your dog is going to be very disoriented and confused. While you quickly get ready to go to the veterinarian, keep them in a quiet room to help reduce sensory stimulation.

Once you arrive at the vet’s, they will evaluate your dog to see the level of toxicity and the current state of your dog’s body functions.

“To determine the health status of your pet, organ function and the seriousness of the toxicity, expect your veterinarian to perform blood work and a urinalysis,” says Dr. Carlson.

“Dogs sometimes eat the container the drug was kept in or other material when ingesting marijuana, making diagnostic imaging necessary,” he explains.

Blood pressure is often checked, too, since the heart rate can be greatly decreased and these animals sometimes require intravenous fluids to support their blood pressure.

Treating a Dog That Ate Weed

In cases where the ingestion is quickly discovered, your veterinarian may induce vomiting to prevent the onset of symptoms, says Dr. Wilde.

In most cases, however, that window has passed, and symptoms must be treated on a case-by-case basis.

Dr. Wilde explains that most treatment will consist of supportive care, which includes (but is not limited to):

Hospitalization for continued monitoring

Administration of fluids

Cardiovascular support

Regulation of temperature

In some cases, anti-nausea medication

If a marijuana edible also contained chocolate, treatment is more aggressive.

Chocolate can cause high heart rates, seizures and even death, so treatment can include antiarrhythmics, anticonvulsants, fluid therapy and activated charcoal, adds Dr. Wilde.

How to Prevent Marijuana Toxicity

Although the symptoms and treatment can be scary, most dogs recover from marijuana toxicity. 

“This might be a noted medical episode for your dog, but marijuana toxicity is not often fatal in pets,” says Dr. Carlson.

Even so, it’s important to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. If you use marijuana, keep an up-to-date inventory of all products, and ensure that they’re out of your dog’s reach at all times.

“Owners should take care in the storage of marijuana in the home,” advises Dr. Carlson. “Storing the drug high in a cabinet in a container such as a jar with a metal lid will prevent accidental injury.”


By: Monica Weymouth

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Asian Lady Beetles: Could They Harm Your Dog?

By Paula Fitzsimmons

When a graphic image of Bailey, the dog with over 40 Asian lady beetles stuck to the roof of her mouth, surfaced in 2016, pet parents were naturally alarmed. Fortunately, her veterinarian was able to remove the beetles, and Bailey was restored to good health.

As a good dog parent, you’d like to know if Asian lady beetles are a threat to your pet. The short answer is yes. But the good news is that these encounters are rare, and when they do occur, they’re usually quite treatable.

Find out whether your dog is at risk, how to prevent encounters with Asian lady beetles, and what to do if she ends up like Bailey.


Asian Lady Beetles 101

It can be tough to spot the difference between a multi-colored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) and a native North American species like the nine-spotted ladybug (referred to as C-9). One handy way to tell the difference is to look at the area behind the beetle’s head (called the pronotum)—the Asian beetle’s is yellow-colored with black markings in the middle. Asian beetles also vary widely in color from yellow to black, and have anywhere from zero to 19 spots on the outer shell, in contrast to C-9’s standard nine.

Both species are from a family of lady beetles called Coccinellidae, and both have voracious appetites for nuisance pests like aphids, scale insects, and mites. Beetles are so effective at pest control, in fact, that the federal government has introduced them from eastern Asia to help control our aphid populations. They’ve been prolific across the country since about the mid-1980s, and are present in much of the continental United States, except for Montana, Wyoming, and parts of the Southwest. 

While Asian beetle populations have grown in numbers, North American species like C-9 (Coccinella novemnotata) have dwindled during the past several decades, according to The Lost Ladybug Project. So chances are, the little orange oval-shaped tomato bug you’ve encountered recently is the Asian variety.

Asian lady beetles may be coveted for their role as natural pest control agents, but they also have a reputation as a nuisance species. Their hefty appetites extend to non-pest insects, like monarch butterfly eggs and larvae (whose numbers have already been reduced), says Dr. Robert Koch, assistant professor and extension entomologist at the University of Minnesota, Department of Entomology in Saint Paul.

They’re also hardier and more aggressive than North American ladybugs (who experts say don’t pose a risk to dogs). In the fall, “they aggregate on and in homes and other buildings to find protected locations for spending winter,” he says.

It’s not unusual to see thousands of Asian beetles congregated in an area. When Barton County, Kansas, (where Bailey is from) experienced a bumper crop of sugarcane aphids last year, Asian beetles were also on hand to enjoy the feast. “We literally had swarms of them,” says Dr. Lindsay Mitchell, owner of Hoisington Veterinary Hospital in Hoisington, Kansas, and Bailey’s vet.

One of the reasons they’re able to remain stuck so firmly to a dog’s palate is because of their size and shape, says Patrick (PJ) Liesch, assistant faculty associate and extension entomologist with the Department of Entomology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “Insect exoskeletons are made out of a tough material known as chitin, which does not readily break down,” he say. “In the mouth of an animal, this material would be somewhat similar to the hull of a popcorn kernel.”

Plus beetles have hard, thickened wing covers that protect their hind wings from damage, Liesch says. “In lady beetles, these wing covers give the insects a rounded, hemispherical shape, which would make them difficult for the dog’s tongue to remove.”

Are Asian Lady Beetles a Threat to Dogs?

When attacked, Asian lady beetles release body fluids (called hemolymph) containing stinky and poisonous chemicals. “Hemolymph is corrosive, and can cause chemical burns to the mouth and/or gastrointestinal tract. It also has a strong repellent odor and foul taste,” says Dr. Elizabeth Doll, a veterinarian with WVRC Emergency and Specialty Pet Care in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

That awful taste and odor is why few dogs will attempt to eat more than a few of them, she says. Dog and beetle conflicts are so rare, that aside from anecdotal reports (like Bailey’s), a lone formal published paper exists on the subject. In this case, the patient had 16 Asian lady beetles embedded in the mucous membrane covering the hard palate, Doll says.

If a dog quickly swallows the beetles, erosion to the mouth appears to be minimal, says Dr. Nancy C. Hinkle, professor of veterinary entomology in the Department of Entomology at the University of Georgia, Athens. “Likely the dog will quickly seek water to wash away the taste—which is a good thing, because it minimizes the chance that beetles will get stuck in the esophagus.”

If the chemical burns are not treated properly, an infection could develop and potentially become serious. “Luckily for any dog with damage to their mouth, the gums and tissues of the mouth heal very quickly—usually within seven days,” says Dr. Jonathan Babyak, clinical assistant professor in the Emergency and Critical Care Department at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

The cases that Mitchell saw, “were limited to anorexia due to painful ulcerations in the mouth,” she says. “The ulcers calmed down with manual removal of the beetles and treatment of the ulcers.” 

But Dr. Jennifer Coates, veterinary advisor with petMD, adds, “While I’ve not seen any cases myself, veterinarians have reported a few cases of dogs ingesting these beetles and subsequently developing vomiting, diarrhea, and other signs of gastroenteritis. One dog even died as a result.”

What Precautions Can You Take Against Asian Lady Beetles?

As uncommon as these encounters are, it doesn’t hurt to be vigilant for your dog’s sake. Animals are going to be curious and eat things they shouldn’t eat. Some dogs—like Bailey, who has had to have beetles removed several times after that initial incident—are more curious than others, Mitchell says.

“I don’t know that there is a great way to prevent it,” she says. “If the owner notices a great number of these Asian lady beetles around, they may peek into their pet’s mouth after they have been outside. If a pet owner notices that their pet is drooling or not wanting to eat, simply look in their mouth.”

Your best option as a dog parent is to keep beetle numbers in your home low, says Dr. Michael Skvarla, insect identifier and extension educator in the Department of Entomology at Penn State University in University Park.

“Ways to do this include mechanical exclusion, such as caulking cracks around windows, doors, pipes, and the attic where beetles enter a home, and vacuuming up beetles once they enter a home,” he says.

Asian lady beetles seek out sheltered spots in fall in anticipation of winter. “Out in nature, this would include cliff and rock faces and loose bark of dead trees,” Liesch says. “However, these insects can also readily sneak into buildings. Depending on the conditions, large numbers of these insects can occasionally be active indoors during the late fall, winter, or early spring months.”

What to Do If Your Dog Encounters Beetles

Some signs of a dangerous encounter with beetles include excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth, reluctance to eat, and a foul odor coming from the mouth, Doll says. “The beetles may be visible within the mouth, or open sores may be seen. Possible side effects after ingesting large quantities of beetles include reduced appetite, vomiting, diarrhea that may be bloody, and lethargy.” If any of these signs are present, call your vet for an immediate evaluation.

Treatment starts with physically removing the beetles, which your vet may need to perform under sedation or, if severely impacted, under general anesthesia, Babyak says. “Secondly, damage from the hemolymph should be treated with appropriate medications and nursing care. Usually, we would think about treating pain, inflammation, and accelerating healing by removing dead or severely injured tissue. An antibiotic may be necessary to treat or prevent infection. This treatment would be considered routine by most primary care veterinarians.”

Mitchell treats her patients with a mouthwash containing sucralfate, lidocaine, and diphenhydramine to treat ulcers and reduce discomfort. Treatment for every canine patient she has seen, including Bailey, has fortunately been successful.

Chances are, your dog won’t end up like Bailey. But Asian beetle encounters are still a possibility, especially if your pup is the curious type. Being mindful of your dog’s surroundings while outside, and keeping beetle numbers in your home to a minimum, goes a long way to ensuring she doesn’t end up with a mouthful of bugs…or worse.

Poisons (Inhaled)

Toxic fumes may come from substances like insecticides, tear gas, and smoke from fires where certain plastics and other materials are burned. These types of fumes irritate and inflame a dog’s airways, making it hard to breathe or eliciting specific reactions to airborne poisons.

What To Watch For

Whenever a dog breathes toxic fumes, assume that the airways will be inflamed. Most inhaled poisons will cause difficulty breathing. Some may also cause salivation and twitching, among other signs of toxicity, including vomiting and collapse.

Immediate Care

It is critical you act quickly. However, you should:

Not underestimate the damage inhaled smoke or airborne toxins can inflict, as inflamed airways can cause a dog to die of asphyxiation within hours. Never put yourself at risk to save a dog in a poison-filled room. Call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680

Instead, move the dog to an area away from poisonous fumes without endangering yourself, then follow these guidelines:

If the pet has seizures, safely contain him/her on the way to the veterinarian. Keep the dog’s air passages open. Maintain his breathing and help circulation with CPR when needed. If there is time, flush the dog’s eyes with fresh water or a dog-specific eyewash. Take the dog to the vet immediately. Call ahead so they can prepare for her arrival.


Bleaches, detergents, and disinfectants are the most likely household chemicals to cause a problem. Therefore, keep pets away from these chemicals by securing them before, during, and after cleaning time. Pool/spa chemicals are also commonly implicated in inhalation poisonings. Keep these products safely contained during regular pool/spa maintenance.

When building a fire, be aware of the materials used and keep dogs out of enclosed areas that may fill with smoke. In rural areas, be aware of insecticide use and spraying schedules. Lastly, make sure equipment that produces carbon monoxide is regularly serviced.

Can Dogs Get Food Poisoning?

In humans, we think of food poisoning as being the ingestion of food that is contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or the toxins from these agents, which, in turn, make us sick.

The most common signs of food poisoning in people are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain—all starting within a few hours of eating the offending item.

Certainly anyone who has owned a dog has probably experienced the “joy” of some of these symptoms when their dog eats something he shouldn’t have. So, if our dogs are experiencing similar symptoms, it must be food poisoning as well, right?

Can Dogs Get Food Poisoning?

Well, the straightforward answer to this very simple question is yes … and also no.

Food poisoning in dogs is a bit of a more nuanced issue. More often than not, it isn’t a true case of food poisoning, but rather an inappropriate food that’s not sitting as well as it could or should.

Veterinarians affectionately refer to this condition as “garbage gut,” since dogs are so prone to enjoying forbidden treasures.

But there are still several items that can cause true food poisoning in dogs.

True Causes of Food Poisoning in Dogs

We need to be cognizant of what our furry family members have access to around the home or when they’re outside.

Here are a few things that can actually cause food poisoning in dogs:

Garbage and Compost

Our dogs might consider garbage to be a canine delicacy, but these contaminated items should be off-limits for our furry family members. Any rotten or moldy foods can cause food poisoning in dogs.

For this reason, you also need to make sure that your kitchen compost pail and outdoor compost pile are inaccessible to pets. I once treated a dog that ended up passing away after he raided the neighbor’s compost pile.

Garbage can also contain bacteria that can lead to more serious illnesses.

Dead Animals

You will want to make sure that your dog cannot get ahold of dead or decaying items found in the woods or on the side of the road.

These items can carry some serious bacteria or parasites that can cause tummy upset and, in some cases, very serious illnesses.

Fecal Matter

Fecal matter of any variety (which seems to be SO tempting to so many dogs) can cause some serious stomach upset.

Recalled Dog Food or Treats

You should also keep an eye out for recalled dog foods or treats, which can cause your pup to get sick. You can check the petMD pet food recall list or the FDA website for listings on pet food recalls.

Raw/Undercooked Food

Although it is a recent diet fad, raw/undercooked meat, eggs and bones can cause significant illness if not handled properly. In addition to being able to cause food poisoning, bones can also potentially create foreign bodies that require surgical removal.

Symptoms of Food Poisoning in Dogs

Generally, the symptoms of food poisoning in dogs include some combination of vomiting, diarrhea, reduced appetite, lethargy and dehydration. Some animals may show some neurological signs such as a lack of coordination, tremors and, in severe cases, even seizures and collapse.

Depending on what your dog ate, how much and how sensitive they are, the signs and severity may vary. Probably the most common symptoms of food poisoning in dogs tend to be vomiting and diarrhea.

What Can You Do for Food Poisoning in Dogs?

As a rule, try fasting your dog for 24 hours when they start vomiting—offer water, but no food.

If they continue to vomit during that period of time, they need to have a veterinary exam. If the dog doesn’t vomit in those 24 hours, but then begins to vomit again after the 24-hour fast, they need to see a veterinarian.

If at any time your dog starts vomiting water, seems miserable or shows any neurologic signs at all, take them to an emergency clinic or your veterinarian immediately.

It is always safer to have your pet checked out by a vet. Treatment is simpler, more effective, and likely, less expensive when done early. Plus, we can save your pup a lot of tummy grumbles.

Food Poisoning vs. Food Toxicity

Sometimes, what you think are symptoms of food poisoning in dogs may actually be signs of food toxicity.

Human Foods That Are Toxic for Dogs

There are many human foods that can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs without actually being food poisoning.

Some human foods can even cause serious health complications, which is why it is always best to discuss your dog’s diet with your veterinarian.

Items that cause food toxicity in dogs include:




Macadamia nuts



Onions, chives and garlic

Salt and salty snack foods

Xylitol (often found in sugar-free gums and candies)

Yeast dough

Cat food (very high in fat)

Some of these may be safe in small amounts, while others can prove deadly in tiny amounts. Make sure you keep these items, and all human foods, safely stored where dogs cannot access them.

Table Scraps and Sidewalk Snacks

Additionally, some dogs are more sensitive than others, so what is a small amount of human food for one dog may be enough to make another dog sick.

Pay attention on your walks to make sure that your pup doesn’t get ahold of things like pizza remnants that spilled out of a trash can or other types of sidewalk snacks.

Some people also like to share table scraps with their dogs, but for the dogs, those scraps are frequently more fatty than is healthy for the average canine.

For dogs that are sensitive to fat, even a small snack (whether given as a table scrap or picked up on a walk) such as a wedge of cheese, hotdog or piece of chicken skin is enough to cause inflammation of the pancreas (an organ that secretes digestive enzymes in dogs). This can lead to a severe bout of pancreatitis with vomiting or diarrhea. 

Although the symptoms of pancreatitis may be similar to food poisoning in dogs, it is often much more severe, and can even be fatal.

Overall, it is safest to ignore those begging eyes and paws and stick to a healthy bowl of kibble. If you would like to introduce some new foods to your pup’s diet, always check with your veterinarian first!

Tips for Preventing “Garbage Gut” in Dogs

Put away anything that isn’t safe, lock up the trash and don’t leave foods out on the counter that your dog may try to grab. You should also let guests know not to feed your dog table scraps or other human foods.

Check your yard regularly to be sure there aren’t any potentially hazardous snacks there. If you are headed to an area that you can’t scout for risks, keep your dog on a leash. This will help you to control what you dog has access to and help prevent potential problems.

Always use a leash when you walk your dog to make sure they can’t find forbidden snacks along the way. Ideally, you can also teach your dog to “drop it” in case they do get ahold of something toxic.

Some dogs have bombproof tummies—my Lab once ate a jar of baby food (jar, lid, baby food and all!). Other animals just look at something they shouldn’t eat and are sick—my Cocker Spaniel could ONLY eat a certain prescription dog food for most of her life without getting ill.

Knowing your pet and which food(s) they may be exposed to will go a long way in preventing foodborne illnesses!

By: Dr. Sandra Mitchell, DVM

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Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP


Sandra Mitchell is a 1995 graduate of the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduation, she has worked in many fields…