Signs & symptoms of dog food poisoning

Written by lisa parris
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Signs & symptoms of dog food poisoning
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When people purchase high-quality commercially prepared dog food, they simply assume it is safe. They offer it to their beloved pets once or twice a day, encouraging the dog to eat, never realising they might be placing their pup in danger with every scoop of food they toss into the bowl. No one likes to think about it, but it happens. Dogs die every year from food poisoning caused by ingesting contaminated dog food. As with many health-related issues, early detection is critical to successful treatment.

Early Signs

If your dog has only recently ingested tainted dog food, it may exhibit any of the following signs of illness: mild sluggishness, vomiting, increased drooling, decreased appetite and a loss of interest in dog food. Within a week or two, a yellowish tint may be visible in the eyes or inside of the mouth and urine may take on a bright orange colour. Mild symptoms can generally be observed within three to five days of ingesting the toxins, but are generally overlooked by dog owners or attributed to the dog simply being a bit rundown.

Advanced Symptoms

Dogs that have been fed contaminated dog food for three weeks or more generally display more severe symptoms such as vomiting blood, blackened bowel movements, loss of motor skills, seizures, sensitivity to sunlight and difficulty breathing. At this point, most pet owners recognise that their dog is seriously ill. Repeated exposure to the source of the poison has led to a build-up of toxins in the dog's system, though with proper treatment the dog may recover.

What to Do

Call the veterinarian as soon as you realise your dog is ill. Describe the symptoms you have observed as precisely and with as much detail as you can. Follow the vet's instructions without deviation. For example, your vet will probably suggest feeding activated charcoal to your dog as this will absorb any toxins that are still in the digestive tract. She may also tell you not to let the dog eat anything until she can run a few tests. This means do not feed the dog. Not a few bites of chicken to keep its strength up. Not a tiny little biscuit. Nothing.

What not to Do

If your dog seems to be feeling a bit below par, particularly if there seems to be a dwindling interest in the dog chow or if diarrhoea or vomiting occur shortly after mealtimes, do not cover the dog food with gravy or mix it with other, more enticing items to encourage the dog to eat it. Try mixing up a batch of chicken and rice and offer that instead. If the dog seems to recover after several days off the food, you should consider tossing the whole bag. Also, even if the dog seems to be improving, you should still see the vet to be sure you're witnessing actual recovery and not simply indulging in wishful thinking.


Do not attempt to treat your dog without consulting the veterinarian first, particularly if you suspect your dog has been poisoned. It is much better to seek professional advice and discover the situation is not nearly as drastic as you thought than to find out too late that it was, in fact, worse than you imagined.

Do not give the dog peroxide to induce vomiting as this may actually make the situation worse. Even if you are confident that the food is the source of the poisoning, you have no idea what the specific toxins are.

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