Toxins? Just say No!


It’s November and a time of giving thanks.  I do feel thankful each day because I’m passionate about the work I do, but I’m feeling particularly thankful today because my Aussie, Gibson is now home and feeling well after four days in the University of Georgia Veterinary Hospital ICU with an unknown illness.   I’m thankful too for the North Georgia Animal Emergency Hospital in Blue Ridge, Georgia and their expert care and treatment when they determined Gibson had blood in his chest cavity and clear fluids in his abdominal cavity, and Blairsville Animal Hospital before the referral to UGA for further diagnostics.

Though the diagnosis remains elusive, one of the first things the vets considered was toxin ingestion.  This was highly unlikely because of the way we live our lives (organically) and the fact that Gibson is rarely, if ever, outside without me and is always in a fenced area.  Nonetheless, I’ve given lots of thought this week to things that could be toxic to dogs and other pets.

Do you know that the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center receives close to 100,000 phone calls each year about dogs that swallow or become exposed to dangerous toxins?  Over 15,000 of those calls were about common food ingredients in our cupboard or on our tables that can make dogs sick.

While most dog owners are aware that chocolate, coffee, caffeine, alcohol, raisins, grapes and macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, there are a few items that are not as well known. Unbaked yeast dough toxicity is particularly a problem in small dogs. Rapidly multiplying yeast cells cause swallowed dough to continue rising, creating a risk of blockage or even rupture of dog’s gastrointestinal tract.  If Fido starts acting lethargic don’t wait, but seek out veterinary care. One of the newer toxicities that have come to light is Xylitol poisoning, unfortunately thanks to “sugar-free” products.  Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that causes dogs to have very low blood sugar levels and can lead to liver failure. This product is most commonly found in sugar-free gums and if your dog snatches just one piece it can be toxic. Another toxin is zinc. If your dog swallows a zinc penny, screws or other items containing zinc, it can cause zinc toxicity leading to gastroenteritis, hemolytic anemia, inflammation and possible necrosis of the liver, kidney or pancreas.

So, what can you do?  Be sure to store potentially dangerous foods and household items in places your dog can’t reach.  Educate your friends and family to keep toxic items away from your dog. Don’t let your dog roam free where he can find toxins elsewhere.  Keep phone numbers on hand for emergencies: your vet, the closest emergency clinic and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline: 888-426-4435 which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  And if your dog is acting strangely or exhibiting strange symptoms, be sure to err on the side of caution and take him to the vet because waiting could be fatal.


Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a CPDT-KA, a Pat Miller Certified Trainer-Level2, a dog*tec Certified Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina.  She enjoys providing behavior consulting and training solutions to clients in the tri-state area of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as offering fun educational opportunities for dog trainers and dog hobbyists throughout the U.S.


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