Several years ago, my 8 month old puppy was playing in our backyard when she collapsed. Having been perfectly fine in the hours and days prior, she was now acting drunk and panting heavily. We rushed her to our local emergency veterinary care facility. She was given almost no chance of survival, and we said our good-byes. We asked them to do whatever they could for her, and by some miracle, she survived.
In the days that followed, the wonderful veterinarian that cared for her searched high and low for a possible explanation for her illness. Many blood tests were ran. Although her liver enzymes were elevated and things were generally “out of whack,” none of the results were consistent with any known poisonous agent (e.g., rat poison, anti-freeze, bufo toad, etc.) The only explanation that could not be ruled out was electrocution, although we could never find a possible source, and there was no lightning in the area that night.
In any event, because of this incident, I learned a lot about potential sources of toxins for dogs. I will share my short list of potential dangers for dogs along with some links to resources that contain additional, helpful information. The most important information to remember, however, is that if you suspect that your dog has ingested a toxin of any type, please contact your veterinarian immediately.
Plants – there are MANY plants that can be poisonous to dogs, such as sago palms. The ASPCA maintains a list here (http://www.aspca.org/site/DocServer/poisonousplantsdogscats.pdf?docID=109&AddInterest=1101). When looking up some plants on the internet, I found out that sometimes they are sold under different names (e.g., a common name or a variety name).
Insecticide – perhaps the dogs come into contact with a relatively benign substance after it was just sprayed by the lawn care company, making it temporarily more potent, or a stronger substance ‘leaked’ into your yard after having been sprayed on your neighbors yard.
Bufo Toad – these are huge, so they’re hard to miss. But I suppose they have to start small… Here’s a link to a photo of one. (http://www.floridagardener.com/critters/BufoMarinus.htm)
Food – chocolate is one of the more famous poisonous food for dogs, but you might not have heard of onions and grapes being poisonous, for example. Here’s a link to a comprehensive list. (http://www.peteducation.com/category_summary.cfm?cls=2&cat=1939)
Rat Poison – remember, sources of rat poison may not only originate in your own yard. Perhaps your neighbor has put some out, inadvertently allowing your dog access to this poison at the edge of your neighbor’s yard.
Electrocution – not a toxin per se, but definitely a potential hazard to your dog in your yard, as we found out. Look for other sources of frayed electrical cords or exposed electrical outlets in your yard. Also, buried electrical wires could be the source of an electrocution problem. You can call your electric company to find out if there are any buried in your yard.
Aflatoxins – this is actually a recent issue in regards to several brands of dog foods being recalled. See this recent article from Cornell University. (http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Jan06/dogs.dying.ssl.html)
Wild Growing Mushrooms, Snake Bites and Anti-freeze – represent other dangers to your four-legged friends. Keep your best friend safe and far away from these and the other potential hazards listed above.