Table of Contents
Why do dogs pick so much up with their mouths?
Understanding your dog’s tolerances and sensitivities
How to respond if your dog chews something they shouldn't
Distraction techniques to try with your dog
Some of the top 10 poisonous plants for dogs
Rewilding and what it means for dogs
10 things to watch out for in the garden and on walks
Household items that can be dangerous for dogs
10 things to watch out for around the house
Which foods are really poisonous to dogs?
Signs your dog might have been poisoned
What to do if you think your dog’s been poisoned
Poisonous things: your FAQs
To sum it all up…
When you explore the world with your mouth and nose, like our amazing dogs do, coming into contact with poisonous things is an everyday risk. So as a pet parent, it’s important to know what’s dangerous for your dog, both at home and outside, and the symptoms dogs show when they’ve been hurt or poisoned. In this blog, we’re here to help, bringing you practical tips on hazards in the home, poisonous plants for dogs and what to do if an emergency actually happens. Let’s take a look.
As every pet parent knows, dogs are constantly licking, chewing and picking up things with their mouths – especially when they’re curious puppies. It’s a completely normal behaviour because dogs discover so much about the world with their mouths.
They’re far more sensitive to tastes and smells than us, so there are endless exciting things for them to explore, even if we don’t spot them ourselves. It’s also completely natural for dogs to want to seek and scavenge, especially if they’re a breed traditionally used as working or hunting dogs – in fact their ancestors would have relied on these same scavenging behaviours to survive in the wild.
But these days, there are all kinds of risky things just waiting to be accidentally eaten, licked or rubbed against, at home and outside. So what can you do to help your four-legged friend explore safely?
One of the best ways to protect your dog is to get to know their individual tolerances and sensitivities. Every dog’s different, and their breed, size, age, habits and individual quirks all come into play. While some dogs’ stomachs can tolerate small amounts of things they really shouldn’t eat – from grass to food waste – others are far more sensitive. Being conscious of what your own dog can cope with will help you feel comfortable, well prepared and able to shield your dog from dangers.
Our four-legged friends pick up things they shouldn’t all the time, from poisonous plants for dogs to hazardous household items. When they do, the way you respond is really important. They need to understand that you want them to drop the item immediately, and this isn’t a game.
The best way to do that is to practise a drop command ahead of time. Use a toy or ball and train them to quickly drop it when they’re told, in exchange for a treat. We’ve got lots of tips on healthy treats and how to use them for dog training over on this blog. Be conscious and consistent with the words you’re using, so your dog understands clearly what to do.
If your dog does pick up something dangerous, either at home or on a walk, whatever you do, don’t chase them. They’ll think it’s a game, be encouraged, and take longer to drop the item. Instead, try a distraction technique which takes the attention off the hazardous item and onto something else.
For example, if you can see they’ve got something they shouldn’t have, like a poisonous plant or a stone, pick up something different – a ball, a squeaky toy, or even a pile of leaves if you’ve got nothing else to hand. Call them in a high-pitched, enthusiastic voice and act like it’s the most exciting, fun thing in the world. The idea is that they’ll drop the thing they’ve got and come to you to see what all the fuss is about.
If you do have a ball, you can also try throwing it past them, so they drop the dangerous item and run for the ball. When they do, you can follow them, subtly removing the item as you pass. And if all else fails, you can try scattering a few of their favourite treats around your feet. You don’t want this to feel like a reward for picking up something they shouldn’t – instead it should be about taking their attention away from it. The idea is that they lose interest in the dangerous item, drop it and come over to sniff out the treats. While they’re doing that, you can safely remove the item.
Lastly, to reduce the risk of them finding anything dangerous, keep them on a lead if you’re walking somewhere new, especially if they tend to be a scavenger. That way you can keep them close until you’ve checked the area is safe.
From houseplants to garden favourites, there are all sorts of poisonous plants for dogs, so it’s important to be aware of them. Houseplants are hugely popular at the moment, but if you haven’t done so already, it’s a good idea to look yours up and check they’re pet safe – many websites have helpful pictures of poisonous plants for dogs. It’s worth checking anytime you buy or plant something new.
This popular house plant is also known as a cheese plant. Its sap contains calcium oxalate crystals which are irritating to humans and dogs alike. When pruning or cutting it’s best to wear gloves and keep it out of reach of any curious canine noses.
Sadly, the answer’s yes. There are lots of different types of lily and none of them are good news for dogs, or cats. While some will probably only cause an upset stomach, others are severely toxic and will make your pet very unwell.
Other popular houseplants that can be toxic to dogs include the dracaena, snake plant and aloe. When you put a more dangerous plant high up, out of your dog’s reach, be aware of the the risk of dropping leaves, which your pet might find before you do.
These pretty yellow buds are everywhere in spring and they are toxic to dogs – but only if ingested. They can cause digestive problems or irritation to the nose and throat, so while your dog is probably fine on a walk, keep an eye on them if they have a tendency to nibble on grass and plants.
Whether they’re in a vase at home or planted outside, these flowers, which are part of the lily family, can cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. The bulb is the most toxic bit, so be mindful if your pup is a digger! This information applies to most bulbs we plant in spring.
This shrub-like flowering plant is known for its beautiful flowers, but sadly it’s one of the most toxic plants for dogs – ingesting a large amount can even be fatal. We’d recommend finding an alternative to plant in your garden.
Azaleas are part of the rhododendron family and are similarly dangerous to dogs. If ingested in large quantities, they can cause serious trouble to your dog, and even be fatal. Although they make a beautiful addition to a garden, we recommend removing them from any space your dog will be spending time in.
This common weed, which has yellow flowers and grows outdoors in fields and patches of grass, can be incredibly toxic to dogs, causing neurological symptoms and liver failure. Once again, if your pup is nibbling on foliage, be vigilant and steer them away from any flowers.
Along with other Christmas plants, mistletoe is toxic to dogs, particularly the berries. This plant is more of a risk for puppies and small dogs and while you’re unlikely to happen upon it in the wild, it’s best to be vigilant when decorating for the seasonal holidays.
Yews are popular evergreen trees with needle-like leaves. One of our oldest natives species, they’re planted throughout Britain. Yews are toxic to humans, livestock and dogs! Your dog’s coat will protect it from direct contact, but avoid any ingestion.
This climbing plant often decorates the sides of houses and bursts into purple or pink flowers in summer. Unfortunately the plant, flower and seeds also pose a danger to dogs, so use the same common sense you would with any other flower and gently steer your dog away.
Other outdoor poisonous plants for dogs include crocuses, hyacinths, cyclamen, mushrooms and toadstools, foxgloves, poppies, acorns and conkers. However, this isn’t an exhaustive list, so whenever you buy a new plant, it’s always a good idea to look it up to check.
Remember that toxic doesn’t necessarily mean fatal – different plants cause different reactions, from mild discomfort like itching and rashes to more serious effects such as swelling, vomiting and seizures. Poisonous plants might have a lesser or greater effect depending on your dog’s breed, coat and size. It’s also common for dogs to have sensitivities or seasonal allergies to things like grasses or pollen.
It’s also worth pointing out that most dogs won’t only be interested in your garden plants. There are lots of tastes, smells and textures to explore outdoors. Watch them when they’re off their lead, and keep an eye on what they’re interested in, checking it’s safe. Lots of dogs love playing with plastic plant pots, but these can break easily, leaving sharp edges. They might also eat stale bread left out for the birds, even if it’s turning moldy, so feed birds on a raised table.
There’s a big trend for rewilding at the moment – encouraging a meadow-like area in your garden with bee-friendly wildflowers. While it can look beautiful and be great for bee populations, it’s worth remembering that you might be introducing poisonous plants for dogs to your garden, like foxgloves and poppies, as well as increasing the risk of your dog getting stung by a bee, wasp or other insect. Dogs love to catch wasps and bees, not realising what a stinger might do to their mouth or throat!
It’s not just in the garden that you need to watch out for dangers – our homes are full of items dogs really shouldn’t lick, munch or swallow. If you can, keep these things covered, closed, shut away or out of your dog’s reach. Bear in mind that they’re more than happy to jump up on their hind legs to get things, or break into cupboards if they can smell something interesting, so dangerous items need to be up high and secure. If they can’t, make sure you’re aware of what your dog’s doing – and chewing.
For a start, some foods are poisonous for pets, including things you might not expect. Most people know chocolate’s toxic for dogs, but some fruits and vegetables are too. We’ve written a whole blog about which ones they can and can’t have, and you can check our list here. Alcoholic drinks can also be dangerous and dogs seem especially drawn to milky spirits like Baileys, so keep bottles and used glasses out of reach.
Food waste can also be a risk, and its smelly nature means it’s a big temptation for dogs. The problem is, it often contains food that’s gone off or is moldy, with bacteria that could make your dog unwell. It might also contain sharp bones (cooked bones are especially dangerous) and if it’s mixed in with your general household waste, there could be all kinds of other dangerous things to chew, from nappies and wipes to sharp plastics and other broken items. If you’ve got a cat as well, watch out for any dead animals they might bring in. They’ll be temptingly smelly to your dog, but contain lots of harmful bones and bacteria.
On the subject of smelly things, dogs can also be drawn to dirty washing, whether they're rummaging in the washing bin or picking dirty socks off the floor. The fabric in some clothes can be dangerous to dogs and if they manage to swallow some, it might need surgical removal. Many dogs also love chewing leather belts, but if they swallow pieces of leather, or metal parts, that could cause a digestive obstruction.
Lots of dogs like bright, colourful things, so cosmetics and toiletries left out on counters can easily catch their attention, and be potentially poisonous. Our medicines and tablets can also be dangerous to dogs, even everyday ones like paracetamol, so keep them shut away in a high cupboard. They’re also known to chew electrical wires, batteries and the kind of small electronics we routinely leave around – things like remote controls, phone chargers and even phones, all of which can be dangerous.
When your dog’s playing with their toys – or anyone else’s – just be aware of them chewing or swallowing anything they shouldn’t. Children’s toys often have lots of small, swallowable parts and over time, even dog toys can start to fall apart and be accidentally eaten, putting your dog at risk.
Finally, keep your dog away from cleaning products, whether they’re seemingly mild things like washing-up liquid or more obvious poisons like bleach. Check that any floor or carpet cleaner you use is dog friendly, and keep your dog away from any areas you’re cleaning until they’re thoroughly dry. Make sure any cleaning cloths, brushes and mops are also stored safely away from your dog so they can’t be chewed.
Chocolate, raisins, grapes, garlic, onions, leeks, rhubarb, raw potatoes, macadamia nuts, some types of mushroom, unripe tomatoes, tomato leaves and stems, cherry stones and plum stones are all toxic to dogs. Meanwhile, avocados, grapefruits, lemons and limes can all leave them with a very upset stomach.
Dogs show distress in different ways, but with so many potentially problematic things to eat, chew or brush up against, it’s a good idea to be aware of the most common signs your dog might have been poisoned.
The first thing you might notice is that they’re behaving out of character. They could be more needy, lethargic or withdrawn, or they might be uncharacteristically hyperactive.
If they’ve come into contact with something dangerous or irritating through their skin, they might be scratching the affected area, or their face or paws might become swollen.
You might notice your dog’s gone off their dinner, treats or drinking water, but in some cases they might drink excessively instead – this often happens with chocolate poisoning.
They might be drooling or panting much more than usual, or in situations you wouldn’t expect, or they could be frothing at the mouth.
Dogs often go into this position when they’ve got abdominal pain, as they’re trying to relieve it by stretching out their tummies.
Repeated vomiting or runny poo is always a sign something’s not right. If they’ve been poisoned, this may or may not contain blood.
All of these are serious signs of potential poisoning that need investigating straight away.
Don’t be tempted to turn to Google, friends or family for a diagnosis or home remedy. The one person you need to talk to is your vet (or local emergency vet if it’s out of hours), and you need to do that quickly. That’s why it’s really important to have the numbers you need saved in your phone ahead of time.
Always phone first instead of arriving unannounced. Your vet might tell you the problem can be treated at home, without putting your dog through any extra stress. But if you do need to come in, speaking to them first will mean they can get the right treatment ready while you’re driving in, and care for your dog faster once you arrive. For other tips on visiting the vet and how to keep your dog calm, take a look at our blog here.
If you think they’ve eaten any poisonous plants for dogs, try to take a photo of the plant so you can show it to your vet. Anything that gives them a head start on what your dog’s eaten will be a big help.
Yes, lilies are poisonous to dogs. Different types of lilly will have different effects, from an upset stomach to severe poisoning.
Poisonous houseplants for dogs include the monstera (cheese plant), dracaena, snake plant and aloe, while poisonous garden plants for dogs include daffodils, tulips, crocuses, hyacinths, azaleas, cyclamen, rhododendron, mushrooms, toadstools, foxgloves, poppies, acorns and conkers. However, this isn’t an exhaustive list, so whenever you buy a new plant, it’s always a good idea to check.
All sorts of household items can be dangerous for dogs, including the foods mentioned above, alcoholic drinks, food waste, general waste, dirty washing, toys, cosmetics and toiletries, medication, batteries and small electronics, cleaning materials and any dead animals a cat might bring in.
Call your vet (or emergency out-of-hours vet) immediately. Tell them your dog’s symptoms and what they’ve eaten or been exposed to, if you know. They’ll be able to give you advice and tell you whether you need to bring your dog into the clinic.
Dogs are notorious eaters, chewers and lickers, exploring the world with their mouths, every single day. It’s a normal, natural thing to do and it’s perfectly ok, but as a pet parent you do need to be aware of the potential dangers out there. From poisonous plants for dogs to all kinds of household hazards, take a little time to understand the risks, get to know what’s toxic to your four-legged friend, and help them steer clear.
If you do suspect your dog’s been poisoned, it’s important to act quickly. Check their symptoms and talk to your vet straight away so they can help your dog (and you) feel better sooner.