First Aid for Pets

bandaged face cat in a bag




Poisons are substances that when taken into the body cause it harm and may result in death. They can be swallowed (solids or liquids), inhaled (gases) or absorbed through the skin (normally liquids). They are often products we use every day and are found in food, medications, and household substances. In dogs and cats snail baits and rat baits are the most common poisons.

Prevention is the best form of management.

  • Keep all poisons out of reach of your pets (and your children).

  • Destroy all unwanted medicines and poisons.

  • When placing baits put them into containers that your dog or cat can't break into then put them out in your garden. Preferably use alternatives such as flat beer or companion planting for snails.

  • Always take care walking your dog and be aware that your council may spray the grass where you walk your dog or place baits for rabbits or foxes.


Every poison or toxin has different signs and your pet may show any or several on the list below. In general cats are less likely to be poisoned than dogs except for substances spilt on, or applied to, the coat.

  • Your animal may appear uncomfortable or drowsy.

  • Vomiting, voiding of the bowel and/or bladder.

  • Salivation or drooling from the mouth.

  • Your pet's breathing may appear altered or forced.

  • Muscle tremors, twitching through to convulsions.

  • Altered mental state. Your pet may appear disorientated, over-reactive to sound or light and may appear to be hallucinating.

  • Wobbly gait (ataxia).

  • Changes in gum colour to blue, pale or even very red.

  • Odours either on the breath or from contamination on the skin.

  • Bite marks. Remember a toxin can be induced from a bite or a sting.

  • Burns to the mouth or the tongue.


  • Take care not to be contaminated with the poison. Remove the animal from the source if the atmosphere is contaminated. If CPR (see Resuscitation) is necessary do not inhale the animal's exhaled air.

  • Once the animal is showing signs of the toxin do not attempt to make it vomit or drink anything but seek immediate veterinary care.

  • For a swallowed acidic compound or petroleum based substance e.g. paints, toilet cleaner, petrol, turpentine:

    • Do not induce vomiting.

    • Wash the substance off the mouth and face with water.

    • Give milk or water if within 10 minutes after swallowing the substance.

  • For a swallowed corrosive basic substance e.g. Draino, dishwasher powder:

    • Do not induce vomiting.

    • Wash the substance off the mouth and face with water.

    • Give diluted vinegar, milk or egg white if within 10 minutes after swallowing the substance.

  • For a swallowed medicinal or general substance e.g. medicines, illegal drugs, snail pellets or rat baits.

    • If only just ingested induce vomiting. Give salty water, or Syrup of Ipecac (see bottle) or give washing soda.


      Give as big a piece as you can get down the animal's throat. For a cat this is just a bit bigger than a pea while a dog may take a walnut sized chunk (as shown). You will need to place this over the back of your pet's tongue as your pet will spit it out if it can. Vomiting occurs within 5 minutes. If not successful repeat only once more.

    • Seek urgent veterinary advice or ring the poisons information bureau in your state.

    • Remember to take the box the poison came in with you to the veterinarian.

    • Also take any other pets with you to your veterinarian that may have also eaten the substance.

  • For an absorbed substance

    • Wash the animal under running water with a mild detergent such as dog shampoo or velvet laundry soap until the animal is clean and all the toxin is removed. Wear gloves to avoid contaminating yourself.

    • Seek veterinary aid if any symptoms develop.

  • As a general rule seek veterinary advice, at least over the telephone, and if in doubt see your veterinarian.


Send mail to Administrator with comments or questions about this site                Fiona Anderson 2001