Substances commonly stored in sheds and garages are usually the ones that could potentially be the most harmful to dogs. Ensure that these areas are not easily accessible by your dog and that any chemicals are placed in areas that cannot be easily reached by them, or are locked away.
These substances are most often found in the form of pellets and are very attractive to dogs. There are a number of different types of slug bait which vary in toxicity, some of which are said to be relatively safe to mammals. Some slug baits contain a substance called metaldehyde, that is highly toxic to dogs. This chemical can quickly cause dogs to develop a tremor, twitching and fits, which can go on for a number of days. If using slug pellets, make sure they are scattered around the area you wish to treat, rather than left in piles where they are more easily eaten by your dog.
The types and toxicity of chemicals used to kill plants vary dramatically. Most cases of poisoning occur from dogs that brush up against, chew or lick recently treated plants, or from dogs playing with or drinking from containers.
Clinical effects vary dramatically depending on the type of herbicide, but can include vomiting, dehydration, blood in the stools or in the vomit, ulcers in the mouth, breathing problems, heart problems, kidney and liver failure.
Rodenticides (rat or mouse killers)
These substances are designed to be attractive to mice and rats, and unfortunately are very attractive to dogs as well. These are the most commonly eaten household poison and account for a large number of dogs taken to veterinary practices each year. There are many different types of rodenticides for sale, many of which can cause harm to your dog. The most common rodenticides are designed to be eaten by rodents over a period of time, which often interfere with the animals' ability to clot their blood correctly and can cause bleeding. Bleeding may not always be external and poisoned dogs can show signs of weakness, lethargy, lameness or bruising. Other rodenticides can cause vomiting, excitement, changes in body temperature, fits or even gastric blockage.
Be careful when using antifreeze products, especially those that contain the chemical ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol can be lethal when ingested and its sweet taste may make it tempting to pets. Antifreeze should be stored in secure containers away from animals and children. If you're using antifreeze, make sure that your pets are kept well away and if any is spilt, ensure that it is cleaned up.
Effects of poisoning may initially appear as vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness and the dog appearing drunk. An untreated poisoned dog may appear to recover, but this may be followed by kidney failure. Prompt treatment is important. If your dog does drink or lick any amount, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Other common items found in sheds/garages that could harm your dog
- Creosote and other wood treatments (e.g. teak oil)
- Gloss paints
- Waterproofing sprays
- White spirit
Tips on how to poison-proof your home
Preventing dogs from being exposed to the sorts of chemicals found in your shed and garage is largely about safe storage and safe usage. If you do use any pesticides in your house or garden, make sure that you keep any packaging until you have finished using the product. In the case of rodenticides, many owners will take their dogs to the vets without any knowledge of the active ingredient because they have thrown it away.
What to do if you think your dog is poisoned
If you think that your dog may have eaten, touched or inhaled something that it shouldn't have, speak to your vet straight away.
Never try to make your dog sick. Trying to do this can cause other complications, which may harm your dog.
Things to tell your vet
In an emergency you can help your veterinary practice make an informed decision as to whether your dog needs to be treated by them and, if so, what the best treatment would be. Where possible you should provide your veterinary practice with the following information:
- What poison you think your dog has been exposed to (i.e. chocolate, ibuprofen etc.). Include any product names, or lists of ingredients if relevant
- How much they may have been exposed to (i.e. 500mg, 500ml, one tablet etc, even approximations may help)
- When your dog was exposed to the poison (i.e. five minutes, five hours or five days ago)
- If your dog has been unwell and, if so, what clinical effects have been seen
It is easier for a vet to care for a poisoned dog if it is treated sooner rather than later. If you are in any doubt, don't wait for your dog to become unwell before calling for advice.
What to take to your vet
If you do need to take your dog to your veterinary practice, make sure that you take along any relevant packaging, or a sample of the poison, e.g. parts of plant or fungi. Always make sure that you yourself are protected and cannot be poisoned in turn.
How to use this information
The information is intended to be used to prevent poisoning by raising awareness of certain poisons, rather than as a document to be used in an emergency. If you think that your dog has been poisoned, or has come into contact with potentially poisonous substances, contact your local veterinary practice immediately.
Think your dog may be affected?
If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately!
We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information.
Find a vet near you
If you're looking for a vet practice near you, why not visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Find a vet page.