Dog poisons in your medicine cupboard

Dogs are more likely to encounter human medications when these are outside of a medicine cabinet. Not only should medications be kept out of reach of your dog when not being used, but remember to put away any boxes of tablets immediately after use. Do not leave tablets lying on tables while you get a drink to help wash them down. Dogs are not humans and so should never be given any human medication unless specified by a veterinary professional.

Ibuprofen and other Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are often used to manage inflammation and pain in both humans and dogs. Human NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen, are different from the ones given to dogs and can make them very unwell. Human NSAIDs (and dog NSAIDs in overdose) interfere with the dog's ability to protect its gut and so can cause severe tummy upset. Ulcers may form in their gut, leading to blood in the stools and vomit. Kidney failure can also occur and may be delayed for several days. Signs of kidney failure may include inappropriate urination and increased thirst. Some NSAIDs can also cause fits.

Oral contraceptives

These small tablets are one of the medications most frequently eaten by dogs. Fortunately, oral contraceptives are of low acute toxicity and even large amounts are unlikely to cause any major concerns, apart from a possible mild stomach upset. Some oral contraceptives may temporarily disrupt oestrus in bitches.


This widely used pain medication may initially cause vomiting, brown gums, increased heart rate, changes to the rate of breathing, swelling to the face and paws, and can also cause a delayed liver failure, which may not present for several days.

Paracetamol can also be found in many other over the counter medications in combination with other drugs.

Psoriasis creams

These creams often contain vitamin D derivatives which are extremely toxic to dogs. Dogs are usually poisoned by licking off recently applied cream from their owners, but may also lick or chew the tube of cream. These drugs enhance the resorption of calcium from the bone and increase the absorption of calcium from the gut. This causes hypercalcaemia; an excess of calcium in the blood. Signs may present after 6 hours, but could be delayed and can include weakness, profuse vomiting and diarrhoea, and increased thirst. As calcium levels rise it can cause muscle spasms, fits, heart problems, kidney failure and can cause the gut and lungs to become calcified.

Other common items found in medicine cabinets that could harm your dog:

  • Antidepressants
  • Aspirin
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Diabetes medications
  • Heart medications
  • Sleep aids

Tips on how to poison-proof your home

Many people carry medications around in bags that they use on a daily basis, i.e. handbags or rucksacks. When at home, don't forget to keep these out of reach of your pet, as an inquisitive dog who discovers a box of tablets, foil packaging or a bottle of medication, may be inclined to play with it.


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 suspect that your dog has been poisoned, or has come into contact with potentially poisonous substances, contact your local veterinary practice immediately.

The lists of poisons in this information guide are not exhaustive. If an item is not mentioned in this guide it should not be assumed that it is not poisonous. Further advice on substances that could harm your dog could be sought from your local veterinary practice.

Who can I contact for further advice?

The Kennel Club is not a veterinary organisation and is unable to provide general or case specific veterinary advice.  If you have any questions regarding any of the issues discussed in this article then please contact your local veterinary practice for further information.

What to do if you suspect your dog has been poisoned

If you think that your dog may have eaten, touched or inhaled something that it shouldn't have, consult your local veterinary practice immediately.

Do not try to make your dog sick. Trying to do this can cause other complications, which may harm your dog.

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 information on:

  • 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. 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 days ago)
  • If your dog has been unwell, and if so, what clinical effects have been seen

It is easier for a veterinarian to care for a poisoned dog if it is treated sooner rather than later. If you are in any doubt, do not wait for your dog to become unwell before calling for advice.

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, i.e. parts of plant or fungi. Always make sure that you yourself are protected and can not be poisoned in turn.


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