How to save your dog from poisoned baits

A common fear among dog owners is represented by poisoned baits.

In 2016, 23,500 dogs were poisoned in Italy and the 30% of them died of terrible pains.  In the first three months of 2017, cases had increased in comparison with the previous year.

For this reason, we thought to create this informational "handbook" that could be a help to you.

Poisoned baits

Poisoning means a change of the normal physiological balance of the organism because of a respiratory, cutaneous, alimentary contact with a toxic substance.

The most used substances to create baits are rat poison or other kinds of very dangerous poison like metaldehyde, strychnine, ethylene glycol (antifreeze liquid).

These tasty morsels are prepared to attract your animal, by using ham, meat, sausage, etc. Once ingested, the poison contained in them starts to circulate in a short time, causing damages. There are obviously some variables, related to the ingested dose, the size and breed of the animal, the kind of poison and the promptness of action.

Good habits

We suggest you not to worry, but to follow these simple basic measures:

  • Watch carefully where your dog goes and pay close attention to what he could swallow.
  • Try to instruct him not to eat what is on the ground.

First aid

There is a useful method that we suggest you to know in order to save your friend's life: to induce vomit. You shall obviously use it only if you are sure about the ingestion.

Induce vomit as quickly as possible in case of need is essential, except in the case a caustic substance has been ingested (for example muriatic acid, hydrochloric acid, etc) which would cause additional damages by flowing again in the passage.

How can you induce vomit?

The easiest and most effective method to use in case of urgent need is to let your dog swallow 1-2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide by a syringe without needle or a solution of water and salt. This will cause instant vomit, avoiding the poison to circulate or at least limiting the damages. After this, you shall go anyway to your veterinary.

What are the most used poisons? What symptoms will your pet show? What could you notice?

Most of the times, unfortunately you don't catch out your pet, but after some time (a few minutes or even a few days) you will notice that your dog has a problem and therefore it is very important to be able to recognize the symptoms.

The most used substance and the easiest to find on the market is rat poison (rodenticide, anticoagulant). Once it starts to circulate, it causes bleedings, which are more or less serious according to the affected area and to the ingested quantity.

The active ingredient of this product doesn't let the blood clot; therefore, the diagnosis is immediate after a simple blood sample (the blood will always be liquid in the syringe).

Symptoms will be more or less clear and fast, depending on the ingested quantity; sometimes they may even appear after a week.

Therefore, you can mainly notice:

  • tiredness, apathy
  • short of breath, in case of hemorrhages in the respiratory system
  • external hemorrhages
  • pale mucous membranes


Another product used is the metaldehyde (lumachicide), which consists of blue and green granules, used to combat snail infestation in crops.

Symptoms appear within 2-3 hours of ingestion:

  • tremors
  • convulsions
  • dilated pupils
  • greenish diarrhea
  • short of breath


Similar but more serious symptoms are associated with strychnine, a substance commonly used in the countryside to poison rats, foxes and wild animals, which acts quickly causing:

  • tremors
  • dilated pupils
  • short of breath
  • body rigidity
  • rich salivation
  • respiratory block and death

If the animal outlives the first 24 hours after ingestion, he will have a good chance of survival, if treated with the appropriate medicines.


The last substance we would like to consider is ethylene glycol (antifreeze liquid, used by mechanics, plumbers, liquid put into the tank to wash the car's windows, ect), which can be accidentally swallowed, as it has a very pleasant and sweet taste, loved by animals.

The symptomatology caused can be divided into three phases:

  • in the first phase, the nervous system is compromised: after about 30 minutes, the animal seems "drunk", has vomit, nausea, rich urination, thirst, uncertain gait, tremors, convulsions
  • in the second phase, after about 24 hours, the cardiac and pulmonary problems begin: you could see your pet with short of breath, with a difficult breathing
  • after about 48 hours, there is a serious renal impairment, with consequent dehydration, coma and death

Also in this last case a quick action is essential: it will be difficult to save the animal if the intervention is not carried out within 12 hours after ingestion.
The lethal dose for animals varies according to weight, but it is anyway low: for a cat, two teaspoons and for a dog of 10 kg, 2 big tablespoons of liquid are enough.

Therefore you should follow the following, simple suggestions:

  • don't leave these products containing ethylene glycol or any used, dirty containers unattended
  • don't take pets into construction sites, workshops, garages ... where this substance is used
  • do not let your pet drink from puddles on the street

There are many other dangerous products, we have listed the most commonly used in the preparation of baits.

In any case it is very important to identify the substance in question and show it to the veterinary, in order to operate properly. The more data you have, the better chance you'll have to save your friend.

It is always right to inform the police about the presence of poisoned baits, as they are dangerous both for our pets and for our children and they are the cause of environmental pollution.

Furthermore, we shall not forget that the inappropriate use of dangerous substances represents a crime punishable by law with heavy penalties up to detention.

We hope that this short handbook has provided you useful information about the topic of poisoned baits!

See you next time!


Eleonora Bosoni

Dr. in Veterinary Medicine

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