SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Keeping dogs safe from eating themselves into trouble

Thanks to their curious nature, dogs can sniff, lick and chew their way into trouble. Tring to smell and taste almost anything they can locate is part of a dog’s natural behaviour.

Especially young dogs can eat things that they are not supposed to eat. However, it is not always obvious to us humans exactly what dogs might find appealing.


Wild dogs eat prey animals, consuming a small amount of the vegetable matter contained in the stomach and intestines of their prey. Domesticated dogs are largely carnivores that eat some omnivorous foods. Dogs have evolved over thousands of years to eat this type of diet, subsequently there are a number of foods that you might enjoy but are toxic for your dog. You can find more information on that here.


A number of plants are poisonous to dogs and can cause serious illness and even death. It is important to know what plants you should keep your dog away from. You can read more about poisonous plants here.

Many medications that are used safely in humans can be poisonous to dogs. Never give your animal any medications unless under the directions of a veterinarian.


Keep all prescription, over-the-counter, and illicit drugs out of the reach of your pets, preferably in closed cabinets. Pain killers, cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, antidepressants, vitamins, and diet pills are common examples of human medications that could be potentially lethal to dogs, even in small dosages.

Poisons in your house and garden

Insecticides and pesticides can be very harmful to your dog, so they must be kept out of reach of your dog at all times or not used at all! However, there are many other poisonous things in your house and garden that your dog can ingest, such as household cleaners or chemical fertilisers. You can find more information here.

And don’t forget those sharp gardening tools lying around that can also hurt your dog.

Protect your dog from poisoning!

  • Don’t give any of your food to your dog that can be harmful, stay firm!
  • Keep food and other items that could harm your dog out of your dog’s reach or lock them away
  • Keep your rubbish out of your dog’s reach
  • Train your dog to stay off kitchen benches
  • Be careful with the plants around your house
  • Be careful with what you put on your compost and make sure your dog cannot forage in open compost
  • Always keep insecticides and pesticides out of reach for your dog or do not use them at all
  • Keep your dog away from grassy areas that have been freshly fertilised or sprayed with herbicides or insecticides
  • Always store household products and medications out of reach of your dog

Despite your most careful attention, pets can still get up to a bit of mischief and sometimes ingest something that can make them seriously ill. Here are some signs that you might see if your dog has ingested something harmful:

  • Lethargy
  • Excessive salivation
  • Racing or irregular pulse
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Trembling
  • Seizures
  • Cold extremities
  • Colour change of the gum and tongue
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Drooling
  • Fever
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to urinate
  • Bruising

If your dog shows signs of poisoning or ingested something that you are concerned about, contact your vet immediately!

Knowing your pets’ weight, what they have eaten, how much, and when it was eaten is very helpful when seeking help.

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