What to do if you think your dog has eaten something poisonous?

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A reader asks for advice after she suspected her dog of swallowing something harmful. Vicky Payne advises.

Q: Can you advise on what to do if you think your dog has eaten something poisonous? Recently, we suspected our six-month-old Cockerpoo had eaten a pack of paracetamol after rummaging through my neighbour’s handbag. Luckily, it proved to be a false alarm (the pack had dropped out of her bag and was found — still full — down the back of our sofa), but it made me realise that I’m not sure what to do in this situation. Should I rush her straight to the vet or is there some way of making the dog sick beforehand?
Any other tips would be most welcome as it was a real panic moment!

Linda Newcombe, West Yorkshire.

Vicky says: You can always call your vet for advice in any emergency. Be prepared with as much information as you have on what may have been eaten, how long ago, and the current weight of your dog. For medicines, the tablet strength is important, and whether the medicine might have contained xylitol. For chocolate, check if the coco solid percentage is listed as some high-quality milk chocolate can be surprisingly toxic to dogs. Make sure you have the phone number for your vet and the clinic that covers their out-of-hours emergencies in your mobile and pinned up in an obvious place at home.

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You might also want the Veterinary Poisons Information Service animal poison line number: 01202 509000. This is a 24-hour emergency line run by poisons specialists and they will be able to assess the information you give them and decide if your pet needs to see your vet or not. The service costs £35, Monday – Friday, 8am – 8pm, and £45 at all other times and on Bank Holidays. 

It is not recommended that you try to make your dog sick as some of the things people have suggested for this carry a risk of injuring your pet further.