First signs that your pet has been poisoned

By | 21 Apr 2015

Jakez the Brittany SpanielUnfortunately, this is a sad post.  My beloved, lively little Brittany Spaniel had to be put down last night after not responding to treatment for poisoning.

It all happened so quickly.  I thought I was taking him in for a check and treatment, I never thought I wouldn’t be taking him home again.

It may not have been possible to save him even if the warning signs were seen/known straight away, as it appeared to be a particularly noxious case, but evidently the earlier you can get your pet to the vet the better.

Part of the problem in my situation was that I had not seen him eat anything suspicious so had no idea there was a problem and so it had been in his system a long time already.

He had been enclosed in one part of our land but found that if he pushed hard enough he could open those gates.  He then ran to the next gates which were opened whilst a workman removed his digger from the premises.

I couldn’t see where he’d gone.  I had to pay the workman and as doggie was still not in sight after that, I got the car and went in search (he was a quick mover).

When I got back I found he had already returned and he greeted me with his usual elation, especially as I had a treat ready in my hand to lure him back if he tried to play chase whilst retrieving him.  He took it without hesitation, wolfing it down normally.

Jakez looking a little worried that he's not going to get the treat

Looking a little worried that he’s not going to get the treat

I didn’t know where he’d roamed, he hadn’t been gone for very long and there were no signs of a problem on seeing him again.

But my top tip now is to keep a very close watch over your dog if he goes out of your enclosure even for a short time, that’s all that’s needed for them to eat something poisonous.  You don’t need to suspect they have eaten poison first.

Or it could also be on your land if it’s a rat that has itself eaten poison.  Personally, I don’t use toxic chemicals on our property but it is possible for a rat or other rodent to enter it.

Obviously, if you see your dog eat something possibly poisonous then you may need to take them straight to the vet before any symptoms are shown.

If your dog has been out of sight, then I think keeping a watch on them for at least an hour afterwards is not exaggerating.

So, finally, I come to signs that your pet has been poisoned by a neurotoxin (diagnosed as that by the vet, although we don’t know which neurotoxin).  These are what I noticed, in order of appearance, some symptoms only taking on a significance with hindsight:

  • always on the move, a restlessness
  • unusual gait – walking movements look a little stiffer
  • slight trembling
  • tic-like, small involuntary movements
  • seeking shade

The seeking shade symptom may have been earlier, although he was moving around too much to tell, and I was occupied with no reason to keep a close eye on him, but at the later stage he was looking to lie down, if only briefly as he was unable to rest.

A lot of internet sites I’ve looked up since his death mention vomiting as a symptom, but my poor little friend hadn’t been sick anywhere on our land (I have checked).  He vomited only later at the vet’s.

I noticed the trembling shortly before the small involuntary movements and phoned the vet.

By the time the vet could see him (about 15-20 mins later) he started convulsions proper and luckily we were at the surgery for that.

This was an out-of-hours emergency call and I’d say it is worth doing that even if you aren’t sure it’s a poison.  The tendency is to hesitate before making one of those calls, but don’t – if it’s a question of money or appearing to be hysterical, wouldn’t you rather pay a bill for no reason and appear panicky than lose your companion?  I didn’t hesitate, although I was wondering if I was being over-cautious.

After this experience I would call the vet as soon as I saw the slightly stiffer walking.  I know what I’m looking at now, I don’t need to suspect he’s eaten something bad.

Not that doing so would have necessarily created a different outcome.

[Addendum: I had a follow-up meeting with the vet and he advised that what doggie had eaten was a particularly aggressive substance, and definitely man-made.  Sadly it is often the case that pets die after eating something poisonous.  If the owner has seen the animal eat the substance there is a better chance as the care is immediate. 

The vet talked me through what type of products neurotoxins are found in – some anti-rodent products, strong concentrations of herbicides/pesticides, slug pellets – and said that sometimes manufacturers state that a product is not attractive to dogs and cats but that the statement is not true.  Sometimes people put anti-rat products on the ground when they should only put them on higher surfaces that pets won’t get to – as mice and rats will still get to them there.

He also said that unfortunately one can’t rule out ill-will either- some people deliberately want to hurt animals and it is not as rare as one would think.

He said I should speak with my neighbours as depending on what it was and where it was found, it could also kill a child.

A couple of friends I spoke to said that poisoning is sadly rife in France.  In the area we used to live in there was apparently a man who deliberately hid poison in treats to kill off cats that came into his garden – cats being particularly fussy eaters, it must have been quite a treat.

I still don’t know where this poison came from but there is a field behind us with several enclosed gardens backing on to it and at one of them there are not only no weeds growing in their garden but nothing growing for a fair way beyond it.  It really stands out amongst the gardens although further along from it I saw white powder/crystals in patches on the ground.  The latter could be from a farmer spraying the crop and spilling some product when changing the barrel.  Then my doggie was unfortunate enough to walk along there soon after.

It could equally be one garden in the other direction which is always open but they have grass, no flowers and no veg to use pellets on. 

We’ll never know though.  ]

I grew up with dogs, but he was my first dog.  He was my companion.

Part of the reason for getting this property was so that doggie would have room to run around.

He was a dog whose nature it was to run off on walks, or run out of our large walled garden chasing the scent of something highly interesting, eating any carrion, poo or rubbish he found on the way.  I tried to discourage him but there is only so much of their nature that you can change.

Doggie was always curious about what was going on in the wide world.

Doggie was always curious about what was going on in the wide world.

H said he had a feeling when we left after a visit, that it may be the last time he saw doggie.  Perhaps because he had already pushed open some heavy glass doors at his workplace (I had to go back to UK) and had run out into the street and off to sniff around other people’s houses.  He was a dog who lived life to the full and that H thought would never reach old age.

I’m still looking back at the event and searching online for the exact cause and for what I could have done differently so that he would still be alive.

It’s not going to bring back my fantastic companion, to whom I felt a special bond, not just because I am here a lot on my own but because he was so loving, characterful and (when not running off to see what’s around the corner) followed me around wanting to be close, trying to lick my face in the morning to wake me up was a lovely game to start the day and he waited at the gate for my return however short or long my absence.

I feel I let him down.

We adopted him from a refuge, but even if we hadn’t I do at least know that he had a good life with us and console myself with that.

I hope telling you my story  may help save any other dogs or pets.

It would also be lovely if people in France put less toxic substances out.



7 thoughts on “First signs that your pet has been poisoned

  1. Kelland

    I’m not a dog owner, but I really feel for you. Such a terribly sad story. I hope you will soon find another friend to brighten your days again.

    1. Back to Burgundy Post author

      Thank you Kelland. Have already been to the refuge and now have 2 new friends! Still miss my pal but they’re lovely and it helps that they need this home.

  2. Diane

    I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. As I read your post, my hands were clenched and I was sweating and holding back tears. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. If you do find out that someone tried to intentionally poison neighborhood animals or carelessly left out poison, please punch him/her in the face on my behalf. Again, my condolences. ;-(((( #allaboutfrance

    1. Back to Burgundy Post author

      Thank you Diane, I know you’re a dog lover too. I also thought I’d write up an educational note about poisons and ask the Maire if he could put it in his newsletter – which includes notices asking people to not allow their dogs to bark incessantly etc, so hopefully they’ll include that and even more hopefully people will read it and take note. I haven’t heard of any more pets dying here but I definitely don’t want any more to.

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  4. Brandi Bednorz

    I have no idea how I ended up on your page. ‘Was not even thinking about dogs, haha.

    I lost my first dog, who really was my best friend last July, this also being the first death i ever experienced. Being 39, never married, no kids, relationship with parents riddled with issues, Baci was my only “friend” that loved me but she didn’t have to. Most of our parents fill that role – the one source to look to when you need to know that this dragging on, day by day, downswing in your life is temporary, and it feels just a little better with someone you KNEW loved you – unconditionally. My parents are distracted, always have been, so that source never really existed for me…until Baci.
    10 years of love no matter what starting when I was 28 – endured meeting and losing the mirage of my life in 2006, dying inside at 32 and then she there when I met the love of my life in 2007. Her love was still different. Purer.

    It was and still is hard. They new pup helps, but I still cry at night after everyone’s gone to bed every so often, and just wail into a comforter, just wishing for one more time to tousle her little ears and have her bury her little face down for a full rough face head ear rub while saying I”I love my bear …” God it took me 20 minutes to write that. Wow….wuss!! j/k

    She had a bad vaccine reaction – sarcoma. I let it stay swollen for three weeks. Took her in every one of those weeks, as it got bigger and harder. “No she’s fine bring her next week…blah.” Wednesday, July 30, 2014. She looked bad- like a robot. (This is the point I think she actually LEFT this world). I knew this was bad. Her regular vet was off that Wednesday. We will get her on morphine and keep her comfortable till tomorrow at 9AM.

    9:30AM that next day she had a seizure. Her heart stopped. She was gone. Had they looked at her Wednesday like I meekly suggested rather than demand she might still be here. Costing $20,000USD for chemo and radiation, but worth every single cent.

    :{ Sorry you are going through this.

    1. Back to Burgundy Post author

      Thank you for your words Brandi. I’m so sorry to hear your traumatic story. Perhaps it will help others to hear it though. The grieving process for dogs and cats is real and individual and can take some time. I still come across things to do with Jakez’s and it brings back the tears. But the new dogs need us and they need us to give them a good life and love as we did their predecessors, and in time we will have a different but similarly close relationship with them. I get my dogs from rescue centres and it’s true that they save us as much as we save them. I do hope it gets better for you.


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