Food Poisoning: First Aid and After Care for Your Pet

Are you aware that cats, dogs, and other common household pets can get food poisoning just like humans can? Many of us are quick to drop our leftovers and slightly outdated food for our pets to have as a little treat, but it can do much more harm than good. None of us really know what our precious, pampered pets accidentally consume while we’re not looking, too. 

The cost of first aid for a poisoned pet from a good emergency vet can be much higher than you’d think, and the lasting effects on your fur-kid’s health can be hugely detrimental. 

Let’s take a closer look. 

food poisoning: first aid and after care for your pet

What Does Food Poisoning Look Like in Cats and Dogs?

This condition is often caused by bacteria, such as salmonella, and other disease-causing pathogens. Food poisoning in pets looks very much like food poisoning in humans, bringing symptoms such as: 

  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Excessive saliva production and drooling;
  • No interest in food or drink;
  • Changes to feces (usually mucus);
  • Unusually high levels of tiredness;
  • Fever/change in temperature;
  • No interest in toys or regular hobbies.

In very severe cases, and in cases where mild poisoning is untreated, the symptoms can get considerably worse. The condition usually affects the neurological system at this stage, causing another set of symptoms. These include:

  • Fits/seizures;
  • Falling over a lot;
  • Reduced coordination;
  • Shakes or tremors;
  • Unconsciousness.

The symptoms of food poisoning are similar to that of ingesting toxic food. The two conditions are not the same, however. Food poisoning is caused by bacteria – a literal poisoning of the gut, usually caused by contaminated, bad, or out-of-date food. 

Food toxicity (or toxic poisoning) is when a toxic substance is ingested. This includes chocolate, onions, garlic, cat food, and high-salt foods for dogs. Toxic foods for cats include dog food, raisins, raw eggs, and many dairy products. 

Pet Food Poisoning: When to Call a Vet

Contact your veterinarian as soon as you notice your cat, dog, or other pet is unwell. This might be when you first see your pet vomiting, turning down food, or acting more lethargic than normal. 

Your vet may advise you to refrain from feeding your pet for 12 to 24 hours, and then reporting back. Fresh water should always be available, and it should be changed regularly to avoid re-contamination. 

Most simple cases of food poisoning will pass in around 24 to 48 hours. The vomiting/upset stomachs symptoms usually complete by 24 hours. 

It is also wise to remember that food poisoning will pass… but toxic poisoning may not. The latter can get worse until the worst-case-scenario happens and your pet passes over the rainbow bridge. These two conditions look virtually similar in their early stages. Toxic poisoning should be ruled out first, which allows for the right course of treatment.  

Dog and Cat Food Poisoning Treatment

If you take your dog or cat to the vet to be treated for potential food poisoning, the vet will perform tests to rule out other conditions. The symptoms linked to this condition are also linked to other conditions, some of which can be dangerous and potentially fatal. 

It’s possible for your pet to receive veterinary treatment at home, where they feel most comfortable, administered by you. If dehydration or any complications are a concern, however, your vet will likely want to keep your pet for more aggressive treatment and monitoring, overnight or potentially longer. 

First Aid for a Pet with Food Poisoning

Remove all sources of human and pet food for around 12 to 24 hours. This will allow your pet’s stomach to settle down. Fresh water must be always available, and it is smart to try and encourage your precious pet to drink as much as you can. 

Dehydration is a very big concern with any diarrhea or vomiting-related illnesses. A soaked, cold towel can be used to encourage your pet to drink more. It can also be used to cool down a warm pet with a fever. Your poorly pet will likely want you to stay close and using a soaked towel or flannel, along with soothing tones, can help to calm them if they’re stressed. 

Monitoring a pet when they are unwell is vital. If and when the condition of your pet changes, or another symptom rears, the need to seek medical care increases. 


Pets don’t usually require veterinary treatment in simple and straightforward cases of food poisoning, caused by salmonella or other types of bacteria. The symptoms of this medical condition mimic other, more dangerous conditions, however, which is why it is smart to seek advice. The more urgent conditions will want to be ruled out first. This is especially the case if you aren’t one hundred percent sure of the cause. 

With the cost of pet food poisoning treatment running into the hundreds and potentially thousands of dollars, this is one you’ll want to prevent than face curing! 

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