Signs Your Dog Ate Something Bad

| Richard Rowlands

Backyards are full of potential toxins for your dog. Discover the signs to look for if your dog ate something bad outside, and the actions to take if this happens.


Playing in the backyard with your pup can be a great way to spend an afternoon, but backyards are also full of potential toxins to watch out for. For dogs with a history of eating things off the ground, the backyard can be a dangerous place, so it's important to monitor them while they're outside.

If you suspect that your dog has eaten something in your backyard, it's vital to watch for symptoms of discomfort or poisoning and seek medical help if necessary.

Here are the top 7 signs your dog ate something outside they shouldn't have:

1. Gastrointestinal Signs

An upset stomach is one of the most obvious signs that your dog has eaten something bad, and it's also one of the first signs to show up. Common gastrointestinal signs that your dog is sick include:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea

  • Extreme salivation

2. Internal Bleeding Signs

One of the scariest possibilities if your dog has eaten something is internal bleeding. If they gobbled up something sharp or splintery, the item could damage their esophagus or GI tract as it goes down. If your dog shows any of the following signs, contact your veterinarian right away:

  • Pale gums

  • Racing heart

  • Lethargy

  • Coughing up blood

  • Weakness

  • Collapse

3. Changes to Their Bathroom Breaks

Your dog's bathroom behavior is always a telling sign of how they're feeling. If everything remains normal and they continue to urinate and defecate on a regular schedule, your dog is likely to be fine.

If, however, you notice changes to their normal routine, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Changes in urination can be signs of kidney failure and should be taken seriously. Here are common signs to watch for:

  • Frequent urination

  • Uncontrolled urination

  • Severe thirst or increase in drinking

4. Unusual Sounds and Behaviors

While it can be difficult at times to know if your dog is sick or hurt, some dogs will make their discomfort obvious with their behavior. If your dog seems to be bending forward and sticking their butt in the air repeatedly, it's a sign that their stomach is upset. Dogs will use this move to try and relieve pressure from their abdomen.

Other signs that your dog is uncomfortable include grunting, moaning, and whining for no apparent reason. Some dogs will also make a retching sound like they're trying to throw up, but can't.

Other dogs may not display any physical signs that they're in pain, but they'll change their disposition. If you notice any change in your dog's normal behavior, it's always worth checking in with your veterinarian.

5. Signs Your Dog Swallowed a Foreign Object

It's not just toxic plants and garbage that have dangerous potential in your backyard. Any foreign object, like small toys, bones, and coins, can damage your dog's esophagus or lead to dangerous blockages. Here are some common signs that your dog has swallowed a foreign object:

  • Pawing at the mouth

  • Drooling

  • Vomiting

  • Gagging or choking

  • Repeated lip-licking

  • Refusing to eat

  • Lethargy

  • Inability to defecate

6. Signs Your Dog Is Choking

If your dog has ingested a foreign object and it got caught in their throat or blocked their airway, they're choking and require immediate assistance. There's no time to consult with your veterinarian if this happens, and you'll need to act fast. Signs that your dog is choking include: 

  • Retching

  • Pacing back and forth

  • Pawing at the mouth

  • Struggling to whine

If your dog's airway is totally blocked, it may be impossible for them to produce any sounds. That's why it's so important to be on the lookout for other signs of distress.

7. Severe Symptoms

In the most severe cases, your dog will display dangerous symptoms, and you need to seek emergency medical assistance immediately. These symptoms occur when dogs consume extremely toxic substances such as antifreeze, pesticides, or rat poison. Severe symptoms of poisoning include:

  • Tremors

  • Seizures

  • Heart palpitations

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Common Toxic Yard Items to Avoid

Most dogs will eat anything consumable, so you should always monitor your dog when they're outside and never leave them alone.

Leftover food from your barbecue, small children's toys, gardening equipment, and more are all hazards to your dog if they're small enough to be swallowed or chewed on. Othercommon backyard items to keep an eye out for include:

  • Mulch products

  • Plant fertilizers and insecticides

  • Mushrooms

  • Toxic plants

  • Garbage and compost

  • Dead animals

  • Fecal matter

  • Fireworks

What to Do if Your Dog Has Eaten Something in the Yard

If your dog has eaten something and you suspect they're having a reaction, the first step is to call your veterinarian right away. They will be able to give you more clarity on your dog's specific situation and whether further medical assistance is needed.

If you think your dog has eaten something toxic, you should also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. They’re available 24/7, 365 days a year to help you through any poison-related emergency.

If your dog appears to be choking, don't wait to call the vet. First, take a look inside your dog's mouth to see if you can remove whatever is lodged in their throat. If you can't, but your dog's airway isn't completely blocked, take them to the nearest emergency vet so they can safely remove the item without additional damage.

If your dog's airway is completely blocked and you can't remove the item, you need to administer the Heimlich maneuver, just like you would with a person.

Is the Backyard Dangerous for My Dog?

While many things can be toxic in your backyard, that doesn't mean you have to keep your dog away from it altogether. With a little bit of knowledge and preparation, you can make your backyard safe for your furry friend.

Getting outside and playing with your dog is one of the best parts of being a pet owner and should be encouraged whenever possible. As long as you're alert and you monitor your dog at all times, you and your pup can make many happy (and safe) memories in the backyard together.

Also, it's always best to be prepared for vet visits related to unexpected accidents and illnesses. AKC Pet Insurance plans (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) offer coverage for toxin and foreign body ingestion, as well as many other common canine emergencies.

Photo of a woman holding her dog

Every Dog and Cat Deserves the Pet Insurance of Champions

Get prize-winning care for your pets.

richard rowlands
Richard Rowlands

Richard has shared his life with pets since childhood, and currently has a rescue cat and dog. He works with veterinarians and pet businesses to improve their content. To find out more, please visit his [website](


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