My Dog Ate a Lizard. What Should I Do?
Dogs eating lizards is a fact of life, especially in Florida, which is home to some of the most interesting and beautiful lizards in North America. Ingesting a lizard, though, can have serious consequences for your dog, ranging from bites to poisons to bacteria. AS scary as this sounds, however, it is good to remember that most lizard-eating adventures pass without incident. IT is important to know, though, what the most common side effects of lizard consumption are, and how to identify and respond to them.
Probably the first thing that comes to mind for people concerned about their dogs and a lizard encounter is whether or not the lizard itself is toxic or poisonous. This is certainly a possibility, as some lizards small enough for a dog to ingest, including most newts and salamanders, do secrete poisons through their skin. If your dog only ate part of the lizard, immediately spit it out, or you saw the lizard before your dog caught it, try to identify what species it is, which will give you some idea of if it is poisonous and if so, how toxic it is.
However, since you are unlikely to be able to identify the type of lizard your dog ate after they have eaten it, the best course of action if you know your dog ate a lizard is simply to watch them carefully for any signs of illness. Common symptoms of lizard toxicity include lethargy, low appetite, excessive drooling and thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, nervousness, pale gums, or erratic movements. However, any dramatic change of behavior after your dog eats a lizard should be reported to your vet. Call or visit your vet as soon as your dog starts exhibiting any of these symptoms. Most lizard poisons are unlikely to be fatal in a full-grown dog, but a consultation with your vet will help make sure your dog is on track to stay safe and healthy.
What is probably a bigger risk to your dog than eating a poisonous lizard is eating one that carries salmonella. Even in Florida, most small lizards are not toxic to dogs, but the majority do carry salmonella and can pass it on to your dog if ingested. Luckily, salmonella is unlikely to be a serious health threat in a healthy dog. If your dog has pre-existing health issues or is just unlucky, though, it can become a serious problem. As with poisoning, the best thing you can do to protect your dog from salmonella after they have eaten a lizard is to watch them closely for any symptoms or inexplicable changes in behavior. Common symptoms of salmonella in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, and swollen lymph nodes. In serious cases it can progress to rapid heart rate and shock. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog after they have eaten a lizard, contact your vet as soon as possible to begin treatment.
Another concern if your dog eats a lizard, or any small animal, is that it may become lodged in their gastrointestinal tract and block their digestive system. This is probably the most dangerous consequence of lizard ingestion in dogs, but also the least likely. Intestinal blockages are most common when dogs eat things they cannot digest, like toys, paper clips, or string, but they can occur if your dog overenthusiastically swallows a lizard without chewing as well. Again, your best course of action is to watch your dog for changes in behavior and common symptoms, like vomiting, lethargy, weakness, and loss of appetite. If your dog presents any of these symptoms after eating a lizard, bring them into the vet as soon as possible. Intestinal obstructions can quickly become fatal if not diagnosed and addressed as soon as possible.
One thing to remember if your dog encounters a lizard is that the damage can go both ways. The lizard may bite your dog, most commonly on the mouth or tongue as they try to swallow it. This can cause swelling and discomfort for your dog, but is unlikely to be serious as the lizard is almost certainly not venomous.
The one time this may not be the case for Floridians is if your dog is foolish enough to get into a scrap with a Nile monitor lizard. This invasive African lizard can grow up to seven feet long and has a venom in its bite that could be very harmful to your dog. Nile monitors are currently only found in Lee, Charlotte, and occasionally Palm Beach counties, but dog owners in these areas would do well to be aware of them. If your dog is bitten by a Nile monitor, bring them to a vet immediately.
Fortunately, most of the time when your dog ingests a lizard, it will be a very bad day for the lizard and a fun misadventure for your dog. On the rare occasions that serious consequences do arise for your dog, the best thing you can do is be prepared. Luckily, the course of action for lizard ingestion is the same common-sense approach that works for everyday dog care: Watch for changes in behavior, and call your vet if you see any. Then keep a closer eye on your dog the next time they go out in the yard.