Poison Information and Advice
There are many items in and around the house that can be highly toxic to pets, even in very small quantities. These are often day-to-day items in plain sight that you wouldn’t necessarily consider dangerous.
Preventing poisoning in the home:
● Keep all medicines out of reach—preferably in a locked kitchen cupboard
● Keep human and veterinary medicines separate
● Never give animals medicines intended for human use—only medicines prescribed by your vet
● Some foods (for example, chocolate, onions, grapes, raisins, sultanas, avocados, certain nuts, liquorice, xylitol-sweetened foods and sweets) can be toxic. Do not allow animals access to foods intended for human consumption. Pets should only be given food and treats formulated for animals
● Some plants are hazardous (for example, lilies to cats, daffodils)—keep houseplants and floral displays out of reach of pets
● Restrict access to cleaning, DIY and car products (for example, fuels, antifreeze, white spirit and lubricating oils).
Preventing poisoning in the garden or open spaces:
● Prevent access to gardens where pesticides or fertilisers have recently been used, especially slug pellets and rodent baits. Access to such baits can be reduced by placing them in narrow tubes etc.
● Keep pesticides/herbicides in a safe and inaccessible place—away from all pets
● Never leave buckets or watering cans full of mixed chemicals
● Do not allow animals to drink from ponds/puddles that appear oily or otherwise polluted
● Be careful not to leave plant bulbs lying around.
What to do if you think your animal has been poisoned:
Don’t panic—remember, few cases have fatal outcomes and few poisons act very rapidly.
● Remove your animal(s) from the source of poison—protecting yourself if necessary
● Contact your vet for advice immediately, especially if your animal is unwell, and be ready to provide information on when, where and how poisoning occurred, as well as the quantity consumed
● If instructed to go to the practice, take a sample of the poison and the packaging with you
● If the skin is contaminated then wash thoroughly with WATER
● DO NOT try to make your animal vomit—unless you are instructed to do so by your vet.
Common Pet Poisons
Chocolate - contains cocoa beans or cocoa butter which in turn contain Theobromine and Caffeine (both are methylxanthines). Dogs are very sensitive to the effects of methylxanthines.
Signs of toxicity include hyperactivity, increased heart rate, tremors, vomiting and diarrhoea, excessive thirst, lethargy and potential death. The effects are dose dependent and the amount depends on the type of chocolate the animal eats. Generally the more bitter the chocolate the more toxic it is.
Onions - a member of the Allium family - as are garlic, leeks, and shallots. They are contained in onion powder, cooked/raw onions, gravy granules, baby foods etc. They cause damage to red blood cells and result in anaemia (low blood count).
Only low levels are required to cause toxicity.
Cats are more sensitive than dogs
Macademia Nuts - Only dogs are affected. Signs include lethargy, weakness, vomiting, ataxia (unsteady gait), tremors, and hyperthermia (heatstroke). Signs are seen within 3-12hrs of ingestion.
Rising bread dough - Dough rises in stomach due to the animals body heat. Ethanol (alcohol) is produced during the rising process. The signs that are seen are related to ethanol toxicity and foreign body obstruction.
Mouldy Food - Usually from scavenging food, it contains tremorgenic mycotoxins (a type of nerve toxin) that causes ataxia (unsteady gait), muscle tremors, and seizures (fits) which can last for several days.
Grapes, raisins, and sultanas - They can cause acute renal failure (kidney failure). The mechanism is unclear and the amount required to cause toxicity is unknown. It seems that not every dog or cat is susceptible to the effects of the grapes/raisins. It is also thought that dried fruit is more toxic than raw fruit.
Paracetamol - Dogs can tolerate paracetamol, however, Cats are extremely susceptible to the effects and can show signs of toxicity from a single dose.
Never use paracetamol in your pets!
Tobacco Products - The toxic ingredient is nicotine. 25% of total nicotine content is found in cigarette butts. Signs are seen 15-45mins post ingestion. These signs include excitation, rapid breathing, salivation, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle weakness, twitching, depression, tachycardia (fast heart rate), collapse, coma, cardiac arrest.
Rodenticides - These are anticoagulants (affect the bloods ability to clot), and are classed as short acting or long acting. Newer types have been developed due to rats developing resistance to the older drugs. Dogs and cats are susceptible to all types of anticoagulants. The body has a reserve of coagulant factors and signs of bleeding will not usually be seen for up to 72hrs, until these are all used up. Due to the variability of anticoagulants used in modern rat bait it is advisable to contact the surgery straight away. We can then contact the Veterinary Poisons Information Service to see if we would need to start treatment.
Slug pellets (Metaldehyde) - Symptoms are seen within 15mins-3hrs. Signs of toxicity - anxiety, ataxia, muscle tremors, panting, seizures, hyperthermia, respiratory failure and death. The pet may survive the initial stages of poisoning but to succumb to organ failure in the next 3-5 days.
Poinsettia causes irritation of the mouth, vomiting/diarrhoea, itchy skin
English Holly causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea
Lilies cause depression, decreased urination, and kidney failure in cats
Christmas Rose causes pain in the mouth and abdomen, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and heart rhythm disturbance
Yew Trees cause trembling, muscle weakness, trouble breathing and heart rhythm disturbance. They can result in sudden death