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National Poison Prevention Week

On the other side of the Atlantic, it’s National Poison Prevention Week - which we think is a great idea! As a result, we wanted to mention some of the more common poisons we see… Watch out for these substances, they are harmful - or even potentially fatal - to our pets.

Anti-inflammatory painkillers

Drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and diclofenac are potent and effective painkillers for us. However, they can be very harmful if eaten by pets - mainly because of the dose range. Dogs, and even more so cats, are more sensitive to the side effects of these drugs than humans are; in addition, they are smaller so the same dose of the drug is more likely to be an overdose. The effects of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, and altered drinking and urination; this can be due to stomach ulcers or kidney failure.

If you think your pet is in pain - call us, and our vets can prescribe a safe product! There are NO over the counter dog- or cat painkillers.

Caffeine and Chocolate

Safe in moderation for humans, lethal to dogs and cats! Caffeine and theobromine (in chocolate) excite the nervous system leading to restlessness, vomiting, abnormal heartbeats and possibly even seizures.

Want to give your pet an Easter treat? Get a pet-safe chocolate!

Fipronil-based flea product

Many of the most popular flea spot-ons contain the active ingredient fipronil. Safe and quite effective in dogs and cats, but in rabbits, it can cause seizures and gut stasis - which is frequently fatal in plant-eating bunnies.

Grapes, raisins and currants

These “vine fruits” are found in a wide range of cakes and treats; however, occasionally consumption of even small amounts (as little as 3 currants) can lead to kidney failure in dogs (and probably cats too).


Look lovely, nice smell… kill cats. All parts of the plant, especially the pollen, lead to kidney damage and failure in cats. Sometimes this is treatable - but often not. Cats and lilies are a bad mix!

Onions and garlic

These contain a chemical that damages the haemoglobin - the pigment inside red blood cells that carry oxygen through the bloodstream. The result can be severe, clinically significant, anaemia, leading to pale gums, lethargy, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, this may be fatal, although fortunately most cases are caught early enough to be saved

Rotten food

Mouldy food is broken down by fungi; however, these fungi sometimes produce toxins (called “tremorgenic mycotoxins”). These can trigger muscle tremors, twitching, or even seizures in dogs who like to forage in dustbins!


Like other painkillers (above), in dogs the safe dose is MUCH lower than in humans. In cats, however, it is often lethally poisonous, even at tiny doses. Symptoms include swelling of the head and paws, chemical damage to the blood (“methaemoglobinaemia”) causing the gums to turn a muddy brown or purple colour and the animal struggling to breathe, and sometimes liver failure leading to jaundice, collapse and death.

NEVER give paracetamol to ANY animal unless told to do so by one of the vets!

Permethrin flea treatments

Safe and effective in dogs and rabbits… but lethal to cats! Exposure to even small quantities of permethrin can cause severe intractable seizures, massive rises in body temperature, and then death. It is frequently untreatable - so NEVER use dog or rabbit flea products on a cat!

Rat Bait

Perhaps the second commonest poison for dogs after chocolate, most rat baits contain coumarin chemicals, which are blood thinners. Dogs are exposed by eating the bait, cats by eating poisoned rodents. Affected pets start to bleed under their skin and into their intestines, but it can be days before the poisoning shows symptoms, and weeks before the poison works its way out of their system. There is an antidote… but prevention is better than cure!

Slug Pellets

Those forms containing metaldehyde are lethal to any pet - but especially dogs. The effects include diarrhoea and violent seizures that may prove fatal without rapid emergency treatment.


This is a highly toxic tree - both leaves and seeds (inside the berries) are potentially lethal. Most animals won’t eat it, but watch out for greedy rabbits! A single mouthful can lead to sudden death. So fence off any yew trees and make sure their berries don’t find their way into hutches or food bowls!


These are toxic to dogs and cats - especially the bulb part. They can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy and drooling among other symptoms. Please be careful when in the garden with these plants. 

If your pet may have had access to any of these poisons, or any other unusual material - give us a call right away for advice!