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Poisons & hazards

If you think your pet may have consumed something that could be toxic, contact us immediately.

Human food

The toxic component of chocolate is called theobromine [a compound similar to caffeine]. The amount of theobromine varies in different types of chocolates. The content in white chocolate is fairly low, milk chocolate has a moderate amount and the content in dark/pure chocolate or cocoa powder is relatively high. Thus, the toxicity of chocolate depends on what type, how much is ingested and the size of your dog. The most common clinical symptom of chocolate poisoning in dogs is vomiting and diarrhoea. This along with the fact that theobromine is a diuretic puts dogs at risk of dehydration. Other effects that can occur are hyperactivity, increased body temperature, increased blood pressure and increased heart rate. Tremors and convulsions can also be observed in extreme cases. There is no specific antidote for chocolate poisoning and the treatment is supportive and symptomatic. If your dog has eaten any type of chocolate of any amount, seek veterinary attention as soon as possible as most of the risk can be reduced by immediately inducing vomiting to remove the toxin and administering an oral substance to reduce further absorption of any chocolate still in the gastrointestinal tract.

Grapes/Raisins, Currants and Sultanas
The toxic mechanism of these fruits in animals is not known, but they can cause kidney failure in dogs and possibly cats. Some dogs can eat large quantities without any effects and others will develop renal failure with as few as a handful. The initial signs are usually vomiting and diarrhoea, which then progress to renal failure in 24-72 hours. Again, no specific antidote exists, thus the treatment is supportive, with IV fluids to attempt to protect the kidneys. Watch out for things like Christmas cake/pudding and mince pies!

Peanuts have been reported to have adverse effects in some pets. Some reported symptoms included, vomiting/diarrhoea, twitching, spasm, agitation and convulsions. Macadamia nuts are also toxic to dogs and can cause weakness, tremors, vomiting, depression, lameness and stiffness.

Allium species
These foods include onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives. They can be toxic raw or cooked. Initially vomiting and diarrhoea is seen. This is followed by a serious condition called haemolytic anaemia [destruction of red blood cells] from 1-5 days later. Many foods can contain these ingredients unknowingly, so avoiding any \’?table scraps\’? is recommended.

An artificial sweetener found in some chewing gums and can be bought in large quantities for home baking/cooking. In dogs it causes rapid hypoglycaemia [low blood sugar] and liver failure.


During cold snaps, antifreeze poisonings become increasingly common. These typically occur when ethylene glycol, one of the main ingredients in antifreeze, leaks from car radiators or screen wash containers. This chemical is extremely toxic to pets and, to exacerbate the problem, it’s also very sweet so they like the taste.

Any amount is dangerous, even if it’s found in contaminated water such as puddles, but just a few tablespoonfuls are potentially fatal.

Treatment may be needed if your pet swallows any antifreeze so please contact your vet as soon as possible.

It’s worth bearing in mind ethylene glycol can also be found in:

  • windscreen de-icer
  • brake fluid
  • liquid rust inhibitors
  • hydraulic fluids
  • ornamental fountains
  • decorative snow globes
  • some solvents and paints

Once drunk ethylene glycol is rapidly absorbed into the body. Within hours it can cause severe kidney damage which is very difficult to treat. The first sign you see may be wobbliness or falling over as if drunk. The back and kidney area can also be very painful, there may be vomiting and your pet may be very thirsty. This is all secondary to kidney failure.

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning also include diarrhoea, seizures and collapse. The length of time it takes for these symptoms to appear varies depending on how much your pet has drunk but be aware he may appear to recover from the immediate symptoms after about 12 hours, only to worsen again as the ethylene glycol works its way through his body.

Household chemicals

Keep all cleaning products of out of the reach of your pets.

Some dogs may think the brightly coloured bottles are fun toys to play with.

If you put bleach down the toilet, remember to close the lid and bathroom door.

Oven cleaners and drain cleaners can be especially harmful. Keep your pets out of the room when using these products.

House plants

Lilies are very dangerous to cats. Eating just two or three leaves or drinking from the water from a vase can be potentially fatal. If you ever suspect your cat has eaten, or even licked, a lily seek urgent veterinary advice.

The stalks, flowers and bulbs contain phenanthridine alkaloids which are toxic to cats. The highest proportion is in the bulbs. Eating amaryllis can cause vomiting, changes in blood pressure, tremors and seizures.

Daffodils are synonymous with spring but can be toxic to dogs and cats, particularly the bulbs. The yellow flowers contain a poisonous alkaloid that can trigger vomiting while crystals in the bulbs are severely toxic and can cause serious conditions such as cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression.

Veterinary Poisons Information Service

Get veterinary help immediately

If you think your pet may have consumed something that could be toxic, contact us immediately.

Alternatively call the Veterinary Poisons Information Service on 0207 3055 055.

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