Common poisons

Our pets are much more sensitive to everyday substances than we are. A lot of things are considered poisonous to our pets if they eat them.
Below, we have split the most common poisons up into summer and winter which is when they are more commonly seen in a veterinary practice, but they are poisonous all year round.

Spring and Summer Poisons

Spring Flowers – Daffodils can be toxic and can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy that in severe cases may result in dehydration, tremors and convulsions. These signs can be seen from 15 minutes to one day following ingestion.

spring flowers

Ivy – Dogs that eat ivy commonly develop salivation (dribbling), vomiting or diarrhoea. In more severe cases you may see blood in the vomitus or bloody faeces. Contact with ivy can cause skin reactions, conjunctivitis, itchiness, and skin rashes

Bluebells – All parts of the plant are poisonous to dogs.

Chocolate – Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine (a bit like caffeine) that is poisonous to dogs. The amount of theobromine differs in the different types of chocolate (dark chocolate has the most in it)

Raisins / Grapes /currants and sultanas – can cause renal (kidney) failure in dogs.

Adder Bites – They are commonly found on dry, sandy heaths, sand dunes, rocky hillsides, moorland and woodland edges. They generally only bite when provoked by humans, dogs or cats and bites rarely occur during the winter when the snake is hibernating. Bites are more frequent in the spring and summer and result in local swelling. The swelling may spread and can be severe

Anti-histamines – From spring to early summer the pollen count is at its highest and this is when owners are likely to be stocking up on their anti-histamine medication. Ingestion of large amounts of anti-histamines results in signs that may include vomiting, lethargy, in-coordination, wobbliness and tremors

Xylitol – Xylitol is an artificial sweetener commonly found in sugar free chewing gum, nicotine replacement gum, sweets and as a sugar substitute in baking. If ingested by dogs it causes hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar level).

Anticoagulant rodenticides – Most rodenticides in the UK contain anti-coagulant compounds that interfere with a rat’s ability to clot its own blood, repeated exposure to products or exposure to professional rodent baits can cause disruption to a dog’s blood clotting ability and result in massive haemorrhage (bleeding). The effects may be delayed for several days. Treatment involves giving an antidote and in severe cases transfusions of plasma or whole blood.

Slug and snail pellets – Metaldehyde based slug pellets are among the most dangerous and common poisonings we see in dogs. Even small amounts of pellets can cause significant poisoning and severe signs can occur within an hour of consumption. Dogs that have eaten slug pellets need to be seen ASAP as rapid intervention can save their life.

Winter and Christmas poisons

Conkers – Ingestion can cause marked gastro-intestinal signs – drooling, retching, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. The conker’s case and conkers themselves also present a risk by causing an intestinal blockage. Dogs usually vomit any ingested conkers quickly and treatment to control vomiting may be needed.

Acorns- The toxic ingredient is thought to be Tannic acid, which can cause damage to the liver and kidneys.
Food hazards – Chocolate, onions, nuts, blue cheese, fruit cakes, puddings and mince pies can all be toxic to dogs. Watch out for turkey bones as these can cause choking, constipation or cause damage to your dog’s intestines.
Christmas trees and plants – may cause a mild gastrointestinal upset (vomiting and/or diarrhoea) if chewed. Tinsel and decorations can cause intestinal blockages if eaten and your pet may get a nasty shock if they chew through the electrical cable for your Christmas lights. Holly, mistletoe and poinsettia are all toxic to dogs so keep them out of their reach.

Batteries- If the battery is chewed and pierced it can cause chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning. If they are swallowed whole it is possible they will cause a blockage.

Antifreeze – Ethylene glycol (anti-freeze) ingestion is very dangerous. It is sweet-tasting and very palatable. Even a relatively small quantity can cause serious kidney damage and can be fatal. Unfortunately the longer the delay between ingestion of the anti-freeze and initiation of treatment the less favourable the prognosis.



Please see for more information on other possible poisons
Please note:
Alcombe Vets assumes no liability for the content of this page. This advice is not a substitute for a proper consultation with a vet and is only intended as a guide.

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