Life-threatening poisons affecting our pets:
The European Adder is the only venomous snake native to the UK.
Adder bites are generally seasonal, the majority occurring in the spring/summer months.
Adder bites can be extremely dangerous, particularly if an animal has been bitten in the facial area
Bites may result in severe swelling, bleeding and fever, and a bitten animal may go into shock; kidney and liver poisoning may also occur in some cases.
Any animal bitten by an adder should be assessed urgently by a vet.
Treatment is directed towards preventing and controlling shock with intravenous fluids, neutralising venom (antivenin needs to be given within 24 hours), and preventing wound infection with use of broad-spectrum antibiotics.
Alias Rat or mice poison; these products are commonly put down to help to control rodent infestations.
These substances can disable normal clotting cascade of the blood and cause excessive bruising and bleeding (both internal and external bleeding).
Not all rodenticides are anticoagulant, and therefore it is always important to determine which type of rodent poison an animal has ingested.
Treatment includes induction of vomiting (within 2 hours of ingestion) followed by activated charcoal and vitamin K supplementation. In severe cases plasma or blood transfusion may be necessary.
Prognosis is guarded (depeds how quickly treatment is initiated and which anticoagulant rodenticide was digested).
The types of batteries most commonly implicated in animal poisoning are miniature cell (button batteries), AA or AAA batteries.
Most batteries contain either strong acids or alkalis, and many also have significant metal content.
Ingestion of batteries may result in severe chemical burns to the mouth, throat and stomach, resulting in severe impairment of both breathing and swallowing.
Treatment consists of pain relief and stomach protectives. Small amount of milk can be given to dilute corrosive fluid of batteries. Vomiting should not be induced in these cases, because if dog vomits the corrosive fluid, the damage to his throat can be significantly increased.
Blue-green algae are found in fresh, brackish and marine waterbodies throughout the UK. They may form massive growths or blooms; these blooms occur most commonly in late spring, summer and early autumn.
Ingestion of blue green algae can result in rapid death. Animals may develop severe vomiting and diarrhoea, breathing difficulties, coma and convulsions. Ingestion can also result in liver and kidney poisoning.
Any animal thought to have ingested blue green algae must be urgently assessed by a vet.
No antidote is available and treatment consist purely of supportive care (activated charcoal, intravenous fluid therapy and liver support).
Found in antifreeze, brake fluid, radiator fluid.
Clear, odourless, sweet tasting and very toxic (even tiny amounts)!!
Symptoms shortly after ingestion: intoxication (dizziness, incoordination, confusion), vomiting.
Poisoning quickly leads to acute kidney failure and death within a few days.
Window for treatment with antidote (ethanol or fomepizole) is only 3 hours in cats and 6-8 hours in dogs, after that no treatment is successful and all animals die or are put to sleep on humane grounds due to irreversible kidney failure
Grapes and raisins
The reason why some grapes are poisonous to some dogs is not known. Types of grapes involved include both seedless and seeded, store bought and home-grown, and grape pressings from wineries.
Estimated toxic dose is 32 grams of grapes and 11-30 grams of raisins per kg bodyweight of dog
First symptoms of poisoning are usually vomiting and diarrhoea, progressing to weakness, anorexia, increased drinking, and abdominal pain
Acute kidney failure develops within 24 hours
Treatment includes induction of vomiting (within 2 hours of ingestion) followed by activated charcoal and intravenous fluid therapy
Prognosis is guarded (depends how quickly treatment is initiated and on the amount digested)
Human NSAIDS (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs)
Most commonly IBUPROFEN, DICLOFENAC and CARPROFEN.
Commonly available in the UK as an “over-the counter” medication used for pain management
Ibuprofen is particularly poisonous to dogs and can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, gastric ulceration and kidney failure; seizures, ataxia and coma can also occur.
Cats are considered to be twice as sensitive as dogs.
Treatment includes activated charcoal, gastric protection and treatment of gastric ulceration, intravenous fluid therapy and diazepam in cases of seizures.
Prognosis is good to guarded (depends how quickly treatment is initiated, which drug and what amount was digested)
Lilies are very poisonous to cats – unfortunately the toxic mechanism is still not understood, but it is believed that all parts of the plant are poisonous to cats (even a small exposure to the pollen can be very dangerous)
The first signs of lily poisoning occur 30 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion and include vomiting, depression and loss of appetite; acute kidney failure develops within 1-3 days (cat will show depression, excessive thirst, no urination) and death follows within 5 days
Prompt medical treatment is absolutely vital; chances of survival greatly decrease if treatment isn’t commenced within 6 hours of exposure. There is no antidote; treatment is supportive only, including hospitalisation and intravenous fluid therapy.
Commonly used around the garden to kill slugs and is usually found as blue or green pellets – these pellets are often eaten by inquisitive dogs
Symptoms of metaldehyde poisoning include salivation, vomiting, anxiety and incoordination with muscle tremors and fasciculation, in some cases leading to seizures and death.
Treatment is most effective if initiated early. Further absorption is prevented by induced vomiting and activated charcoal. Seizures are controlled with diazepam or general anaesthesia, and intravenous fluid therapy is initiated to promote toxin excretion.
Prognosis is heavily determined by the exposure dose and how quickly is treatment initiated.
A type of analgesic freely available throughout the uk from pharmacies, supermarkets and newsagents paracetamol is extremely toxic to cats, as they lack the necessary enzymes to safely break paracetamol down (minute portions of a table may be fatal).
In cats, initial symptoms include vomiting, salivation, discolouration of the tongue and gums (brown colour), and difficulty breathing. In severe casing leading to death by asphyxiation (red blood cells unable to carry oxygen)
In dogs, the main effects of toxicity in dogs is liver damage and gastro-intestinal ulceration , with most common symptoms being vomiting, dullness, painful abdomen and jaundice.
Treatment includes hospitalisation with intravenous fluids, oxygen support and activated charcoal if ingestion occurred within a few hours. In severe cases blood transfusion may be necessary.
Prognosis depends on how quickly dog receives the treatment – severe liver damage is often seen and may result in death despite therapy. Prognosis in cats is usually grave.
An insecticide commonly found in some flea treatments available from pet shops and supermarkets (e.g. “Bob Martin”)
Cats are very sensitive to permethrin and even a close physical contact with a recently treated dog may lead to symptoms in cats.
Some “spot-on” treatments contain very concentrated solutions of permethrin, and can be very dangerous to cats
Signs of poisoning include neurological signs, such as paw flicking or ear, tail or skin twitching, or rolling on the ground. Cats can exhibit hyperexcitability, depression, ataxia, salivation, vomiting, anorexia, incoordination, dilated pupils, tremors, and seizures.
Unfortunately, there is no antidote for permethrin poisoning. Treatment consists of decontamination (washing of the cat with lukewarm water), seizure/tremor control (diazepam or even general anaesthesia) and intravenous fluids. Despite the intensive treatment many of cats with severe signs will not survive.
Despite the common misconception this plant is not poisonous to pets. However, it’s ingestion causes mild to moderate irritation of the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea. Because of the low toxic potential, veterinary treatment is usually not necessary ( a few sips of milk might help to reduce irritation)
Found in chocolate (or tea and some other foods)
Dark chocolate or unsweetened baker’s chocolate has larger amounts of Theobromine (= more toxic) than milk or white chocolate.
Cats are more sensitive than dogs but less likely to eat chocolate
First signs of poisoning: nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased urination
Can progress to cardiac arrhythmias, epileptic seizures, internal bleeding, heart attacks, and death
Treatment consists of inducing vomiting (within 2 hours of ingestion), medication for seizures or heart arrhythmias and fluid diuresis
Xylitol (food additive code E967) is used as an artificial sweetener and is frequently found in sugar-free chewing gums and sweets. It is also being increasingly used in pharmaceutical products, mainly nicotine replacement chewing gums but also in some medications.
Xylitol is extremely harmful to dogs and signs of toxicity can be seen as quickly as 30 minutes after Xylitol ingestion.
The Xylitol causes a rapid release of the hormone insulin, causing a sudden decrease in blood glucose. The symptoms include vomiting, weakness, incoordination, depression, seizures and coma.
Treatment consists of intravenous glucose administration, close monitoring and supportive care. If the dog is brought soon after ingestion (before clinical signs develop) inducing vomiting might be all that’s needed.