The hint of summer in the air puts a spring in our step and allows us and our pets to spend more time outdoors enjoying evenings walks and time in the garden. But as responsible pet owners, we must also be aware of some potentially nasty household poisons and garden threats that could have a devastating impact on our pet’s health.

Household poisons to avoid outside:

1: Spring bulbs

All bulbs and everything that grows from them are poisonous to most animals including cats, dogs and rabbits. For some reason many pets aren’t instinctively aware of the dangers of consumption and are still attracted to the earthy smell. Dogs and rabbits in particular do like to dig them up and eat them and this happens most often when they are freshly planted in the Autumn and starting to grow and flower in the Spring.  Daffodils and tulips are the most usual bulbs to have poisoned dogs during these seasons.

Inside, cats are most likely to be poisoned by flowering lilies. These can be very toxic to cats, and poisoning can often happen just by the cat walking across a surface where lilies are. They get the pollen on their paws and coat then lick it off whilst cleaning themselves and digest it that way. We do suggest that homes with cats in don’t have lilies around unless you can be sure your cat isn’t going to go into that room or have any contact with them. Alternatively, you can remove then pollen-heavy stamens and dispose of them.

Signs of poisoning are varied but often include red mouths and eyes, excessive and uncharacteristic dribbling, upset digestive system including vomiting and diarrhoea, unsteady walking and movements, tiredness and sometimes collapse.

2: Antifreeze

This is a very unpleasant toxin, especially for cats as they are very attracted to the smell and taste and drink it if they find it puddled on drives and roads, or from unsecured containers.

The poisonous ingredient is ethylene glycol and even a teaspoon of antifreeze can cause fatal kidney failure. Research shows that around 90,000 animals are poisoned by it every year, so it’s a huge issue.

It’s extremely important that we keep antifreeze in bottles that are tightly sealed and stored well away from pets and children. When it’s used on a car, you must make sure it doesn’t collect on the floor under the car. If it does, wash it away with plenty of water. There are antifreeze varieties that contain a different ingredient that isn’t as toxic – propylene glycol as opposed to ethylene glycol – so do use this as an alternative if you can.

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning to watch out for:

  • Stage 1: (Within 30 minutes to 12 hours of the initial consumption) Unsteady on their feet, thirst, vomiting
  • Stage 2: Initial signs slow up and things seem to be getting better, but actually huge internal damage is now happening
  • Stage 3: Loss of appetite, lethargy, being sick, diarrhoea, irregular heartbeat, sometimes seizures. These are all signs of acute kidney failure.

3: Slug bait (slug pellets)

As plants enter their initial growth phase in the Spring and Summer, the first tender green shoots appear and bring with them slugs and snails.  In order to protect our plants, we often reach for slug pellets to control these slimy pests without realising that it’s not just slugs and snails who find them toxic. Dogs find the pellets particularly attractive and can very quickly sniff out and consume as many as they find.

Slug pellet ingredients vary across brands and therefore vary in toxicity depending on what’s in them. Some are fairly safe, but the ones that contain others metaldehyde are highly toxic to dogs. Even small quantities of this ingredient can cause significant poisoning, so if you think your dog might have been exposed to pellets you should wash their feet and mouth as soon as possible  even if you don’t think they’ve eaten any. This will help to prevent any of the toxin being ingested next time they groom.

Symptoms of slug pellet poisoning are similar to those associated with antifreeze. You should look out for unsteady movements, wobbles, tremours and fits. These often start within the first hour after consuming the poison, but you must contact a vet as soon as you think there might be an issue even if symptoms haven’t yet started to appear.

Household poisons to avoid indoors:

4. Chocolate

Chocolate is one of life’s best treats for many people, but for animals is very poisonous and can sometimes even be fatal.

Chocolate contains a molecule called theobromine. This substance is produced by plants and can be found in cocoa beans, but also others including tea and cola.  Theobromine has many impacts on the body including the widening of blood vessels and acting as a diuretic and a heart stimulant. People quickly and easily metabolise theobromine so it doesn’t build up in large enough quantities to cause a problem, but dogs (and other animals, but they are generally much less interested in sweet foods than dogs!) can suffer dangerous build-up. Associated problems include digestive issues, dehydration, internal bleeding, behavioural changes, unusually high or low heart rate and muscle tremours. Left untreated, this can then further develop in to seizures and ultimately death.

How much chocolate is too much?

The amount of Theobromine in chocolate products differs. Dark chocolate has a much higher concentration than milk chocolate for example, but it doesn’t take a lot to poison your dog or cat.

What should I do if i think my pet has eaten chocolate?

Call us as soon as you can and we can let you know the next steps, and if its required then we’ll see your pet as soon as possible.

There is no antidote for Theobromine so we usually treat pets by various other means, making them vomit administering activated charcoal and using intra-venous fluids.

With prompt treatment, most dogs survive even if they have eaten a large amount, but it is ESSENTIAL that you get help as soon as you’re able to.

If you’d like to give your dog a treat and aren’t sure what to use other than chocolate, we do have some options available for sale in the practice including Kongs, paste and doggy biscuits. Alternatively, you could use Kong stuffing such as apples, peanut butter, cubed beef, or carrots or just give them directly to your dog. You CAN buy doggy chocolate, but it has very nutritional value, so we don’t advise it.

5. Artificial sweetener

After reading about chocolate horrors and thinking about diet, you might think you could do your dog a favour by giving them diabetic or sugar-free treats. But these can also be toxic as they contain the sugar replacement xylitol. This artificial sweetener can cause mild stomach issues even for us, but for dogs it can be very toxic. If your dog consumes some, it can result in blood sugar levels to quickly dropping to dangerous levels. Large amounts can occasionally also cause liver failure. If you think your dog has eaten sweeteners or if they appear weak, tired, collapse or have fits you MUST call us.

Other potential toxins in your kitchen include:

Household poisons for pet owners to be wary of✓ Blue cheese
✓ Onions
✓ Raisins and grapes
✓ Tuna in large amounts
✓ Coffee and coffee grounds
✓ Excessive amounts of liver
✓ Raw bread dough
✓ Excessive quantities of sugar
✓ Macadamia nuts
✓ Mouldy food

If your pet is showing any of the symptoms we’ve described for any of the poisons above, but you aren’t sure if they’ve eaten anything dangerous, do feel free to call us on 01566 772211 or bring them in.

We would always rather be safe than sorry.

Find out more about the Castle Care Club...

As well as providing many routine veterinary services, our healthcare club gives you discounts on a huge range of treatments that can help you save money on most of the vet care you need to give to your pets.

Castle Care Club
Talk to a vet or nurse about the life-long benefits for your pet when you join the Castle Care Club – Call 01566 772211 or click below to see what's included...


01566 772211

Pennygillam Way
PL15 7ED

Today we're open 8.30am – 6.30pm


01566 772371

Pennygillam Way
PL15 7ED

Today we're open 8.30am – 5.30pm


01579 208072

  1 Miller Court
Miller Business Park
PL14 4DA

Today we're open 9.00am – 1.00pm