Dangers and poisonous substances

Parents often “childproof their home” and it should be just as important for pet owners to ‘pet proof’ theirs! The four-legged members of the family can be just as curious and adventurous as infants and small children! It is up to you to make sure that your pets stay in a safe haven .

Some of these tips may sound obvious but we do see pets with injuries caused by household accidents.

Never leave a room with a lit fire or heater is being used unattended.

Plastic bags may suffocate

Cats enjoy naps near a warm engine so before you drive off, make sure you honk your horn to make sure your pet is not under or near the car.

Close the door of your washer and dryer to make sure your pet does not climb in.

Keep toilet lids down.

Store garden tools away securely

Many objects used as cat toys eg wool, string, rubber bands etc can be very harmful if swallowed

Some examples of poisonous substances that we see fairly regularly are:

Antifreeze poisoning

Antifreeze, screen-wash and some de-icers may contain Ethylene glycol – a substance fatal to dogs and cats. Antifreeze is available as a liquid to be added to the water in your car engine radiators to prevent freezing. Even small quantities spilt can be life threatening.

It is sweet tasting and attractive to dogs and cats, but is fatal to them so do be sure to keep such items out of your pet’s reach and mop up any spillages straight away. Dispose of old cartons carefully, and ensure you keep your pet out of the garage-especially a new puppy that will investigate any new scent.

Signs such as staggering movements; tiredness; increased heart rate; continuous vomiting, or dehydration may suggest that your furry friend has ingested this poisonous substance. Unless your dog is taken to the vet’s promptly after ingestion and given intensive treatment, recovery may be poor!

Slug pellets

These seem very attractive to cats and dogs but they contain metaldehyde which causes twitching, unco-ordination, salivation, increased respiration and heart rate and convulsions.

Chocolate and other 'human' foods

Chocolate meant for human consumption contains theobromine which can be lethal – the darker the chocolate the higher amounts of theobromine. Toxic doses vary according to the size of dog and cocoa solid content of the chocolate. Do contact your vets immediately if you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate intended for human consumption – especially if you see any of the following symptoms; vomiting, a sore abdomen, excessive thirst, excitability, drooling, slow heart rate or convulsions.

Raisins and grapes can also be lethally toxic.

Small bones such as those from turkey and chicken are obviously not toxic, but should not be given to dogs because of the risk of become lodged in the dog’s throat or splintering (particularly if cooked), potentially perforating the intestinal tract.

Onions can cause anaemia, so should not be fed to your dog in any form (cooked/raw)

Xylitol, a sweetener commonly found in sugar-free foods, has recently been found to be toxic to dogs.

Peach stones and corn on the cob is a common cause of intestinal blockage in dogs

Human Medicines

As a general rule you should assume that any human medicine is likely to be toxic to dogs, as very many of them are. Paracetamol is particularly dangerous for cats as it can lead to death, or permanent kidney and liver damage which may require life long medical treatment. Ibuprofen can cause gut ulceration and renal failure.

Even if the active substance within a human medicine is appropriate for a dog, the dose is likely to be very different for a dog. Medical dose rates vary between individual dogs due to their size, breed and metabolic rate – just as with humans.

The golden rule is never dose your dog with any medicine that is not designed to be given to a dog and if you are ever in any doubt ask your vet whether it is safe. And of course, keep all human medicines safely out of your pet’s reach.

Poisonous plants, garden and household substances

Lillies are attractive to cats but very toxic.

The following link is a list of many plants, garden and household substances which may be harmful to your animals. Important information– please read:
Dogs Trust assumes no liability for the content of the following list. This does not represent a complete list of all poisonous plants and is only intended as a guide. Please contact your veterinary surgeon for advice or treatment immediately if you think your pet has eaten any of the following plants and is showing a bad reaction. Your pet may also have a sensitivity or allergy to a plant that is not on the list, so always be vigilant and seek help if you are worried about your pet’s health.


Dog owners should always contact their vet for information and advice regarding any potentially hazardous substances, including human medicines that their dog has come into contact with. Veterinary practices have access to a 24 hour Veterinary Poisons Information Service.

Never purposely make your dog sick unless your vet advises you to do so.

If in any doubt our you have any concerns our advice to you is always to contact us on

01888 563217