Common Seasonal Poisons
Useful information for protecting your pets from seasonal poisons and dangers during the Spring and Summer.
In the arrival of Spring and Summer, many gardens around the country are growing, blossoming and developing well ahead of schedule.
Tay Valley Vets would like to keep pets safe this Spring and Summer by informing pet owners of potentially harmful substances, flowers, and plants that are dangerous to dogs and cats.
Many of the emergencies that veterinary clinics see at this time of year involve pet ingestions of garden products that may have harmful chemicals or ingredients. Additional garden related emergencies involve pets that have dug into and ingested the contents of compost piles, or consumed various plants and flowers that are often poisonous.
Some of the most common potentially harmful dangers for pets that reside in many gardens are listed below*.
(*Please note: Information about the potentially harmful dangers for pets, courtesy of the Veterinary Poisons Information Service).
Common seasonal poisons and dangers
Common seasonal poisons and food dangers for 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 – Don’t forget that goodies such as hot-cross buns contain raisins. Grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas can cause renal (kidney) failure in dogs.
- Spring flowers – Daffodils can be toxic, most often after ingestion of the bulb but occasionally after ingestion of flower heads 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. Other spring flowers, such as Crocuses and Tulips, are considered to be less toxic but seek veterinary advice if you are worried your pet has ingested them.
- Ivy – Dogs that eat Ivy (Hedera helix) 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. Note that “Poison Ivy” is a different plant – Rhus radicans.
- Bluebells – All parts of the plant are poisonous to dogs. Signs are related to stomach, intestine and heart function and include vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal discomfort. There is a risk of heart beat irregularity (arrhythmia) if a significant quantity be ingested.
- Adder bites – The European adder is the only venomous snake native to the UK. Adults are around 50-60cm long and are characterised by having a black / brown zigzag pattern along their back and V shaped marking on the back of the head. 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. Other signs include pale mucous membranes, bruising, salivation, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, restlessness, drowsiness and lethargy. Eventually animals may collapse, have blood clotting problems, tremors or convulsions. Seek veterinary attention quickly if your dog is bitten. Anti-venom is used if available (although it can be difficult to obtain) and if considered appropriate.
- 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, incoordination, wobbliness and tremors. Signs develop within 4-7 hours of ingestion. Some dogs may become hyperactive and hyper-excitable and if large amounts of anti-histamine have been eaten convulsions, respiratory depression and coma may occur.
Summer dangers for dogs
- Ticks – With all of the time your pet will be spending outdoors, one of the biggest dangers is ticks. During the summer, check your pet for ticks at least once a day and look thoroughly after walks or trips through wooded areas. Ticks can be harder to find on thicker coated dogs. Always use a tick remover when taking a tick off your dog.
- Extra Fur – Grooming is especially important in warmer weather. Brush your pet more often during the summer to get rid of excess or matted fur, which can weigh a pet down and contribute to overheating. It will also depend on where you live and the type of animal you have. Never have hair cut too closely though, as a coat protects your pet from the harsh summer sun.
- BBQ’s – Everyone loves a barbeque, especially your pet, who gets to feast on table scraps. But a little of this and a taste of that can be bad for pets – and not just for their waistlines. Some surprising foods, such as grapes, onions, garlic and raisins, can be toxic to dogs if consumed in large quantities and should stay off their menu. Corn on the Cob: Dogs often have difficultly digesting corn cobs and this barbeque staple can be a choking hazard or cause a blockage. Fruits with stones: Peaches, avocados and other pitted fruit can be choking hazards. Food with bones: Real bones in food are not good. Even things like bone-in wings can be very dangerous for your pet, as they may splinter and hurt their insides, sometimes even piercing their bowels. Foods with toothpicks or skewers: An overlooked toothpick or splinter can pierce or make a hole in the intestines. Ice cream: It may not agree with all dogs, especially if they have sensitive stomachs. Just like people, some dogs can be lactose intolerant.
- Dehydration & Heat Stroke – Dehydration and heat stroke are very real threats in summer. Animals should always have fresh, clean water available, whether it’s summer or winter. Carry portable water bowls on walks and bring them on holidays or long car journeys. Short-nosed dogs, like pugs, bulldogs, and darker-coloured pets, animals that are overweight or ones that have thick coats, are especially prone to heat stress. Watch out for these symptoms: Excess lethargy, Decreased urination, Dry gums, Refusal to eat, Sunken eyes, Decreased skin elasticity. Don’t worry if your dog pants. It’s how they cool themselves. The hotter the weather is the more they will pant. Other ways to keep your dog cool are, fans, ice packs, frozen treats, ice cubes, kiddie pools and sprinklers.
- Cars – Never leave your dog or cat in the car to run a quick errand inside a shop. Particularly in the summer months or if the temperature is above 18 degrees Celsius, stop this bad habit. The risk is too great for your dog’s health and should never be done.
- Bee stings – Buzzing can cause your pet to investigate. And while curiosity may not kill the cat (or dog), it can get them stung. If your dog has been stung watch how your pet responds to any swelling particularly around the face and neck area. Take your pet to the vet right away if you notice any swelling.
- Pavements – Things like black pavement (or asphalt) can get very hot and can harm your pets’ paws. Think about what you’re walking on, if you wouldn’t like walking on it with bare feet, try to limit your dog’s time on it too. On hot days try and stay away from asphalt or rough pavement, pick softer ground/grass and go for walks for cooler times of the day.
Common seasonal poisons for cats
- Permethrin (insecticides) – Permethrin is an insecticide commonly found in many over the counter ‘spot-on’ flea treatments for dogs. It is very toxic to cats. Poisonings happen all year round but there is a peak in late summer as this is when the flea numbers are at their highest. Cats are most commonly poisoned after their owners mistakenly use a dog product on the cat, but they can also show mild signs after close contact with a recently treated dog. The effects are usually rapid in onset. Signs of insecticide poisoning include drooling, tremors, twitching and seizures. Any remaining product should be washed from the cat’s hair coat (or clipped in long haired cats) using cool water, as warm water will increase the absorbtion of the product. Controlling the convulsions is often difficult and your cat may need to be hospitalised for several days. The Veterinary Poisons Information Service reports that 15% of cases result in death or euthanasia. However, cats that receive immediate treatment and survive usually suffer no long-term effects.
- Toad toxicity – Toads are most active around dawn and dusk and most toad-related incidents occur in the evening when cats lick them. The onset of signs of poisoning is rapid and you can see drooling, frothing, foaming, pain around the mouth, vomiting, wobbliness, seizures and collapse in severe cases.
- Slug and snail pellets (Metaldehyde) – This is a common poison seen in dogs, however there are occasional cases in cats. The toxic compound is metaldehyde (note – not all slug pellets contain metaldehyde). Only a small number of pellets are needed to cause significant poisoning. Signs will be seen within an hour of ingestion and include incoordination, muscle spasms, twitching, tremors and seizures. Pets need urgent veterinary treatment if they are to survive poisoning with slug pellets.
- Anti-histamines – Antihistamines are quite low toxicity – your cat needs to eat quite a few to cause problems. However ingestion of large amounts of anti-histamines can result in signs including vomiting, lethargy, in-coordination, wobbliness and tremors. Signs are seen within 4-7 hours of ingestion. Some cats can become hyperactive and hyper-excitable.
Rabbits - Foods to avoid
Poisonous Plants – There are also several plants that are poisonous to your rabbits, so make sure you don’t feed them to your pets and that there are none growing in your garden.
Some common plants that are harmful to rabbits: Autumn crocus, begonia, black nightshade, busy lizzie, buttercup, carnation, chrysanthemum, clematis, cowslip, geranium, hemlock, laburnum, laurel, poison ivy, poppy and yucca. This is not and exhaustive list, if in doubt, don’t feed the plant to your pet. There are also several plants that are poisonous to your rabbits, so make sure you don’t feed them to your pets and that there are none growing in your garden.
Good: apples (pipless), asparagus, basil, cauliflower leaves, celery, chicory, dill, fennel, green pepper, kale, mint, oregano, parsley, red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, savoy cabbage, spinach, turnip, watercress, dandelion leaves.
Bad: Apple pips, avocado, carrots (whole), cucumber, iceberg lettuce, potato and potato tops, rhubarb (leaves and stalks), tomato leaves, locust pods and beans. This is not and exhaustive list, if in doubt, don’t feed the vegetable/fruit to your pet.
The Problems with Feeding Muesli – Rabbits fed on muesli-style foods will often selectively feed. This is where they pick out the high starch elements of the diet and leave the rest (typically the pellet /high fibre elements). Selective feeding leads to the consumption of an unbalanced diet. In addition, hay intake and water intake are lower when muesli is fed leading to other potential dental and digestive issues. Over 90% of vets do not believe muesli style foods should be sold for pet rabbits.
If you are currently feeding a muesli style food to your rabbits you should gradually transfer your pets onto a hay and nugget based feeding plan over a period of between 14 and 28 days, by gradually reducing the amount of muesli and increasing the proportion of nuggets until they have completely replaced the mix. Remember that good quality hay and/or grass should make up the majority of your rabbits’ diet and should be available at all times. Rabbits should also be fed a small amount of leafy greens each day. Please talk to your vet for further information.