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Common poisons

Below are the 10 most common VPIS enquiries.  If you are an animal owner and your pet has been exposed to any of the following then please contact your local veterinary practice immediately.


1) NSAIDS (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic drug)

These most commonly include ibuprofen, diclofenac and carprofen. NSAIDS are 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.  


2) Anticoagulant rodenticides

Otherwise known as rat or mice poison. These products are commonly put down to help to control rodent infestations. Unfortunately, exposures to these substances can cause excessive bruising or bleeding and effects may not appear for several days. It is important to note that not all rodenticides are anticoagulant, and therefore it is always important to determine which type of rodent poison an animal has ingested. 

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3) Chocolate

Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical very similar to caffeine, which many animals are particularly sensitive to. The amount of theobromine in chocolate varies depending on the quality and type of chocolate. Even a relatively small amount of dark chocolate (which is very high in theobromine) can cause agitation, hyperexcitability, tremors, convulsions and problems with the heart. 


4) Paracetamol

A type of analgesic freely available throughout the UK from pharmacies, supermarkets and newsagents. Some animals are very sensitive to paracetamol and even very small amounts can be extremely harmful to some pets.

5) Permethrin

An insecticide commonly found in some flea treatments available from pet shops and supermarkets. Cats are very sensitive to permethrin and even a therapeutic dose for a dog can be fatal to a cat. Some “spot-on” treatments contain very concentrated solutions of pemethrin, and can be very dangerous to cats. 


6) Metaldehyde

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 and can cause convulsions. Metaldehyde poisoning often results in hospitalisation for several days.  


7) Lilies

These are very poisonous to cats and can cause them to go into kidney failure. Unfortunately the toxic mechanism is currently 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 potentially very dangerous to a cat. 


8) Grapes, raisins and sultanas

Otherwise known as Vitis vinifera, again the toxic mechanism is not understood, but ingestion can cause kidney failure in dogs, and potentially other animals too. The amount which can cause problems seems to be very variable. Some dogs have eaten large amounts and developed no effects, while others have gone into kidney failure after ingesting a small handful of raisins or grapes.  


9) Batteries

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. If possible, make your veterinary surgeon aware of the type of battery ingested or the battery code.  


10) Adder

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 veterinary surgeon.


Other common enquiries of interest include:



There are numerous types of fungi (more than 4000 species in the UK). The terms ‘mushroom’ and ‘toadstool’ are not helpful in deciding whether a fungus is potentially poisonous. It is extremely difficult to identify any fungi without expert analysis; identification via images or description is often insufficient or inaccurate. A sample of the fungi could be taken and sent to fungi experts for identification. Many types of fungi can cause liver and / or kidney poisoning.


Blue green algae

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 veterinary surgeon.



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 may cause low blood sugar and liver damage.