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Common poisons

Below are our most common poison enquiries:

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)

Examples include ibuprofen and naproxen. NSAIDs are commonly available “over-the counter” for pain management and in cold and flu products. Ibuprofen is particularly toxic to dogs and can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, gastric ulceration and kidney failure.

Anticoagulant rodenticides

These products are used to help to control rodent infestations. Ingestion can cause bruising and bleeding but these effects may not be seen until several days later. It is important to note that not all rodenticides are anticoagulant, and therefore it is always important to determine which type an animal has ingested.


Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical similar to caffeine, which can cause toxic effects in cats and dogs. The amount of theobromine in chocolate varies depending on the quality and type of chocolate. Even a relatively small amount of dark chocolate (which has a high concentration of theobromine) can cause agitation, hyperexcitability, tremors, convulsions and heart disturbances.


A very common pain killer that is freely available from pharmacies, supermarkets and newsagents. It is found in many cold and flu products. Some animals, particularly cats, are very sensitive to paracetamol and even a very small quantity can be extremely dangerous.


Permethrin is used as an insecticide and can be found in many flea treatments available for dogs, with some flea “spot-on” treatments containing very concentrated solutions of this chemical. However, cats are very sensitive to permethrin and even a therapeutic dose for a small dog can be fatal to them.


Found in many slug and snail killer products used around the garden, it usually resembles blue or green pellets. These pellets are often eaten by inquisitive dogs and can cause rapid-onset convulsions which can last many hours. Metaldehyde poisoning often results in hospitalisation for several days.


These are very poisonous to cats and can cause kidney failure. Although the toxic mechanism is currently not understood, it appears that all parts of the plant are poisonous to cats. Indeed, even a small exposure to the pollen can be potentially very dangerous.

Grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas

These cause kidney failure in dogs, and potentially other animals too. The toxic mechanism is not understood and the quantity that 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 number of raisins or grapes. Even ingestion of cooked fruits in fruit cake (e.g. Christmas cake) or Christmas pudding can cause kidney failure.


The European Adder is the only venomous snake native to the UK. Adder bites are generally seasonal, the majority occurring in the spring and summer months. Adder bites can be extremely dangerous, particularly if an animal has been bitten on the face. Bites may result in severe swelling which is generally seen within a few minutes to a few hours. There may also be pain, distress and sometimes bleeding. Other complications occur occasionally.

Benzalkonium chloride

This is a type of detergent found in many household products including disinfectants, antiseptics and some patio cleaners. Cats can develop drooling, fever and tongue and mouth ulceration after licking treated surfaces. Signs typically develop hours after exposure.