One of the most common phone enquiries is from owners whose pets have eaten something potentially poisonous. In most cases the side effects are mild and self-limiting but there are a few plants and foods that can cause more serious problems if not dealt with quickly. This often involves bringing the animal to the vets as an emergency so the problem can be addressed before clinical signs begin (by which time it can be too late) .
Below are a few of the more common poisonous plants and foods, but this list is by no means comprehensive!
Chocolate – Probably one of the most common things for dogs to eat especially around Easter and Christmas! The higher the percentage of Cocoa in the chocolate, the more toxic it can be. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, salivation, drinking lots, excitability, wobbliness, muscle tremors and convulsions.
Raisins, Grapes, Sultanas, Currants – The dried fruit are more toxic than the grape, but all can cause renal failure. The severity of poisoning does not seem to be related to the quantity eaten; even small amounts in some cases can prove fatal. This is a very individual reaction and it is worth calling your vet even if a single grape or raisin has been eaten.
Xylitol – also known as food additive E967, it is an artificial sweetener often found in chewing gum, and diabetic cakes and chocolate. It can cause very low blood sugar and liver damage.
Daffodil – The bulb is especially toxic, can cause severe vomiting and abdominal pain.
Autumn Crocus – not to be confused with the spring crocus which is far less toxic, the autumn crocus can cause severe vomiting, liver and kidney damage, respiratory failure, and bone marrow suppression.
Slug pellets- these are also extremely toxic to pets and may cause fits and even coma.
Poisoning in cats due to ingesting toxic plants or food is much less common than in dogs, as cats are generally fussier in nature about what they eat. However they can be much harder to treat.
Antifreeze – given how fussy cats are it seems strange that this should be such a problem. However, antifreeze is very sweet and pets (especially cats, but sometimes dogs) can get a taste for it. It is extremely toxic and often fatal. Antifreeze is very widely used (please don’t add this to water in fountains in winter) and there is a current petition to make it law to add bittering agents to antifreeze – this can be signed at;
Lilies – ingestion of any part of the lily is extremely toxic to cats, including the pollen grains which can get on to the cat’s coat and be licked off when grooming. It causes kidney damage which can be life threatening if not treated quickly. Onset of toxicity can be in as little as 2 hours hence treatment needs to be quick to stop the development of kidney failure.
Onions, Leeks, Spring onions, Garlic – can cause severe anaemia. This is much more severe in cats than dogs.
Cyclamen, Poinsettia and Spider plants – can cause vomiting, excessive salivation and lethargy if eaten. Luckily no long term damage is done and the signs are self limiting as long at the cat is kept well hydrated in the meantime.
If you suspect your animal has eaten any of the above, or any other plant or food that you think could be poisonous, contact your veterinary surgery immediately for advice.
Here at Anton Vets we use the Veterinary Poisons Unit database. While this is not a free service, it is extremely valuable providing accurate and continuously updated information on possible poisonings.