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Poison Prevention Week

Its poison week 15th-21st March.

The following useful information has been provided by the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) and is particularly useful at this time of year now that Easter is upon us. Read a bit more about some key toxic things that may be around the house below:


We all know about the risks of chocolate and with Easter imminent, no doubt most vets have seen their fair share of chocolate toxicity cases!

What if a pet eats a cereal containing chocolate? Or a brownie or chocolate biscuit? Does this count as chocolate too? The answer is yes! Cocoa powder has a higher theobromine content than chocolate and dogs eating very small quantities can develop signs. With shop-bought chocolate cake and brownies, it will often say what percentage of the total amount is cocoa powder, but a homemade product is trickier – it is always worth knowing the recipe of what your pet has eaten so that we can better treat it. Drinking chocolate powder is slightly less concerning but will still require that your pet is seen in many cases.

Cocoa mulch and cocoa beans are very highly concentrated in theobromine. Cocoa butter, however, contains negligible amounts and so products which contain cocoa butter such as moisturisers, are generally low risk – although they can have other ingredients which might be troublesome! They can also cause gastrointestinal irritation due to the high-fat content.

It is really important to always be on the lookout for chocolate hidden in disguise. Although chocolate fatalities are not common, it is often the dogs ingesting cocoa mulch, or cocoa powder which have the most severe symptoms and the VPIS has a lot of information on the amount of theobromine in many cocoa products so please let us know exactly what it is your pet has ingested.

Don’t forget about hidden caffeine and raisins in some chocolate products too!


With the start of spring (finally!) we are beginning to see beautiful floral blooms all over the UK. Hyacinths are a commonly grown, perennial, bulbous house or garden plant. The flowers are bright and strongly scented, which makes them a popular choice in a lot of homes.

The plant contains Amaryllidaceae alkaloids which are toxic to dogs. The exact mechanism of toxicity is not known but it can cause vomiting, even at small doses.

Symptoms occur rapidly and normally persist for up to 4 hours. Commonly we see vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy. There is also a risk of contact dermatitis (‘hyacinth itch’), although this is uncommon in dogs. The good news is that severe poisoning is not expected from ingestion of hyacinth! The symptoms may seem violent to begin with, are often self-limiting.

Simnel Cake and Hot Cross Buns

With Easter weekend around the corner, we may find ourselves surrounded by hot cross buns, Simnel cake and other edible pleasures. However, it may be best to keep the delicious treats away from dogs as urgent veterinary care will be required if dogs get their paws on it.

Easter should be a time to relax and the drama of the family treasure digesting raisins is something that owners will want to avoid! The dried grape products (currants, raisins and sultanas) can cause gastrointestinal upset and renal failure when ingested. There is not a ‘toxic’ dose and some dogs are known to develop signs after the ingestion of what can be a very small quantity. In dogs, the dried fruits can swell up in the stomach.

Prognosis is generally good if caught early but not always so if caught later. Therefore, the VPIS say that it is essential to treat animals promptly following ingestion of any grape or associated product: please contact us for more advice as soon as you know that ingestion has occurred.

Spring Cleaning Products

With spring comes the spring clean and this may be hazardous for pets…

A particular concern in cats is the commonly used household disinfectant, benzalkonium chloride, a disinfectant. A typical presentation in cats is fever, salivation and tongue ulceration. Exposure may involve walking over a treated surface and then licking the feet and grooming.

Treatment involves pain relief and supportive care, although in severe cases syringe feeding may be required.

Oven and drain cleaners usually contain strong alkalis such as sodium or potassium hydroxide and dogs may be exposed when licking drips from an oven or drinking from a blocked drain. These alkalis can cause severe tissue damage which local swelling, blisters and ulceration if ingested. There is also risk of severe skin and ocular burns. Tissue damage develops over several hours and it is important to ensure the chemical is fully washed from eyes and skin.

As always, please get in touch for any further information and contact our 24-hour emergency line if you think your pet has ingested a toxic substance.

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Fenton Vets

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