Poisons and hazards

In the home


Poisons in the home

Contact your vet immediately if your pet is ill or you think it has eaten something poisonous. 

Chocolate: human chocolates contains theobromine, a chemical that can be fatal to pets. The darker the chocolate and the higher the cocoa content, the higher the risk. Keep out of reach any foods containing chocolate, such as cakes, sweets, cookies and cocoa powder.

Caffeine: in large quantities it can affect a pet’s heart. Keep tea bags and coffee out of reach of cats and dogs. Caffeine is also in many high energy drinks, chocolate and even human pain killers, so keep all these away from curious paws.

Grapes, Currants, Raisins and Sultanas: toxins in these fruits are potentially fatal to dogs. Make sure your pets don’t eat any food with these ingredients, e.g. cakes.

Onions, Garlic and Chives: they have chemicals called organosulphoxides, which can poison dogs and cats if enough is eaten and absorbed over a number of days.

Avocados: these can affect birds as they contain the chemical persin. Throw away the avocado stone as it can obstruct a pet’s intestines.

Macadamia Nuts and Peanuts: they can cause weakness and tremors. Macadamia butter can also affect pets. Peanuts can cause upset tummies and occasionally lead to fits. This might be due to the salt on the peanut.

Salt: salt, or sodium chloride, is extremely poisonous to pets. It’s common in human food and can also be found in dishwasher tablets and salts, bath salts, rock salt for de-icing roads and pavements, play dough and, of course, sea water.

Vitamin D: this vitamin is in supplement tablets, cod liver oil, human medicines and rat poisons. It’s also in skin creams and can be very poisonous as it affects a pet’s heart, liver and kidneys.

Alcohol: anything containing ethanol is extremely toxic to dogs and cats, so keep them safely away. Ethanol is in alcohol, antiseptic preparations, mouthwashes, perfumes, aftershaves, colognes and glues. Methylated spirit is 95% ethanol. Drinks like gin and vodka can contain between 20 to 60%.

Iron:  If your dog eats anything rich in iron, it can be fatal. Iron is in human supplements and iron tablets and used to treat anaemia. Iron is also usually in lawn moss killers and lawn ‘feed and weed’.

Antifreeze:  this is very poisonous to pets. It can be very tempting, especially for cats as it has a sweet taste. It’s in screen washes, brake fluids and inks – so wipe up any spills when topping your car up in the cold winter months.

Rat and mouse poisons: as you’d imagine, many of these are highly poisonous to pets.

Human Painkillers: they can be poisonous to dogs and cats. Never give human medication to your pet. Always seek your vet’s advice if you suspect that your pet is ill or in pain.

Batteries: most batteries will contain strong acids or alkalis, plus significant amounts of metal. A pet’s breathing and swallowing can be severely affected if batteries are eaten. They will cause severe chemical burns to the mouth, throat and stomach.

Xylitol: is extremely harmful to dogs. It’s in sugar-free chewing gum, sweets – and increasingly used in medications and nicotine replacement chewing gums.

Poisonous plants


Poisonous Plants

Plants bring beauty, colour and fragrance, but some can be hazardous to pets. This list below is not exhaustive, so if in doubt, please ask your local nursery for advice about which plants are poisonous...

Azalea/Rhododendron: (Rhododendron spp) Highly poisonous to cats and dogs, even if just a few leaves are eaten.

Cherry laurel: (Prunus laurocerasus) This hedging plant is often used in gardens and public parks. Be careful how you dispose of hedge cuttings as the most common cause of dog poisoning is from eating or chewing these leaves.

Castor oil bush: (Ricinus communis) The seeds, or more frequently oil cakes used as fertiliser, are very attractive to dogs, but can be fatal.

Daffodil: (Narcissus) All parts of the daffodil are harmful. Dogs sometimes eat the bulbs, but even a small bite can kill a small animal. Even drinking the water in which cut daffodils have stood is potentially hazardous.

Laburnum: (Cytisus alpinus) All parts of this plant are poisonous, but especially the seeds. Even chewing laburnum bark or twigs can affect a dog.

Yew: (Taxus baccata and related species) Nearly all parts of the plant are harmful, including dried clippings. A mere 30g of leaves can kill a dog.

Lily of the valley: (Convallaria majalis) Lily of the valley flowers and leaves, often used in bouquets, contain a toxin that can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, heart problems, fits and collapsing in dogs and cats.

Lilies: (Lilium) Some lilies, such as Tiger, Easter, Stargazer and Arum, are potentially poisonous, especially to cats. Pets can be poisoned by eating or chewing the leaves, stems or flower heads. Even the pollen can be harmful, as cats may lick this off their fur after brushing against the flower head. Always seek advice from your florist or garden centre.

Philodendron: (Philodendron and related species) All parts of this ornamental houseplant are poisonous, but pets usually just chew or eat the leaves. Even contact with the plant can irritate the eyes and mouth causing excessive salivation. In cats, the condition can be fatal.

Cocoa shell mulch: This garden mulch, contains one of the highest concentrations of deadly theobromine (the same toxin found in chocolate) and should not be used in gardens where pets play.

To find out which plants my harm your pet, we recommend:

  • Royal Horticultural Society’s Gardeners’ Encyclopaedia of Plants and Flowers, edited by Christopher Brinckell and published by Dorling Kindersley (ISBN 0-75130-800-5).
  • The Royal Horticultural Society’s website

Garden Poisons and Hazards


Garden Poisons and Hazards

Help keep you pets safe by keeping them clear of these common poisons and hazards:

Dangerous garden chemicals: Store garden chemicals safely out of the way of children and pets. Liquids such as white spirit and barbecue lighter fluids can cause serious poisoning if swallowed, licked off fur, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled.

Garden intruders: Most intruders come into gardens through gates or over fences, so keep garden gates closed. Urban foxes are especially successful at gaining entry, posing a threat to rabbits and guinea pigs. Keep small pets safely in their hutches and always supervise them when they’re out of their cages. 

Bees, wasps and hornets can give pets a nasty sting. This can be very dangerous if they’re stung several times at once, or stung in the throat while eating one. Check gardens for nests and contact your local pest control.

Watch out for toads: When threatened, toads secrete an irritant poison that hurts a curious pet’s tongue or skin. If this happens, rinse the affected area with plenty of water and phone the vet immediately. 

Herbicides (weedkillers): Follow the instructions very carefully, before using them. Some can harm pets if accidentally swallowed and plants treated with them may also be poisonous if eaten. Some pets absorb chemicals through their skin, through spillages or even from a walk through treated plants.

Pesticides (pestkillers): Although they get rid of insects, slugs and snails, many garden chemical pesticides can harm pets.

  • Some slug bait pellets and rat poison pellets can kill if swallowed, so it’s vital to keep away pets from treated areas.
  • Try using pet-proof slug traps or organic alternatives to poisons.
  • Always follow the instructions very carefully.
  • Slug and snail pellets containing metaldehyde can poison and kill a dog or cat within hours.
  • PDSA recommend you avoid these in gardens where pets play or purchase pet-friendly versions.
  • Ask your local nursery for expert advice about traditional and organic chemical-free pest controls.

Physical objects:

  • Remove broken bottles, sharp stones and other obvious hazards.
  • Check your pet as grass seeds can pierce a pet’s skin, or become lodged in ears, eyes or toes.
  • Keep the lids on dustbins. Bins are very attractive to dogs and cats who can rip open bin liners with their claws and eat the often rotten contents inside. Cats especially attack plastic bags with meat or fish in them. Dogs are likely to eat anything that captures their attention.
  • Check your garden before using motorised garden tools. Hedge-trimmers, strimmers and lawnmowers can injure small animals. Tortoises and hedgehogs are particularly vulnerable, as they are easy to miss in long grass and can’t escape fast enough.
  • Check bonfires before lighting them: hedgehogs find them irresistible as places to shelter and sleep.

Out and about on walks

Adder bites: These usually occur in spring and summer. Adder bites are extremely dangerous, particularly if your pet is bitten in the face. They can cause severe swelling, bleeding, fever and shock. Contact your vet immediately if you suspect your pet has been bitten by an adder.

Blue green algae: This can cause rapid death if eaten. It’s found in fresh, brackish and marine water in the UK. It may form massive growths or blooms, especially in late spring, summer and early autumn. Look out for severe vomiting and diarrhoea, breathing difficulties, coma and fits. If you are worried that your pet may have ingested blue green algae, call your vet immediately.

Pet Treatments


Pet Treatments

Dog Flea Treatments: Never use dog flea treatments on cats as they can be harmful if they contain an insecticide called permethrin. Always follow the instructions precisely. Ask your vet for advice on the best products to use for your dog and your cat.