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Poisons, Toxins and Bites

Stay calm. There are ways we can help if we act fast.

As a responsible pet owner, it is important to be aware that certain household items can be toxic, and potentially fatal, to your furry friend.

To help you remember what isn’t safe for your pets, we’ve put together a list of the most common toxicities that present to us; including common signs of poisoning to look out for in your pet and our recommended veterinary treatment.


Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine (found in the cocoa component of chocolate), which in large amounts can be toxic for both dogs and cats. As a general guide, the higher the percentage of cocoa, the more theobromine present and therefore the more toxic the chocolate will be to your pet.

Signs of toxicity can be seen within 2 – 4 hours of your pet ingesting chocolate. The signs that develop will depend on the amount of theobromine that has been eaten. At lower toxic doses, clinical signs including vomiting, diarrhoea and increased thirst. At higher toxic doses, nervous system signs including restlessness, panting, muscle tremors and seizures can develop and the heart rhythm can be affected.

If you’re worried that you pet has eaten chocolate, bring them to the clinic immediately. Initial treatment involves making your pet vomit to remove any remaining chocolate and then administering activated charcoal to decrease toxin absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. If any neurological signs such as seizures have developed, your pet will be monitored in hospital and treated accordingly.

Rat Bait

Rat bait is extremely toxic to both dogs and cats, by either ingesting rat bait directly or from eating rodents.

Rat bait acts as an anticoagulant (i.e. prevents the blood from clotting) by depleting the body’s supply of vitamin K (a vitamin which is essential for the formation of clotting agents in the blood).

Clinical signs:

  • Pale gums or small haemorrhages on the gums
  • Lethargy
  • Bruising under the skin
  • Blood in the urine or faeces
  • Bleeding from the nose

Other signs that may develop secondary to internal bleeding include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Coughing or Respiratory difficulties
  • Lameness
  • Seizures

If you suspect that your pet has ingested rat bait, it is important to bring them to the clinic for veterinary assessment immediately. A blood sample will need to be taken to check for clotting times and the severity of the toxicity assessed. Treatment for rat bait toxicity varies from oral vitamin K supplementation for several weeks to more intensive treatment including hospitalisation and possible blood transfusions for severe cases.

Raisins / Grapes

While the exact mechanism of toxicity is not well understood, the ingestion of grapes or raisins by both dogs and cats is often associated with kidney injury and in severe cases, life threatening kidney failure can occur. Due to this unpredictable nature of the poisoning, we strongly recommend treatment if your pet has accidentally ingested a raisin or a grape.

In most cases, vomiting is reported and this usually occurs within 24 hours of ingestion. If your pet has only recently ingested the grape/raisin, we will immediately make your pet vomit. This will often be followed by administration of activated charcoal to absorb any remaining toxins from the gastrointestinal tract.


Paracetamol is toxic to both cats and dogs and will cause severe kidney and liver failure, so please don’t ever be tempted to give this drug to your pets! Cats are much more susceptible to paracetamol poisoning, as they are deficient in liver enzymes required to metabolise the drug and excrete it.

Signs of toxicity will begin within 4-6 hours of ingestion and include depression, vomiting, abdominal pain and dark coloured urine.

Treatment may involve the induction of vomiting, decontamination with activated charcoal to minimise further toxin absorption and usually intravenous fluids to maintain hydration and support the liver. Medication may also be administered to protect against gastrointestinal ulceration.

Lily Plant

All parts of the lily plant are highly toxic to cats, including the flowers, leaves, stem and pollen. Ingestion of any part of this plant causes acute kidney failure in cats, which if untreated can result in chronic kidney disease and ultimately death within 4 – 7 days.

The first signs of toxicity include vomiting, depression and loss of appetite and can sometimes be seen within 2 hours of ingestion. Acute renal failure will develop within 24 – 72 hours, at which time your cat will become extremely dehydrated and critically ill.

If you suspect your cat has licked or ingested any part of the lily plant, we strongly recommend bringing them into the clinic immediately. Treatment for lily intoxication involves hospitalisation and intravenous fluid therapy to support the kidneys for at least 48 hours.