The two poisonings we see most often are rat poison and slug pellets, though we also see chocolate poisoning (especially over Christmas), and various incidents involving dogs eating prescription medicines. Where possible, please bring the container and as much paperwork as possible regarding the items you think your pet may have eaten. There may be a benefit in making the animal sick if the incident has occurred within the previous 2 hours (ideally within 30 minutes). We are able to get specialist advice about a wide range of possible poisons from the Veterinary Poisons Information Service. Please note that they are unable to deal directly with pet owners.
Rat and Mouse Poisons
Rat and mouse poisons are generally anti-coagulants – this means they slow down or stop the process of blood clotting. Symptoms vary, but can include obvious blood loss, bruising, blood in urine (sometimes brown rather than red), vomiting blood or a coffee-ground type material, and passing blood in stools, which can appear dark and tarry. Most rat poisons are slow-acting and require the ingestion of significant amounts of poison over an extended period, however, as symptoms can be difficult to control once they are advanced, we generally recommend inducing vomiting if an animal is thought to have eaten poison in the last few hours. A specific antidote is available for most rat poisons, but due to their slow action, prolonged treatment over several weeks may be required. Please contact the duty vet as soon as you are aware of the dog eating the poison. Please have the label to hand and/or bring the box with you as this aids our decision making in each case.
Slug pellets are generally palatable to dogs as they need to be attractive to slugs. These are often found around agricultural buildings in late summer as they are used by some vegetable farmers. The main symptom of poisoning is usually fitting, and as there is no specific antidote and symptoms may be difficult to control, then survival rates can be poor. Inducing vomiting of recently eaten poison is essential where possible. Please contact the duty vet as soon as you are aware of the possibility of your dog having eaten slug pellets.
Chocolate can be toxic to dogs and cats, and leads to fits and liver problems. However, this is not likely to happen with most milk chocolate bars, composite chocolate sweets such as Quality Street, and cakes containing chocolate, as the level of cocoa solids is very low. However, dark chocolate (ranging from the Bourneville-type through to high cocoa solids specialist chocolates) can be dangerous, even in fairly small quantities. Contact the duty vet to discuss whether your pet needs seen.
Other toxic incidents we regularly see involve pets eating prescription-only medicines (especially puppies). It is important to bring the packaging (if it survives) or other paperwork relevant to the medicine as well as an estimation of the amount likely to have been eaten, as we need this information to decide on the likelihood of there being a toxic problem and to plan the appropriate treatment.