Key Pet Poisons 2017

Knowledge is key to reducing pet poisoning cases

As the summer cases of adder bites and slug pellet poisoning tail off, they are quickly replaced with cases linked to the autumn and winter months.

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Alerting clients to the specific dangers present at certain times of year is crucial in helping owners to keep their pets away from what might appear innocuous substances that actually present a very real risk. In addition, should a case of poisoning come through your doors, having immediate knowledge to provide the right care, whatever the substance, is crucial.

Experts in advising on pet poisons, the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) provides 24/7 emergency telephone guidance for their members, and have advised on over 230,000 cases of poisoning across small animals, exotics, livestock and wildlife. Since the beginning of 2017, VPIS also runs a direct advisory line for owners too, the Animal PoisonLine, a triage service for pet owners concerned their pet may have been exposed to something harmful.

So, what might you encounter in-practice at this time of year? VPIS highlights how to handle the effects from four key poisons ubiquitous to the weeks that cover Halloween and Bonfire Night…

  1. Glow sticks, necklaces and bracelets

These consist of polyethylene tubing filled with a liquid mixture that gives off a light of assorted colours. There are two components to the mixture - a luminescer and an activator. The chemicals they contain (e.g. dibutyl phthalate) can be an irritant but are of low toxicity.

The quantity ingested is usually small due to the bitter taste; consequently, systemic effects are not reported from accidental exposure.  Signs start immediately and can include frothing and foaming at the mouth, vomiting and lethargy but usually only last a few minutes. Induction of emesis is not required.

  1. Pumpkin

Pumpkin contains tetracyclic triterpenoid_cucurbitacins. Accidental ingestion may cause a mild gastrointestinal upset in non-herbivores.

  1. Sparklers

The combustible material in sparklers is most commonly a gunpowder-type material comprising sodium and/or potassium nitrates with sulphur and carbon. The sparks are provided by powdered metals such as iron, aluminium, or magnesium, coated with paraffin wax to prevent oxidation during storage and to allow the metal to fall off the sparkler as it burns producing the characteristic sparks.

Sparklers generally only cause gastrointestinal upset and toxicity is not expected as the quantity of chemicals present is small.  However, a burning sparkler has a high temperature (similar to a welding torch [Singh, 1997]) and will cause burns if chewed or touched.

  1. Chocolate

The amount of the toxin, theobromine, differs in milk and dark chocolate due to the difference in the percentage of cocoa solids they contain. Signs of chocolate toxicity include GI upset, neurological and cardiac abnormalities. VPIS has data on the amount of chocolate different products contain and can advise whether treatment is necessary depending on the weight of the animal and amount they have ingested.

Janet Hughes, Head of Veterinary Business at Agria Pet Insurance, says, “It’s incredibly important that those of us in the sphere of pet health do all we can to promote keeping pets safe. Cases of pet poisoning are very often avoidable – owners simply need access to the right information – so we’re delighted to support VPIS both on our stand at LVS and by distributing their Key Pet Poison poster for use in-practice.”

For further information about VPIS, please visit, and for your copy of the VPIS Key Pet Poisons poster, contact our Veterinary Support Team on 03330 30 83 90 or and ask to get in touch with your Business Development Manager.

With thanks to Veterinary Poisons Information Service.