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Animal poisons line

Most of us each day are on automatic pilot, doing things without even thinking and that can be the problem! Many of us, young and older people are dog owners, owners of therapy dogs, cat owners, have house rabbits and other pets, that roam our homes. Some of us can have mild to severe disability issues or other ailments that require us to take medications in some form. These medications usually are in the form of pills, topical treatments, liquid formulations and these days too in the guise of injections.

We take our medication routinely and don’t give it a second thought, but sometimes accidents happen and if you use blister packs, how often has one pill popped out before you can get it and it falls on the floor or under some piece of furniture or appliance! How often have we left medicines on a table or in low reach, got distracted and left them to answer the phone or door, or just to go and do something else planning to put them back in the cupboard later. Or just simply can’t bend down to see where they went or indeed pick them up with aching fingers!

There are no children around, because if there were, you would be more cautious and put these out of their reach, or indeed tell someone who could help you find the rogue medication and pick it up for you. Packaging of medications can be a nightmare for those of us suffering with arthritis and aching fingers, even those of us who don’t have such problems! Blister pack packaging, child proof caps, squeezing tubes to get ointment out can all be frustrating tasks in themselves that distract you if you drop some medication or forget to put it back in the cupboard.

Do you do have a puppy, cat, dog or other pet around the house? If so, that is where possible danger can lurk for them and distress for you. Just that one time you forget to pick medication up from where it got dropped for your puppy or pets to suddenly find it can be enough to cause serious problems. Puppies, cats and dogs love to counter surf and get into mischief.

Just think, you’ve gone shopping leaving your pet sleeping, supposedly being good! It gets bored or hungry then goes to see what it can do to alleviate its boredom. Humm, your pet smells something sugar coated under the radiator gap, by the fridge door or under the sofa, it could be dropped chocolate, dried up grapes, raisins, sultanas, mouldy food, even food that had contained, onions, leeks or garlic perhaps. Lots of sugar free foods today contain Xylitol, found in sweets, chewing gums, biscuits can be fatal to dogs.  They go sniffing in a bin bag that you were going to dispose of but forgot, so they decide to investigate further, and they find some painkiller patches. That’s fun ripping them to pieces and in doing so swallow some of their contents, old disused packets of pills or small batteries. Even decide they would like to get the cap off some childrens’ cough medicine.

Did you know that topical ointments and gels that you use to treat your psoriasis can also be problematic for your pets. Some topical products can be extremely toxic for your pets if they lick your hands, legs or other body part with topical products on.

So this is where the trouble for you could begin even before you leave the house.

Going for your daily walks with your dog(s) can have health hazards as most pet owners will already be aware of, such as, your pets eating rat and mouse poison, lung worm, adder bites. Mushrooms and toadstools in the woods to name a few hazards, again dogs can munch on. It is not uncommon to hear reports in the news of cats and dogs being deliberately poisoned by people with deadly intent. There have even been news reports of dogs coming across unused cannabis found amongst undergrowth while on their walks and off their leads.

If you live by the coast, or visitor there are extra hazards to be aware of. A day out by the beach to the novice dog owner can be enlightening as dogs love to run and frolic by the seaside or lakes but these can deadly terrain if you’re not careful. Snake bits, discarded lighter fuel from barbecues, e-cigarette refills, bee and wasp stings, can cause allergic reactions in some dogs, jellyfish washed up on the shoreline, the drinking of seawater are all potential hazards.

In the lakes during hot summers the blue green algae (cyanobacteria) can form causing your dog to become seriously ill.

Mouldy food left by those who have been visiting the walking sites, seaside, common garden slug and pest killers are a hazard not only to cats and dogs but wildlife too that visit both your garden and live in our countryside, such hedgehogs, foxes, badgers, deer and their young. Even careless disposal of medications at home can enter our domestic waste systems harming river and sealife as well as ourselves if commercial filtration systems become faulty due to lack of maintenance.

What to do in case of emergency and signs to look for in suspected drug accidents:- If you think your pet has swallowed paracetamol; the signs to look for are:-

  • Panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swollen face
  • Discoloured gums
  • Lethargy
  • Distress
  • Vomiting
  • Liver damage
  • Do not try and make the pet sick
  • Never give salt water to drink

Contact the Animal POISONLine immediately for instant advice as to what to do next.

If your pet needs to visit the vet they may prescribe the antidote, acetylcysteine, administered via mouth or vein and this treatment will need to continue for several days. Other medications may be given to protect the liver and reduce methaemoglobin. Blood samples will also be taken so ascertain injury to your pet’s red blood cells and liver. In severe cases a blood transfusion may be required.

So what does paracetamol poisoning do to dogs.

Well it affects the red blood cells where haemoglobin is changed to methaemoglobin. As a result the blood is less effective at carrying oxygen to the tissues of the body. It also causes liver injury which occurs several days after ingestion.


Outcome of paracetamol poisoning in dogs is good, again if started early.

Signs to look for if your pet has swallowed Ibuprofen:

  • Vomiting (may be bloody)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Black tarry stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Tremour
  • Convulsions
  • Do not try and make the pet sick
  • Never give salt water to drink

Contact the Animal POISONLine immediately for instant quick advice as to what to do next.

If your pet does need to go to the vet treatment will depend on the quantity swallowed, your pet’s weight – this will determine if a toxic dose has been taken. If there has been enough of a toxic dose then treatment may include intravenous fluid therapy and monitoring of your pet’s kidney function, and may be prescribed drugs to control any vomiting and drugs to protect its gut and reduce any risk of ulceration which may have occurred, and also ulcer healing drugs.

Prognosis for your pet is good if treatment is started early in a healthy dog, but dogs with pre-existing kidney disease, or are dehydrated is more guarded as to outcome as also those pets who have had a massive overdose of the substance due to more severe symptoms.

Don’t panic, stay calm and if you are unsure of what medications your pet has swallowed then immediately ring the Animal POISONLine to find out if a trip to the vet is needed as an emergency. They can give you detailed advice and talk you through the steps to help or potentially save your pet’s life.

Make sure if you can to identify the name of the possible drug (s) consumed i.e. methotrexate, steroid medication, those already named above, others that you take for your condition (s).

So the purpose of this article is two-fold. One to remind us all of the possible dangers that can occur to our pets as easily as can occur with our children reminding us to be mindful of everyday situations that we do on autopilot; the second to inform you all of a really useful, potentially life saving organisation and the work they do with passion and dedication for the love of animals and well being of their owners.

Animal PoisonLine is run by the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) and is the only 24-hour specialised emergency telephone service in the UK dedicated to helping pet owners who are worried their pet may have been exposed to something harmful or poisonous.

Based on the information you provide their vets and scientists will be able to tell you if you need to go to the vets for immediate treatment or whether they can save you the trip.

They have experience of thousands of toxic substances in all animals and cover everything from human drugs, household and garden products, plants, agricultural chemicals to venomous bites and stings.

They are veterinary poisons specialists and therefore, regrettably, cannot help with any other veterinary enquiries unrelated to poisoning.

The organisation is self funded and all staff are veterinary trained, dedicated and passionate about what they do with the animals health a priority. The fee they charge is cheaper than a vet consultation, it is instant, thorough, and more importantly could save your pet from having unnecessary invasive tests and treatments that may not be suitable and cause them more distress. They have extensive knowledge and data on poisons and also plant based poisons too.

They are open 24 hours a day!


Please have as many of the following details as possible ready when you call:

  • Your pet’s details: Name, age, breed and weight.
  • What your pet has eaten or been exposed to?e.g. the drug or product/brand name.
  • How has your pet absorbed the potential toxin?e.g. Have they eaten, inhaled or has it been on their skin.
  • How long ago was your pet exposed to the potential toxin? e.g. estimated minutes, hours.
  • How much of the potential toxin have they been exposed to? e.g. unit of measure and estimated amount.
  • Is this the first time your pet has been exposed to this toxin?e.g. If this has happened in the past, when.

Fees for full consultation:

£35 is charged 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday. | £45 is charged at all other times including bank holidays. Refundable if you need the vet.


Tell your vet that you rang the Animal POSIONLine and were advised to see the vet. If they require detailed treatment advice about the particular substance your pet has been exposed to they can call their professional service, the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS). Approximately 80% vets are members of the VPIS and use it regularly for specialist advice on the management of poisoning in animals. Please be aware that if your pet does require veterinary attention, your vet may charge a fee for calling VPIS. If this is the case, they will in turn refund you for your call made to the Animal PoisonLine.

All of their refunds are processed automatically but if you are concerned that you have not received your refund or if you have any questions please complete their contact us form

So in summary, our pets are like our children, we constantly have to be aware of potential dangers in everyday life that can be avoided.

  • Always dispose of medicines, batteries, waste, empty plastic bottles, nappies in a secure way.
  • Ideally return all unwanted medicines to your locally pharmacy for them to dispose of safely.
  • Never dissolve medicines and flush them down the toilet or sink as these will enter the water system and rivers and have an effect on the wildlife that survive by using them.
  • Never leave medicines and topical products lying around within reach of both children and pets. Pets love to counter surf when their owners are not looking!
  • Never leave chocolate, food and sweets lying around within easy reach
  • Dispose of dead flowers and houseplants safely as some can be poisonous to pets
  • Dispose of cigarettes and e-cigarettes (and their refills) securely
  • Be aware of safe storage of cleaning / decorating materials used regularly around the house
  • Be aware of pot pourri in reachable bowls
  • Keep all garden chemicals etc secure
  • Be aware if you use mouse and rat bait that your pets can not eat it. Ideally bait boxes in the garden should be used with blocks securely fasten in the bait box or bait covered securely so that your pets cannot get it – think about hedgehogs too.
  • If you have medicines in your handbag make sure your pet cannot get into it and remember to zip it up if your handbag has one. Especially if your handbag is regularly placed by a chair on the floor.
  • Do not leave watering cans or bowls in easy reach of your pets if they have been used for plant food or other chemicals.
  • NEVER leave household waste bags on the floor or in easy reach of your pets always place them in the relevant secure bins for collection on bin day.
  • Disposal of painkiller patches:-

Fold the used painkiller patch by folding it firmly in half so that the sticky sides stick to themselves. Place back in the wrapper then dispose securely in the household waste bin or if there are many return them to your pharmacist for disposal.

This article is not meant to scare you in anyway but provide you with useful knowledge that can help us in our daily lives. Also, although pet insurance can vary and be expensive, it can also come in handy for the unexpected, so perhaps if you are thinking of getting a new puppy, kitten, rescue pet or other pet, such as, a house rabbit, it may be worth considering some form of pet insurance.

BBC online
Dorset Echo

Animal PoisonLine support materials

  • Ibuprofen poisoning in cats and dogs
  • Advice for owners
  • Paracetamol poisoning in dogs
  • Prevention of poisoning and emergency advice
  • Summer Hazards
  • Spring hazards
  • Adder bites
  • Rat and mouse poison
  • Poisoning in dogs
  • Xylitol poisoning in dogs
  • Harmful foods
  • Chocolate poisoning
  • Poisoning from grapes and their dried fruits

Animal Poison Line

“Animal PosionLine is run by the VPIS, the UK’s only animal poison centre, which has provided advice to vets on the management of poisoning in animals for over 25 years.”



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