Autumn and Winter Pet Poisons

Brrrr……Autumn has well and truly set in with winter on the way and  summer but a distant memory. With the cooler climate comes several seasonal toxins which may harm our pets….


ACORNS may be eaten by dogs, and can cause severe gastrointestinal disturbances, with vomiting and diarrhoea being the most commonly observed signs. Patients may also suffer abdominal tenderness, inappetence and lethargy, with melaena (dark red/black faeces with digested blood), haematemesis (blood in vomit) and fever, less commonly observed. Urticaria (hives / skin rash) and swelling of the lips and face have occasionally also been reported in dogs. Intestinal obstruction is also a concern in animals that have eaten acorns but is uncommon.

CONKERS contain a poison called aesculin, which is found in all parts of the Horse Chestnut tree including the leaves. Generally, a large number of conkers need to be eaten to cause toxicity, with signs seen 1-6 hours after ingestion (sometimes up to 2 days). Signs of poisoning include vomiting (which may contain blood); salivation; diarrhoea; abdominal pain; reduced appetite and increased thirst. Signs of restlessness, ataxia (wobbliness) and muscle tremors may also be seen. As with acorns, conkers also pose an obstruction risk within the digestive tract.

ANTIFREEZE contains Ethylene Glycol which is highly toxic to dogs and cats, with only a tiny amount consumed capable of inducing a fatal kidney failure. It has a sweet taste, with many inquisitive animals lapping up spilt droplets, or washing it off their feet or fur. Signs of antifreeze poisoning include: vomiting; depression / lethargy; ataxia (appearing drunk and uncoordinated); breathing difficulties and seizures. Signs of toxicity can appear as early as 30 minutes after ingestion, and early intervention is vital to improve chances of survival. Ethylene Glycol is not only found in engine coolant, but also in de-icing agents and screen-wash so be careful to fix any leakages and mop up any spills however small, and also make sure there is no access to such items in garages etc.

ROCK SALT used to de-ice roads and pavements contains sodium chloride and grit, which can cause toxicity to pets when they lick it from their feet and fur. Ingestion of pure salt causes an increase in blood sodium levels which can cause thirst, vomiting and lethargy, with severe cases resulting in convulsions and kidney damage. Ensure you thoroughly wipe your pet’s feet and tummy after exercising when the roads have been gritted (this will also help to prevent sores on their feet from the grit).

TEA TREE OIL – not specifically a seasonal toxin, but one which many pet owners are unaware of. Many owners use the essential oil Tea Tree on their pet’s skin as a flea repellent or to relieve symptoms of skin irritation, believing it to have no adverse consequences as it is a natural product. However, the application of even a few drops can be toxic to both dogs and cats, especially if the preparation is a pure oil rather than a blend. Clinical signs normally start within 2-8 hours and vary in severity depending on the preparation and amount involved. The most common signs include: ataxia (wobbly appearance); depression; tremors; vomiting and salivation. In more severe cases, the animal may develop paralysis of the hind legs, collapse or coma, which may be fatal. Kidney and liver problems can also occur.

If you suspect your pet is suffering from any kind of poisoning, please call the surgery immediately on 01325 380111.