Pets and poisons

  1. Substances which can be poisonous
  2. What to do if you think your pet has been poisoned
  3. Preventing poisoning in the home
  4. Preventing poisoning in the garden or outdoor spaces
  5. Useful Information

Substances which can be poisonous

Common substances which can be poisonous and need urgent attention include:

  • Food such as chocolate, onions and raisins and sweeteners (xylitol)
  • Plants such as lilies, daffodils and ragwort
  • Chemicals such as slug pellets, rat baits and anti-freeze
  • Cannabis/CBD oils and e-cigarettes and the vape fluids


These are some of the less common substances which can be poisonous to our pets:

  • Antacid tablets (‘over the counter’)
  • Blu-tack® or other similar adhesives
  • Chalk
  • Charcoal
  • Coal (real or artificial)
  • Cotoneaster shrubs
  • Cut-flower/houseplant food
  • Expanded polystyrene
  • Folic acid – B vitamins
  • Fuchsia plant species
  • Holly (Ilex species)
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera species)
  • Matches
  • Mistletoe berries (Viscum album)
  • Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) tablets
  • Pyracantha species
  • Rowan tree berries (Sorbus aucuparia)
  • Silica gel
  • Sweeteners – Xylitol
  • Wax candles/crayons


If you are worried your pet has been exposed to a poisonous substance, please seek advice from your vet or Animal PoisonLine immediately.

Cotoneaster shrubs

Fuscia plant

Holly (ilex species)

Honeysuckle (lonicera species)

Pyrathanca species

Silica gel

What to do if you think your pet has been poisoned

Please do not panic, here are some simple first steps:

  • Remove your animal(s) from the source of poison — use protective clothing such as gloves if necessary
  • Contact your vet or the Animal PoisonLine for advice immediately, even if your pet looks and behaves normally
  • Be ready to provide information on what the poison is, when, where and how the poisoning occurred, as well as the quantity consumed
  • If instructed to go to the vet practice, if possible, take a sample of the poison or more importantly its packaging with you
  • If the fur is contaminated, if possible, shave it off quickly then wash the affected area thoroughly with plenty of WATER. Protect yourself whilst doing this by wearing gloves
  • DO NOT try to make your animal vomit unless you are instructed to do so by your vet
  • DO NOT rely on advice from the internet, contact your vet or vet nurse for the most reliable, up to date advice


Preventing poisoning in the home

  • Keep all medicines out of reach — preferably in a high, locked cupboard. Keep human and veterinary medicines separate and label them appropriately if necessary
  • Always read packaging instructions and follow directions carefully. Medicines intended for one species can be harmful to another. Always read the instructions carefully and be sure to ask your vet or vet nurse if you are unsure.
  • Never give animals medicines intended for human use. Only give medicines prescribed by your vet
  • Dispose of unwanted and out-of-date medicines safely — ideally return them to your veterinary practice or pharmacy
  • Some human food can be toxic to animals so ensure family, friends and children do not feed your pet harmful food
  • Some plants are very dangerous for pets – always keep houseplants and floral displays out of reach of pets
  • Always check any product’s packaging for warnings that they are toxic to animals
  • Clean up spills of any kind quickly – use gloves and protective clothing to stay safe

Keep all medicines out of reach from pets

Make sure pets can't get to houseplants

Clean up spills of any kind quickly

Preventing poisoning in the garden or outdoor spaces

  • Prevent access to gardens where pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers have recently been used
  • Keep pesticides and herbicides in a safe, inaccessible place away from all pets and children
  • Never leave buckets or containers full of mixed chemicals open and unattended
  • Do not allow animals to drink or bathe in ponds, puddles or other bodies of water that appear oily, discoloured or contaminated
  • Look up hazardous plant species and mushrooms; remove any from your garden that could be dangerous for your pets. Tips on how to make your garden more ‘pet friendly’, including which plants to avoid, can be found here
  • Keep dustbin lids firmly closed to prevent access, use a lock if necessary
  • Replace the tops of containers securely after use.
  • If using poison on pests, ensure it is inaccessible to pets and other wildlife.

If you use these products, place them in a narrow tube to avoid others animals getting access to it. Use of slug pellets will be illegal to supply as of April 2021 and illegal to use from April 2022.

Contaminated water can be harmful to pets- check your local authority for any updates on harmful substances and contamination in your local area

Useful Information


All veterinary practices must provide emergency cover to clients and their pets, and they should be your first point of contact. However, some practices may use a different practice or work out of a different building to provide this service. If you are unsure about your own vets out of hours provision, please contact them and ask for their daytime/emergency vets contact details.

*TOP TIP* Keep these contact details handy in case of emergency. If a friend or family member looks after your pet at any time, make sure they have these contact details to hand, as well as the Animal PoisonLine number.

Contact information for the Animal PoisonLine

Animal PoisonLine, run by the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), is a UK based 24-hour specialised emergency advice line for pet owners who are worried their pets may have been exposed to something harmful and would like advice on what to do next. Their specialists will advise if an immediate trip to the vets if required. There is a £30 fee for each case. More information can be found at

If you are worried your pet has been poisoned, please call your vet or the Animal PoisonLine on 01202 509000 immediately. Please note that the Animal PoisonLine is not a substitute for taking your pet to the vet, as they may need to go for treatment anyway.


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Pets & Poisons, June 2020 © Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF). AWF is a registered charity (287118). Photos: ©