Pet Emergencies Caused by Poisons Found in the Home dog vet

5 Common Pet Emergencies Caused by Poisons Found in the Home

Unfortunately we have regular cases when one of our clients gorgeous pets has managed to get into a cupboard they shouldn’t have and ingest something that can make them very ill. If this does happen contact us immediately and our vet’s can provide emergency care for your pet.

With this in mind we have created a short post to highlight 5 common pet emergencies caused by poisons that are found in nearly every home in Ireland. We hope that this will help avoid any accidents from taken place.


Chocolate is toxic to both dogs and cats. The main toxin in chocolate is a chemical called theobromine, but caffeine is also found in chocolate. Dogs cannot metabolize theobromine and caffeine as well as we can. This makes them more sensitive to the chemical effects.

Symptoms from ingesting chocolate vary from vomiting and diarrhea to quite severe signs such as tremors and seizures.

Usually when faced with a dog that has eaten chocolate we will try make them vomit. If this is not successful we will give them supportive treatments such as fluids and charcoal to absorb toxins in the gut.

The amount of theobromine varies with the type of chocolate. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to dogs. Dogs can also get sick from all the fat and sugar found in chocolate, which can cause pancreatitis.

More information on this particular pet emergency.


Paracetamol is commonly used as over the counter pain relief but it is unfortunately poisonous to cats. When we take paracetamol we have an enzyme in our bodies that breaks it down once it’s done doing its job. Cats cannot do this as their body lacks the correct enzymes to be able to break down paracetamol safely and so dangerous toxic compounds build up in their body.

It causes irreversible damage to their red blood cells and causes a syndrome called ‘methaemaglobinaemia’ where the tongue and gums turn chocolate brown and this, together with liver damage, is often fatal.

If your cat has eaten paracetamol it is advisable to call your vet immediately as no dose is too small. There is an antidote called acetylcysteine, which may save your cat’s life if it is given to them early enough, as well as giving supportive treatments for the liver.

Pet Emergencies Caused by Poisons Found in the Home vet dublin


Especially during the colder months of the year, cats like to use the warm engines of cars to warm up. Antifreeze is toxic to both cats and dogs and added to this it has a sweet taste and animals can grow to like the taste. Antifreeze often contains ethylene glycol and this can be extremely dangerous to dogs and cats.

As little as a tablespoon can result in severe acute kidney failure in dogs, while as little as 1 teaspoon can be fatal to cats.

The initial signs are similar to alcohol poisoning such incoordination, drooling, vomiting, seizures, and excessive thirst and urination followed over time with kidney failure.

The antidote for ethylene glycol poisoning is fomepizole (also known as 4-MP) or ethanol. It must be given quite soon after ingestion along with supportive treatments.


Lilies can be extremely toxic to cats, and the danger is not just confined to the flower or pollen but the whole plant, even drinking the water that lilies are sitting in can be toxic. Cats can come to harm from ingesting any part of the plant or after grooming pollen out of their coats. We all know cats like to rub off things.

Initially owners might notice upset stomach signs like nausea and diarrhoea but kidney damage and acute kidney failure is the real worry.

When faced with a cat which had been exposed to lilies, supportive and fluid therapy is vital for trying to support the kidneys but sadly it can be fatal if left to long or the cat may be left with irreversible kidney failure.

Not all species of lilies are as toxic to cats but I would always advise owners to be vigilant and keep cats and lilies well separated.

Grapes, Raisins and Currents

Grapes, raisins and currents can all be toxic to dogs and cause kidney damage. Often raisins and currents are ingested in the form of cakes and pudding and combined with the high sugary fatty foods can also irritate the pancreas and cause pancreatitis.

Similar to the other toxins ingestion initially causes upset stomach signs such as vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, and possibly diarrhoea. This is then filtered by signs of acute kidney failure which signs include nausea, lack of appetite, vomiting, uremic breath, diarrhea, abdominal pain, excessive thirst, and excessive urination. As the toxin progresses the kidneys may shut down all together and at this point the prognosis is guarded.

Treating these patients includes inducing emesis if they have recently eaten grapes raisins or currents otherwise again supportive therapy is needed.

The list of toxins in the home is not exhaustive and these are just five that we see commonly in practice. Usually time is of the essence especially when there is no antidote available. If your pet comes into contact with any of these toxins do not hesitate to contact us for help.

Remember if you are in any way worried that your pet has suddenly fallen in contact us immediately for help.