Asthma inhalers in dogs

asthma pump APL.jpeg

Many people in the UK suffer from asthma and inhalers are commonly prescribed to help manage the symptoms.  Inhalers vary but will mostly contain either a steroid or a drug that helps open the airways although there are a variety available and some contain both.

The steroid inhalers which are taken regularly to help prevent attacks occurring are usually brown in colour.  The inhalers intended to help reduce the symptoms of an attack usually contain a drug called salbutamol and are coloured blue. One of the most common brand names is Ventolin.

Dogs may find the tough containers fun to chew on and can sometimes puncture them.  Because they are pressurised containers, when punctured the drug will rush out and the inhaler may even shoot across the room!  Because of this explosive release the dose of drug squirted out and eaten or inhaled can often be large – the whole inhaler’s worth.

What will happen if my dog bites an asthma inhaler?

There are various signs you could see.

1)      Puncturing the pressurised container can cause burns:

One problem with these inhalers is that the release of gas from the puncturing of a pressurised container can sometimes lead to a ‘frost-bite’ burn in the mouth that may be painful for the dog.  So watch out over the next 24 hours for signs such as soreness/redness in the mouth or face, not wanting to eat, drooling, being unsettled or having difficulty breathing.

2)      Puncturing salbutamol inhalers (coloured blue) can cause poisoning:

The first signs you are likely to notice are vomiting, lethargy, panting.  Also, your dog’s heart will start to race although this is not easily seen by the owner. These effects can be severe requiring close monitoring, and dogs will also need blood tests to check for changes to their potassium levels.  They may be very restless or agitated, wobbly on their feet, thirsty or weak.  Shaking or twitching can happen too, as well as an increased body temperature and irregular heartbeat.  In serious cases or where effects have been prolonged long term heart damage can occur.


What should I do if my dog has punctured an asthma inhaler?

If the inhaler only contains a steroid, the risk of poisoning is low, but you need to watch out for the development of a burn in the mouth over the next 24 hours.

If the inhaler contains salbutamol or a similar drug, treatment at the vets may be required.

If in doubt, call Animal PoisonLine and we can advise you whether you need to make a trip to the vet or not.


Animal PoisonLine’s 4 Top Tips about Asthma Inhalers

  • Keep asthma inhalers away from pets
  • Seek advice if you know your pet has punctured an inhaler and have the contents (drug names) to hand if possible
  • Be careful if your inhaler is in your handbag – this is a common place for a dog to find one so keep your bag closed and off the ground
  • Beware of inhalers discarded outside (e.g. in parks) and try to stop your dog picking them up in its mouth



Are fertilisers dangerous for dogs and cats to eat?

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What do fertilisers contain?

One of the many spring jobs for the keen gardener is the application of fertiliser to the lawn and/or the garden borders. General purpose fertilisers contain the nutrients nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous, often listed as NPK on packaging. Ingestion of any amount, other than trivial quantities, is likely to cause gastric upset. Dogs are often keen to eat large amounts of fertiliser if they are given half a chance.

What will I see if my dog eats fertiliser?

Any ingestion can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea especially if large quantities have been eaten, which may lead to your pet becoming dehydrated. There may also be some irritation of the mouth and gums, so if you see your dog ingesting fertiliser try and encourage them to have a drink or ask your vet how to safely wash their mouth out with water.  Irritation of the paws may also occur if they have trodden in freshly laid fertiliser, and you may notice this if you see your animal licking at them. Washing the paws is the best way to soothe them and there should not be any need to see the vet unless the soreness continues.

Are moss-killers, weed-killers or ‘weed and feed’ products poisonous to dogs and cats?

Any fertiliser that contains additional moss- killers or weed-killers will present more of a hazard when ingested, and if you suspect this is the case, or the box states that the preparation is a ‘Weed and Feed’ type of product there is more of a concern.   Iron salts are often added to kill moss and chemicals called phenoxy acids are used to kill weeds and these can cause more serious signs in cats and dogs, depending on the amount that has been eaten.  Cats may even get mild effects after walking on a freshly treated lawn and then licking their paws.  If you are concerned call Animal PoisonLine on 01202 509000 to find out whether a visit to the vet is required or not.

Animal PoisonLine's 5 Top Tips for pets and fertiliser

  • Have fun in the garden with your pets but make sure dogs aren’t eating the fertiliser whilst you are applying it to the garden!
  • Store any unopened bags away from sharp claws and inquisitive noses.
  • Securely re-seal any opened bags and store out of reach of animals.
  • Clear away or sweep up any spillages or excess fertiliser from patios, decking or lawns.
  • Call for advice if you know that your pet has eaten fertiliser containing moss or weed killer and have the packaging to hand


What types of detergents are dangerous to our pets and why?

Detergents Dog APL

One of our frequent enquiries is about pets who have come into contact with a detergent. Detergents are often stored next to the washing machine or in cupboards below the work surface and are used so regularly in the household that is no surprise that cats and dogs occasionally may be exposed to them.

For cats, they often come into contact with detergents by either walking into already spilt liquids on the floor or by accidentally having some liquid detergent spilt on them. Their first response is always to groom and therefore they end up ingesting detergent. Dogs also groom, but they are also quite skilled when it comes to opening boxes or even getting the laundry pods out of the washing machine and puncturing them.

Different types of detergent:

  • laundry liquid and powder
  • floor or general purpose cleaners
  • hand washing soaps
  • washing up liquid
  • bubble or foam bath
  • carpet shampoo
  • dishwasher products
  • toilet freshener
  • fabric conditioner
  • hair shampoo and conditioner

Why are detergents dangerous to our pets?

Detergents contain a mixture of ingredients including surfactants (anionic, non-ionic or cationic).

Even though detergents are absorbed from the gut after being eaten, they are considered low toxicity. They can be irritant, but the main concern is when the foam or bubbles get into the lungs (inhaled) or when the amount ingested is significant, particularly if it is concentrated.

Usually, the first sign you see will be drooling or salivating. You may notice some foaming or frothing at the mouth followed by retching and then vomiting. Dogs are more likely to vomit than cats and stomach pain and diarrhoea are also possible.  These signs can start very quickly – sometimes within a few minutes.

If vomiting occurs the foam or detergent particles are inhaled and this can cause aspiration pneumonia. We have a number of severe cases every year.  The signs relating to the lungs will not start until a few hours after exposure.

Oral irritation (inside of the mouth and back of the throat) is common and can be painful. Also, any detergents on the skin can lead to skin reactions and hair loss.

Cats are generally more sensitive to detergent exposure.  Because of their grooming habits, they are more likely than dogs to suffer from respiratory complications and skin reactions.

Animal PoisonLine’s Top Tips about detergents:

1) Seek advice immediately if your pet has come into contact with a detergent

2) Prevent exposure by keeping detergents in locked or high cupboards and make access difficult (tightly closed lids and boxes)

3) If you see your pet has detergent on their coat try and prevent licking

4) Keep your animal calm – the stomach will act like a washing machine if your pet runs around, producing foam which can cause vomiting


If you are worried your pet has eaten anything they should not have, give Animal PoisonLine a call on 01202 509000 and one of our advisors will be able to assess the risk and advise you whether you need to take your pet to the vet.

Vaping around pets – Are e-cigarettes dangerous to our pets?

Vape E-cig APL

What are e-cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices, usually with a rechargeable battery designed to simulate tobacco smoking.  They have recently increased in popularity and are thought to be associated with fewer adverse health effects than smoking, although long term studies on the health effects of vaping are lacking. 

E-cigarettes or vapes are usually refillable, and refills are available in different strengths and various flavours.  The liquid is referred to as vape liquid, vape fluid, vape juice, e-liquid, e-juice etc.

Since May 2017 vape refills may only be sold legally in a maximum capacity of 10ml and the maximum quantity of nicotine allowed is 20mg in every ml of liquid.

What’s in vape liquid?

The contents vary but they are usually made up largely of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine and/or polyethylene glycol as a base with nicotine in various strengths (although some varieties are nicotine free) and flavours (pretty much any you could think of!).

What makes vape liquid toxic?

It is the nicotine in vape liquid that can cause poisoning in pets.  The other ingredients are not considered to be a risk in the small quantities present in these products.

What happens when a pet eats vape liquid?

Nicotine is actually not well absorbed from the stomach and this and the fact that bottle sizes are small probably accounts for the fact that there are few serious cases of poisoning recorded.

Many animals will remain well after being exposed, but in cases where animals do develop effects they would be expected to happen quickly, within a few minutes to a few hours.  Effects that may occur are drooling or sometimes frothing at the mouth, vomiting or diarrhoea.  They may also seem a bit wobbly or trembly and may have a racing heart.

Serious nicotine poisoning is rare in cases of vape liquid exposures but could occur after a large ingestion or after prolonged chewing on a leaking container.

Why would my pet eat vape liquid?

Animals will often explore and pick things up with their mouths and dogs in particular like to chew.  Anything with a tough exterior will seem like an amusing chew toy to a curious dog.  As the liquid is often quite highly fragranced your pet may smell it much more than you and want to investigate further.  Or, as you may well know, anything you drop may be mistaken by an eager pet as a titbit or treat and they go for it in a flash!

What should I do if my pet has eaten vape liquid?

Wash any residue off the skin with soap and water - nicotine is well absorbed across the skin so remember to protect yourself too!

Rinse the mouth out with water (if your pet will let you and you are not at risk of being bitten) to remove any residue as nicotine is better absorbed in the mouth.

If your pet has eaten vape liquid, call Animal PoisonLine and we can assess the risk and advise you whether you need to take your pet to the vets.

When calling APL you will need:

·       The number of millilitres of vape liquid you think your pet has eaten

·       The strength of the vape liquid

·       The weight of your pet


If you are worried your pet has eaten anything they should not have, give Animal PoisonLine a call on 01202 509000 and one of our advisors will be able to assess the risk and advise you whether you need to take your pet to the vet.


Animal PoisonLine's Top Tips

1.       Always ensure you keep vapes and refills out of reach of pets.

2.       Clear up any spills promptly.

3.       Do not keep e-cigarettes and refills in an open handbag on the floor


Is it safe to give paracetamol, human painkillers or pain relief medicine to my pet?

Paracetamol Drugs APL

Paracetamol is used as a painkiller and is widely available both over the counter and on prescription and therefore it is present in most households. It is also given to children for pain relief and high temperatures and may be contained in mixed medicine formulations, such as cold and flu remedies.

It is sometimes given to dogs, but never in cats as they are particularly sensitive to the toxic effects owing to their inability to metabolise paracetamol as effectively.

What does paracetamol do to cats and dogs?

The toxic effects are due to how paracetamol is processed (metabolised) in the body. The processing of paracetamol involves several steps by different enzymes in different metabolic pathways. The main concerns in cats and dogs initially are effects on the blood and the ability to process oxygen. Later on there is the risk of liver damage.

One metabolic pathway (particularly in cats) can result in a build-up of a chemical that causes a reduced ability of the blood to transport vital oxygen around the body. This effect occurs quite quickly, within a few hours, and causes respiratory distress, pale or brown mucous membranes (e.g. gums), lethargy, wobbly gait, collapse and vomiting. You may also notice swelling of the face and paws and blood in the urine. Death can occur at this stage, if the pet is left untreated.

Another metabolic pathway results in the build-up of a chemical that can cause liver damage.  This occurs after a day or two.  There can be jaundice (seen as yellow gums), blood in the urine and liver failure.

Occasionally, there can also be kidney damage, coma and fitting.

What should I do if I think my pet has eaten paracetamol?

If you think your pet has eaten any paracetamol call Animal PoisonLine and we will be able to assess the risk and advise you whether you need to take your pet to the vet. Particularly for dogs there are many cases where treatment is not required. If a trip to the vet is needed, there is an antidote that can be given to prevent the liver damage from developing.

Can I wait for signs to start before seeking treatment?

If your pet has eaten enough to need treatment it is very important not to delay getting to the vet, even if at that point your dog or cat is not showing any signs. In some cases the signs of poisoning may be delayed for several days, and during that time treatment should have been started to reduce the risk of liver damage. 

Left untreated, paracetamol overdose can kill cats and dog but if treated promptly most animals make a full recovery. It is important to remember that the earlier treatment is started the better and quicker the recovery is expected to be.

Information you should have when you call APL:

  • The strength of the tablets/sachet (in mg) or liquid (mg/ml or mg/5ml)
  • The number of tablets or amount of liquid in ml you think your pet has eaten
  • Weight of your pet

Top Tips

1. Always keep medications out of reach of pets

2. Do not overestimate the security of a handbag, many a raided handbag has resulted in a poorly pet

3. NEVER give paracetamol to your dog or cat without consulting a vet