Top 7 common poisons for pets - found in your handbags!

Dog in Handbag

Handbags are often left open lying on the floor or on a low chair or bench within easy reach of an inquisitive dog or cat. They can contain numerous potential hazards to pets.  Here our top seven:


1. Chocolate

Chocolate APL

Many of us keep a little chocolate something in our handbags – just for emergencies.  Chocolate can cause increased heart rate, agitation and gastrointestinal upset in dogs. In severe cases the toxic compounds in chocolate can cause changes in the rhythm of the heart. They can be quite harmful for dogs depending on how much they eat and should be kept out of reach. For more information please check out our article on Chocolate here.

2. Chewing gum and sweets

APL Chewing Gum

Some of these contain the sweetener xylitol which can cause low blood sugar and liver damage in dogs. Usually after an hour dogs will start to feel unwell and look down. For more information on the symptoms and effects of xylitol in dogs, please click here.

3. Oral contraceptives

oral contraception APL


Ingestion of birth control pills is generally not a concern in pets, although it may cause a mild gastrointestinal upset if a large number are ingested.  If an entire bitch eats oral contraceptives it may cause disruption to the next oestrus cycle which breeders should be aware of.  There are no long term consequences however.

4. Pain killers and cold and flu medicine

Medicine Tablets APL


These are commonly carried in handbags and painkillers such as ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin can be toxic to pets. These painkillers are also found in many cold and flu products. Accidental ibuprofen ingestion is dogs is extremely common and can cause gastrointestinal upset, ulceration of the gut and kidney damage. Aspirin is also irritant to the gut. Paracetamol is particularly hazardous to cats and can cause facial swelling and breathing difficulties. In dogs, paracetamol can cause liver damage. For more information please click here.

5. Cigarettes and e-cigarettes

cigarette smoke APL

These contain nicotine which can cause vomiting and increased heart rate and potentially low blood pressure, breathing problems and potentially changes in heart rhythm.  However severe cases are very rare and sometimes treatment is not required at all – it depends on the amount of nicotine ingested.

6. Hand sanitizing gel

Hand sanitizing gel APL

These gels contain alcohol but there is generally only a small volume in handbag-sized bottles and so the risk of alcohol intoxication is low. They may cause a mild gastrointestinal upset.

 7. Paper

Paper APL

Sometimes when a dog chews paper it can turn into a pulp and can glue the jaws together. This can be difficult to remove and can be distressing for your pet. 


Animal PoisonLine’s Top tips on handbag hazards

1. Keep your handbag closed and out of sight and out of reach of pets

2. If you need to keep potentially hazardous substances in your handbag, keep them in a secure container

3. If you are concerned that your pet may have raided your handbag and items are missing, call Animal PoisonLine for advice and we will be able to tell you if a visit to the vet is necessary


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.


How dangerous is Cannabis for dogs?

Cannabis Dogs

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis satvia is a plant whose leaves and flowers are processed to be smoked (or eaten) by people for its psychoactive effects.  Cannabis may be called hashish or hash, marihuana or marijuana, ganja, grass, weed or pot, and cannabis cigarettes may be referred to as joints, spliffs or reefers.  The intended effects in people are euphoria, relaxation and altered perception. The main chemical responsible for these effects is called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.  

How much Cannabis can hurt a dog?

It appears to have similar effects in dogs as it does in humans but given the size difference and a dog’s lack of discrimination with regards to dose, they can become poisoned from eating any quantity.  At Animal PoisonLine we have had calls about dogs who have been exposed to cannabis in a number of ways:

  • By eating joints
  • By eating brownies or biscuits which have cannabis baked into them
  • By being exposed to second hand smoke (inhalation)
  • By discovering and eating a stash of cannabis in the house

What might happen to my dog after eating Cannabis?

The most common effects in dogs are depression, drowsiness or lethargy. They may also be very wobbly on their feet or unwilling to stand and have a slow heart rate.  The depression may alternate with periods of excitability, agitation, aggression and barking, as dogs can apparently experience hallucinations.

Other effects may include weakness, effects on their eyes (e.g. big pupils, red eyes and light sensitivity), vomiting and drooling. They may be unable to control their bladder and bowels and their body temperature can go either up or down.  In some cases dogs develop twitching or tremors which can lead on to fits.

These effects would be expected to occur within a few hours of eating cannabis and pets may be very poorly for several days after.  Dogs exposed to second hand smoke can develop effects within minutes and recover over a few hours.

When recovering, dogs may experience an increased appetite; in humans this phenomenon is known as ‘the munchies’.

Animal PoisonLine’s Top Tips about Cannabis?

  1. If you think your dog may have eaten some cannabis it is important to seek veterinary help as it can cause serious poisoning, requiring intensive treatment.
  2. It is important you tell your vet what has happened so that they can treat the dog correctly.
  3. Do not try to make them sick as this could make them worse.


If you are worried your pet has eaten something they or been exposed to something they should not have, please call the Animal PoisonLine on 01202 509 000 for advice on what to do next. If your pet starts showing any signs, then take them to your local vet practice immediately for treatment. The sooner they are treated, the better the outcome.


Supplements which can cause harm to your dog!

Dog Supplements APL

A very popular new year’s resolution is to get fitter or healthier.  While doing this, some of us may choose to take supplements to help aid our diets or boost our performance in the gym. Other people decide to use supplements during the winter months to keep them healthy so that they do not succumb to all those nasty bugs going around!

What do supplements contain?

There are a huge number of supplements on the market and they are readily available to buy in pharmacies such as Boots, supermarkets, health food shops such as Holland and Barrett as well as online.

Many will contain multivitamins, minerals and amino acids which are required in small amounts for our general health.  In most cases, if your pet were to eat these, they are unlikely to result in serious health issues.

Which vitamins and minerals are dangerous to our dogs?

Some supplements could contain ingredients that may be harmful, (brace yourself, here comes the science bit!) for example:

· Iron - in large amounts can lead to severe stomach upset and organ damage in severe cases.

· Vitamin D - in large amounts can lead to increased calcium levels in the blood.

· 5-hydroxytryptophan (or 5-HTP), can cause ‘serotonin syndrome’, which results in high body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, and tremor or seizures.

· Caffeine, guarana, coffee extract, tea extracts etc. are stimulants and can cause increased heart rate and body temperature, tremors and seizures.

· Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) which is an antioxidant can cause low blood sugar and liver damage in cats and dogs.

· Glucosamine, chondroitin and methylsulfonylmethan (MSM) which are often present in joint supplements for conditions such as arthritis can cause stomach upset, or even liver damage if a large quantity is eaten

Are there any other ingredients in supplements which are poisonous to dogs?

For those of us taking supplements that are made up in a drink, for example effervescent products or protein powder products, if these are sugar free, be aware that they may contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which can cause low blood sugar and liver damage in dogs.  Protein powders may also contain cocoa powder or chocolate which dogs and cats do not tolerate well, causing stomach upset and symptoms similar to caffeine.

Animal PoisonLine’s top 3 tips for supplements poisoning:

1. Do not give human vitamin and mineral supplements to your pet – they may be healthy for you but toxic to your dog or cat

2. Keep all supplements hidden away from pets so that they cannot access them, this includes handbags which dogs frequently raid!

3. If your pet has eaten your supplements by accident make sure that you seek advice quickly and ideally have the packaging to hand with the strengths of the different ingredients


Please be aware, this list is not exhaustive and new products are being launched all the time.  If you are worried your pet has eaten something they or been exposed to something they should not have, please call the Animal PoisonLine on 01202 509 000 for advice on what to do next. If your pet starts showing any signs, then take them to your local vet practice immediately for treatment. The sooner they are treated, the better the outcome.

Dog poisoned by anti-depressants? What do you do?

Depressed Dog APL

A pet eating anti-depressant tablets has become one of the enquiries we receive almost on a daily basis. Most of our calls are from concerned dog owners since cats are notoriously fussy and suspicious so rarely eat tablets they come across.

Poisoning from anti-depressants normally occurs for one of two reasons:

1) The pet eats the owner’s medication which has been either dropped on the floor or found in the house

2) The pet has been prescribed an anti-depressant licensed for veterinary use for a behavioural problem (such as an anxiety or compulsive disorder or feline urine marking) and the owner has accidentally given too many tablets

It is, however, most important to point out that many anti-depressant drugs are not licensed for veterinary use and that you should always consult a veterinary specialist before administering any human drug to a pet.  It is also worth remembering that the dose per kg body weight for humans is often very different to the doses used for pets for the same drug so human tablets can be very toxic, especially to small dogs and cats or if multiple tablets are ingested.

What are the different types of antidepressants?

The most common anti-depressants drugs are either:

1) Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)  - e.g. fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Cipramil) and sertraline (Lustral or Zoloft)

2) Serotonin – noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) e.g. duloxetine and venlafaxine

3) Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) e.g. amitriptyline and nortriptyline

What signs will my dog or cat have if they eat anti-depressants?

The signs of poisoning from anti-depressants will depend on the amount ingested but there are a wide range of symptoms that you may possibly see.  Within a short time of eating the tablets (usually 1-2 hours) your dog may start vomiting or become agitated.  

Often you will notice some changes in your pet’s behaviour - your usually happy dog could suddenly seem quieter than normal or may vocalise (cry or howl) more.  Other possible signs are shivering, disorientation, sensitivity to sound or light and other gastrointestinal signs such as diarrhoea as well as changes to your pet’s breathing, heart rate and temperature.

What should I do if my pet has eaten anti-depressant tablets?

It is important to try and establish how many tablets have been eaten, the name and strength of the antidepressant and the weight of your pet. Sometimes treatment is not needed because the number of tablets eaten is low and will not affect the pet in question, particularly if it is a larger dog.  Here at Animal PoisonLine we have thousands of cases on our database involving these drugs and if you call us we will be able to tell you if you need to go to the vet or not.  If treatment is required, most pets recover without long term consequences.

Animal PoisonLine’s top 3 tips on anti-depressants poisoning

1. NEVER give your pet a human anti-depressant tablet unless authorised by your vet – the doses are different for pets and you may poison your cat or dog

2. Do not leave tablets in your handbag or any other place where your pet may be able to access them easily

3. Call for advice as soon as you know your pet has eaten the tablets – if treatment is needed, the sooner it is started, the better the outcome


If you are worried your pet has eaten something they or been exposed to something they should not have, please call the Animal PoisonLine on 01202 509 000 for advice on what to do next. If your pet starts showing any signs, then take them to your local vet practice immediately for treatment. The sooner they are treated, the better the outcome.

Animal PoisonLine's Valentine's Day Special - How to keep your pets safe this February 14th

Romance Pets Valentines APL

You either love it or you hate it but you can’t avoid it… Yes, Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us. Although it is a celebration of love there are many things associated with Valentine’s Day which are not so lovely  for our pets!


Many people like to give a chocolate gift to a loved one on Valentine’s Day but, chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats and even a very small amount of dark chocolate can cause symptoms such as vomiting and an increased heart rate. Animal PoisonLine can give you advice about how much chocolate is going to be a problem and whether your pet needs to be seen by the vet or whether you can stay at home, but as a general rule we recommend keeping ALL chocolate away from animals at all times, not just on February 14th.


Most people celebrating a romantic evening will indulge in some fine wine or spirits or even better – some bubbles in the form of Champagne or Prosecco! Make sure your pets don’t have access to any of these drinks though  as dogs and cats are very sensitive to the effects of alcohol and small amounts can cause them to be depressed and start vomiting. Most cases of alcohol poisoning need supportive care to get them through the worst of it – essentially like nursing a hangover. Of course it depends on the strength and form the alcohol comes in.  For example, spirits are more concentrated, some containing up to 60% alcohol - so if animals accidentally ingest any, they can become unwell very quickly. Call Animal PoisonLine to find out if your pet has had a toxic amount of alcohol – it is important that we know the strength of the alcohol being consumed. Don’t forget about those chocolate liquors too.


Valentine’s day is a time for giving gifts. Whilst some of us might be lucky enough to get diamonds this year, the rest of us will have to settle for flowers! There are some flowers which are very toxic to our pets, most commonly lilies and these are commonly found in cut flower bouquets. It is very important your cats do NOT come into contact with them as all parts of the plant are very poisonous (not just the pollen as is often thought) and they can cause kidney failure. So if you are thinking of giving a loved one who owns cat lilies, stick to the more traditional roses! If your cat has come into contact with a lily we would advise you contact your veterinary surgeon immediately and seek advice. Do not delay doing this even if your cat appears to be well.

Perfume and aftershave

These are both popular gifts on Valentine’s Day but they contain up to 90% ethanol (alcohol) which is over double the amount found in spirits such as vodka. The result is that they will show the same effects as with alcoholic drinks (see the ‘alcohol’ section above) but at much lower volumes.  Admittedly dog and cats will have more limited access to these products but even if they just lick a small amount they may start to feel unwell.

If you are worried your pet has eaten something they or been exposed to something they should not have, please call the Animal PoisonLine on 01202 509 000 for advice on what to do next. If your pet starts showing any signs, then take them to your local vet practice immediately for treatment. The sooner they are treated, the better the outcome.

Animal PoisonLine’s top tips

1.       Do not give lilies to anyone who owns a cat – stick to traditional roses instead!

2.       Do not leave any uneaten chocolate on low tables or on work surfaces where animals can reach it (especially dogs)

3.       Do not leave unfinished glasses of wine, spirits or bubbly on the floor where a curious cat or dog could drink from them – even a small amount may cause signs

4.       If perfume or aftershave spills, make sure your pets do not lick it off the floor