Poisons - general

Dalmatian laying on floor

The following items are poisons that can be found anywhere around your home.


If a battery is chewed and punctured by your dog it can cause chemical burns, or even heavy metal poisoning in very rare and extreme cases. If swallowed whole, they are less likely to leak their contents, but can still cause a blockage. This can be very dangerous and may require surgery. Signs of an obstruction may include being sick, being tired or off their food, not pooing, or finding it difficult to do so. Small button batteries that become stuck in the throat, or in the gut, can produce an electric current which can significantly damage the surrounding tissue.

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas with no colour, taste or smell and can be produced from house fires, faulty boilers, faulty heaters or heaters used in poorly ventilated spaces.

If breathed in in large enough concentrations, it can cause a range of non-specific clinical effects, including your dog appearing sleepy, being sick or showing changes in behaviour, breathing and heart rate. Carbon monoxide is highly poisonous to both humans and animals and you should consider fitting a carbon monoxide detector in your home.


Potpourri is made up of a number of dried plants and flowers. These fragrant decorations may cause, at the very least, your dog to be sick or have an upset tummy. How toxic your potpourri is will depend on which dried plants have been used.

Knowing which plants are in your potpourri is often very difficult, especially as the dried plant matter are often artificially coloured. Potpourri often includes hard items, like pine cones or bark, and these could become stuck in your dog's throat and cause breathing difficulties or an obstruction in their gut. This can be very dangerous and may mean your dog has to have surgery.

Cigarettes and other nicotine containing products (cigars, nicotine gums, patches and e-cigarettes)

If eaten, these products can all cause your dog to be sick, salivate a lot, tremor and may also interfere with the dog's heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. Swallowed nicotine patches may release the nicotine over a long period of time, while swallowed e-cigarette refill bottles or vials may cause sudden toxicity after being in the gut for a while.

Some nicotine gums may contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs and can cause a very quick and potentially serious drop in blood sugar. In some instances it can also cause liver failure.

Glow sticks

If eaten, luminous necklaces, bracelets and glow sticks can make dogs unwell. The glowing liquid inside the tubing is an irritant and can cause your dog to develop salivation, frothing at the mouth, vomiting and tummy pain. Strangely enough, these items are particularly attractive to cats, so make sure to keep them away from any feline friends as well.

Silica gel sachets (desiccant)

These small sachets are commonly found in the packaging of items such as new shoes, electrical items, handbags etc. Silica gel is non toxic, but the sachet is often labelled "do not eat", not because it is poisonous, but because it is not a food item and therefore should not be eaten. Although silica gel sachets are non toxic, they could still cause a dangerous obstruction in the gut. 

What to do if you think your dog is poisoned

If you think that your dog may have eaten, touched or inhaled something that it shouldn't have, speak to your vet straight away.

Never try to make your dog sick. Trying to do this can cause other complications, which may harm your dog.

Things to tell your vet

In an emergency you can help your veterinary practice make an informed decision as to whether your dog needs to be treated by them and, if so, what the best treatment would be. Where possible, you should provide your veterinary practice with the following information:

  • What poison you think your dog has been exposed to (i.e. chocolate, ibuprofen etc.). Include any product names, or lists of ingredients if relevant
  • How much they may have been exposed to (i.e. 500mg, 500ml, one tablet etc, even approximations may help)
  • When your dog was exposed to the poison (i.e. five minutes, five hours or five days ago)
  • If your dog has been unwell and, if so, what clinical effects have been seen

It is easier for a vet to care for a poisoned dog if it is treated sooner rather than later. If you are in any doubt, don't wait for your dog to become unwell before calling for advice.

What to take with you to your vet

If you do need to take your dog to your veterinary practice, make sure that you take along any relevant packaging, or a sample of the poison, e.g. parts of plant or fungi. Always make sure that you yourself are protected and can not be poisoned in turn.

How to use this information

The information is intended to be used to prevent poisoning by raising awareness of certain poisons, rather than as a document to be used in an emergency. If you think that your dog has been poisoned, or has come into contact with potentially poisonous substances, contact your local veterinary practice immediately.

Think your dog may be affected?

If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately!

We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article then please contact your local vet practice for further information.

Find a vet near you

If you're looking for a vet practice near you, why not visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Find a Vet page.

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