This book contains brief summaries of information relating to poisoning of cats and dogs by commonly encountered substances. For each agent, information is given on toxicology, clinical effects, appropriate first aid and subsequent management and prognosis. This enables veterinary professionals to give appropriate guidance to clients that suspect their animals may have been poisoned. A traffic light system indicates the level of concern and urgency (see ‘ How to use this guide page viii ).

These summaries are written with the aim of providing comprehensive advice about the management of any case. Many factors can influence how a case progresses and may affect management recommendations (dose, route(s) of exposure, time since exposure, duration of exposure, past medical history, breed or species susceptibility, environment, location, etc.).

The inclusion of substances was determined by a review of enquiries made to VPIS and their case outcomes (where known).

  • We have included substances of low or negligible toxicity about which VPIS receives many enquiries and for which presentation to a veterinary surgery is unlikely to be necessary.
  • Other agents have been included owing to the number of exposures in the past and where the outcome has been variable.
  • A few agents have also been included where exposures are relatively rare but toxicity is high and for which management may need to be speedy, complex or intensive, and where prognosis should be guarded. These latter categories are instances where reference to a veterinary poisons information service is strongly advised.

A bibliography of useful references, including case reports and case series, on the toxic effects of the substances summarized in this book is available on the VPIS website ().

A simple checklist is provided at the back of this book to guide veterinary staff of the type of information that is useful to gather about a possible poisoning case. The checklist can also be accessed online via the BSAVA/VPIS Poisons Triage Tool or the VPIS website. This can help ensure that the management advice provided will be specific to the individual case. This checklist can be used to help complete case follow-up questionnaires or the case submission form.

VPIS exists to provide specific advice, compliant with UK veterinary medicine legislation, for each and every case referred to it on its own individual merits. The information given in this book has been compiled by VPIS in line with these considerations.

Every effort has been made to ensure that the information within these summaries is both accurate and current. Please be aware that online information may be updated or changed in the light of any relevant publications, VPIS cases and systematic revisions. BSAVA Members have access to the online BSAVA/VPIS Poisons Triage Tool via and are recommended to check this for updated or additional information. For information about joining BSAVA, please visit the Membership page at .

The VPIS is always keen to receive feedback on poisoning cases even if not consulted, to build on its extensive internal database of past referrals. Of particular interest are complex, serious and unusual cases, or where toxicity information was limited. Even if the animal remained asymptomatic this information is still useful. To submit information on a poisoning case to VPIS, please visit . VPIS follows up some cases using a postal questionnaire, in an attempt to determine treatments given, clinical course and outcome.

This resource is the result of an exciting collaborative venture between BSAVA and VPIS. We hope that it will provide a valuable resource and we welcome your comments and suggestions.

How to use this guide

The poisons monographs are divided into canine (blue-headed pages) and feline (mauve-headed pages). Please note that data in entries for one animal species will not always be applicable to another species – some animals respond to different poisons in very different ways.

Within each section the monographs are listed alphabetically. Please note that generic names are used for all pharmaceutical agents; trade and proprietary names are not included. Plants and animals are listed under both common and Latin names. Please use the Index to find poisons listed by their alternative names.

Each poison monograph follows the same essential format.

Alternative names
  • This notes alternative names, such as common names for plants; for example, daffodil is the common name for species.
  • Where an entry refers to a group of agents (e.g. anticoagulant rodenticides) a list is given of the various compounds for which the subsequent guidance would be appropriate.
  • Please note that trade, brand and proprietary names are not used. To determine the contents of a particular product you should refer to the packaging or contact VPIS. VPIS has many resources available to determine the contents of commercial products.
  • Alternative names are included in the Index.
  • This provides a description of the agent and how it might be presented. Where medicines, pesticides and household chemicals are involved, information is provided on the intended uses of the agents, indications of how they might be presented or packaged, and in what likely concentrations.
  • For plants there will be a brief description of the appearance of the plant parts and how they may vary with season, plus notes on individual species where appropriate.

This section describes how and why the agent is thought to be toxic (if this is known). It may give some indications or measures of toxicity.

Risk factors
  • Some breeds are known to be more affected than others by certain poisons.
  • In some cases previous exposures to the specific or similar agents may increase the risk.
  • Pre-existing disease states (e.g. renal insufficiency) can also impact on responses to certain substances. If the animal exposed fits into any of these categories, then immediate discussion with VPIS is advised.
Clinical effects
  • a rough guide as to the likely time it would take for clinical signs to appear. This can be useful in determining how urgent referral to a surgery should be, or whether an otherwise asymptomatic animal need attend at all.
  • a listing of the clinical signs most commonly reported, described or characteristic of the particular intoxication. These are usually listed in a general order of increased severity, although this may depend on dose.
  • less frequently observed signs or those that occur in only the most severe cases.

  • This section indicates when decontamination is appropriate. Details of methods are available in the Decontamination section at the back of the book.
  • General information is given on treatment modalities that may subsequently be necessary.
  • Where specific antidotal therapies may be required, dosing information is provided.
  • This provides indication(s) of the likely prognosis of a poisoning case involving the agent in question. This may vary according to dose, case history and even speed of presentation and level of veterinary intervention.
Alert status

As a handy visual reference for those cases where a very quick response may be needed, we have applied a ’traffic light’ system for classifying the risks of each agent/types of agent.

Red traffic_red_light.gif

  • Exposure to the agent in question in the particular species may result in severe or life-threatening clinical signs and prognosis may be guarded. However, prompt and aggressive treatment could (depending on the agent) change this. Some toxicities can be treated but others are difficult to treat successfully.
  • The animal should be taken to a veterinary surgery as a matter of urgency, with any other evidential material (product packaging, etc.).
  • VPIS should be consulted about the case as soon as is practicable.
Amber traffic_amber_light.gif

  • Exposures to the agent are relatively common, and although most cases have a favourable outcome some fatal cases have occurred.
  • The animal should ideally be taken to a veterinary surgery as soon as possible for full veterinary review.
  • VPIS can give advice as to the likelihood of severe poisoning.
Green traffic_green_light.gif

  • Exposures to the agent are common.
  • The substance is considered by VPIS to be of low or negligible toxicity.
  • No obvious signs of illness may occur; where they do occur, they are likely to be mild and transient.
  • The animal is unlikely to need to attend a veterinary surgery unless there are extenuating circumstances or unusual signs have occurred.
  • The general management advice given in ‘Treatment’ should be followed.
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