Dogs come in all sizes and shapes and with all sorts of appetite. And, like you would expect, some of these dogs get their nose (and mouth!) in places they really shouldn’t. Ingestion of toxins is not that unusual and many owners might call their vets when they are concerned.

And, of course, some times of the year are worse – Christmas being particularly interesting…

In the UK, veterinary practices can join the Veterinary Poisons Information Service, VPIS, which provides specific advise regarding degree of toxicity, clinical signs, treatment, among much more. VPIS is particularly useful when you don’t know if a specific chemical is toxic or the dose that it’s toxic at.

On this article we’ll have a look at three common toxicities that a dog might present with in clinical practice.



uk vetmove vet veterinarian veterinary surgeon work job abroad foreign dog toxicity chocolate grape chewing gum

Of course that’s going to be right up there at the top… Particularly with dogs, who often have a tooth for sweet things. There are even some charts in clinical practice with the type of chocolate ingested, the weight of the dog and the type of clinical signs expected from the ingested dose.

Theobromine, the culprit, is similar to caffeine and may result in mild clinical signs like vomiting and diarrhoea, or more severe signs requiring hospitalisation and round the clock treatment, including tremors, tachycardia and seizures. When possible, emesis is promoted and activated charcoal is given. In severe cases it’s even possible to place a urinary catheter to prevent reabsorption of theobromine.


Raisins and grapes

uk vetmove vet veterinarian veterinary surgeon work job abroad foreign dog toxicity chocolate grape chewing gum

Raisins, grapes, currents and so on are often particularly common in the UK as they are used in some of the pastry and sweets that are most widely available. The toxin is unknown and this is one of those annoying toxicities – because some dogs develop acute kidney failure after eating one raisin, while others merrily go around eating punnets of grapes and live without a single problem. In these cases, keeping the owner informed is fundamental. Many places will attempt to induce vomiting, use activated charcoal “just in case” and often maintain these patients on IV fluids for 48h while monitoring renal parameters. In other cases, the owners decline this (especially if the dog has eaten 3 or less raisins/grapes and vomiting is induced in time) – but the clinical notes should make it clear that everything has been discussed and agreed on in case the patient later develops renal injury.



uk vetmove vet veterinarian veterinary surgeon work job abroad foreign dog toxicity chocolate grape chewing gum

Xylitol is found in many different products at many different concentrations, and is most often found in chewing gum. Something that wee doggies often like, and when they decide to get some chewing gum, it tends to be the whole package, not just one!

Xylitol’s toxic dose is very low, so even one single chewing gum in a small dog may cause clinical signs of hypoglycaemia due to insulin release. Xylitol may also cause liver damage in some patients.

Luckily, when this is known, xylitol toxicity can be addressed with IV glucose and frequent glucose monitoring, and the prognosis for these patients is often good if the patient doesn’t present with convulsions or in coma.


How many of these have you seen and treated?

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