Springtime pet safety

Posted on 8th March 2024

As spring arrives, with it come some potential hazards that our pets can encounter during the season.

Chocolate -

With lots of chocolate around the house, we'd like to remind pet owners, especially those with dogs, of the dangers of chocolate and the importance of keeping it out of reach.Chocolate is toxic because it contains a chemical called theobromine, as well as caffeine.The concentration of theobromine varies depending on the type of chocolate. For example, cocoa powder, baking chocolate and dark chocolate contain higher levels of theobromine compared to milk chocolate. The toxicity of theobromine is dose-related, meaning that the overall effect of chocolate ingestion on the dog depends on the size of the dog, the amount of chocolate eaten and the type of chocolate eaten.


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The symptoms of chocolate toxicity may include:

  • restlessness
  • excitement
  • hyperactivity
  • nervousness 
  • trembling
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • increased drinking and increased urination
  • increased heart rate
  • muscle tremors
  • seizures

If your dog (or cat) has ingested any chocolate (even a small amount) you should contact your vet immediately for advice.

Beware of Xylitol

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener used in home baking and found in many products including some sugar-free chewing gum, sweets ,diet foods, vitamin supplements and some peanut butters. It can also be found in some Easter eggs. Dogs are extremely sensitive to xylitol and even small amounts can cause toxicity. Early symptoms of xylitol poisoning include lethargy, vomiting and loss of coordination (wobbly). Seizures and even death may occur.
If your dog eats any food that you are concerned contains xylitol, contact your vet immediately! 

Raisins/ sultanas/ grapes/ currants 

It is unknown exactly why these foods are toxic to dogs, but it has been found that some dogs develop acute kidney failure following consumption of these fruits, even from eating a small amount. Hot cross buns are popular at Easter time, ensure that you keep them out of reach. It is important to contact your vet straight away should you suspect that your dog might have eaten any foods containing these fruits.

Other animals can potentially be affected too so keep these fruits and food containing these fruits out of the reach of all pets. 

Photo by Jasmine Waheed on Unsplash


A popular plant at this time of year, these beautiful flowers are best avoided if you have a cat in the household or you are giving flowers as a gift to a cat owner.

Lilies are poisonous to cats and can cause kidney failure. All parts of the plant are poisonous, even a small exposure to the pollen can be potentially very dangerous.Contact us immediately if you suspect that your cat has come into contact with these flowers.

Garden safety

Cocoa mulch - This is often used in flower beds by gardeners but, as with chocolate, this contains theobromine which is poisonous to pets. Tree bark is a safer alternative.

Garden tools/equipment - Keep pets away from equipment during use. All garden tools should be returned to the shed or garage once they have finished being used, so that a pet doesn't accidently injure itself on their sharp points and edges.

Remember to check for wildlife such as hedgehogs and frogs before starting up the lawn mower or strimmer. Use a soft broom to brush through long grass and check under bushes on the edge of borders.

Fences and gates - Ensure that your garden perimeter is secure to prevent your dog escaping. Check for any gaps under the fencing and holes in the panels that they could venture through. Make sure that the fence is at a suitable height to prevent your dog jumping over it. Check that gate latches are functioning and gate locks are used for added security. Keep an eye on your dog whilst they are out in the garden as sadly dog thefts from gardens are on the increase.

Shed, garages and greenhouses - Check inside these buildings before closing the door as some cats are inquisitive and like to explore.


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Flowers/plants - Many plants can pose a risk to pets if eaten. Some plants are more poisonous than others. You can find lists on the internet of pet-safe plants and those that are toxic and best avoided. While some pets aren't interested in nibbling plants, others are notorious for it. Puppies and kittens can be particularly prone to chewing - be sure to choose pet-safe plants with these pets. Supervision is also important. Fencing flower borders can help to stop dogs wandering into them.
Bulbs can look especially tempting, store them out of reach. If your dog is a digger ensure they cannot access the flowerbed and dig the bulbs up.
If you suspect that your pet has chewed a plant or bulb, please contact us for advice.

Ponds - Take extra care if you have a pond in the garden. There are safety measures that can be put in place such as properly fitted pond covers and fencing to create a barrier, or restrict access of your dog to the area.

Water butts - Ensure that they are covered with a secure lid at all times to prevent cats and wildlife accidently falling into them.

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Garden chemicals

Keep garden chemicals stored securely and out of reach of pets and children.
Ensure that they are used according to label instructions and keep your pet off of treated areas.

When selecting a product for purchase, and when using a product, read the label carefully as it will give clear and precise instructions regarding children and pets.


Slug bait - With showers and warm weather bringing out the slugs and snails, some gardeners are tempted to reach for the slug bait to protect their plants from these pests. 

Metaldehyde is a common ingredient of slug pellets and is extremely poisonous. Pets are attracted to the cereal based pellets and will eat them. Pets that have consumed metaldehyde may become unsteady on their feet and become twitchy, this can then progress to convulsions and respiratory failure. If you have any concerns that your pet may have consumed any slug and snail pellets, call your vet ( or nearest vet to you) immediately - even if they appear well.
There are some newer slug and snail pellets available that do not contain metaldehyde. It is important to follow the instructions on the packet and take precautions when using them. We would advise that if your pet was to accidentally eat them to contact your vet immediately for advice.

The best thing for a household with pets is to avoid using these products. There are alternatives to using slug pellets such as crushed egg shells, sand paper, copper tape/rings. 

Fertilisers can also upset pets as the very high levels of minerals can cause toxic imbalances. Some fertilisers also contain herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, which are all potential poisons. 

Rat bait - If using rodent poisons discuss their use with a professional, use pet friendly alternatives where possible and ensure that any bait is completely inaccessible to any pets. If accidental ingestion is at all expected contact your vet immediately. Not all rodenticides are the same so it is important to provide the vet with information on what was used. 

Out and about

Identification - Some cats become more active this time of year and spend longer outside exploring, so make sure that your cat is micro-chipped. Call us to book an appointment! From 10th June 2024 all cats will need to be microchipped by law,
It is already a legal requirement for dogs in the UK to be micro-chipped, so make sure that your dog is chipped.
Once a pet is microchipped it is imperative that your pet's details are registered to the microchip database. This is usually completed  by the owner and can be done online or by post  - follow your vet's advice. Once a pet is registered the database company will send you confirmation of registration.
It is important that your contact details on the microchip database are kept up to date.

Dogs must also wear a collar with a tag - the tag should provide contact details of the owner. We would NOT recommend to put your dog's name on the tag. Some owners choose to have the words ' I'm chipped ' engraved. 

Sticks - Dicourage your dog from chewing on sticks and do not use them as a throw and fetch object. Sticks can splinter and cause injuries to the mouth or bits can break off and become wedged across the roof of the mouth. A dog running with a stick is at risk of impaling themselves should they trip or run onto the end of it.
Ensure that your pet is kept up-to-date with their flea and worm treatment. Dogs can be exposed to lungworm through slugs and snails; This contact can occur if your dog plays with them or consumes them, or inadvertently if they sniff or eat grass, drink from a puddle, or from toys left out in the garden. Lungworm infection can cause severe illness so it is important to reduce the risk of a lungworm infection developing by routinely worming your pet with a product that includes lungworm proctection.  We recommend using products prescribed by your vet. Please call us for further advise. 

BBQs - As the weather improves and BBQs become popular, ensure that foods such as bones, corn cobs and skewers are disposed of out of reach of pets.
Remind your guests to put their leftovers in the bin. 

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Walks - Check the fit and closure of collars, harnesses and leads.
Ensure your dog's collar is the correct fit - not too tight that it is uncomfortable and not too loose that it slips off over your dog's head. The rule of thumb says you should be able to get two fingers between the collar and the dog's neck.There are many different types of harness available - research before you buy. It is important to measure your dog to ensure the harness fits correctly.

  • As the weather warms up, ensure that you carry water with you so that you can give your dog a drink. 
  • Avoid leaving your dog tied up outside a shop - sadly pet theft is on the increase and unattended dogs can be a target for thieves.
  • ALWAYS keep your dog on a lead around wildlife and in fields where there are livestock. Also keep your dog on a lead if walking beside roads.
  • Remember to pick up after your dog! 

Spring temperatures can fluctuate. What starts out as a cloudy day can soon turn into a glorious sunny afternoon. A parked car quickly heats up to a dangerous temperature - never leave your pet in a car.
Also be aware that conservatories and greenhouses quickly heat up to unbearable temperatures. Never leave your pet shut in a conservatory. Make sure that you check your greenhouse before closing the door just in case an animal has wandered inside.


Rabbits and Guinea Pigs

Don't be tempted to bring them out of their sheltered winter accommodation too soon, although the days are mild, the nights can get cold. Settle for a day run in the garden if the weather is nice until the night temperatures rise. Provide plenty of enrichment - hiding places, platforms, toys, snacks for foraging, good quality hay to graze on and drinking water.
New fresh spring grass can be particularly rich for small tummies and you should introduce them to it gradually. Start with a small amount at a time ( allow them 10 minutes grazing time for example, increasing slowly over several days). Monitor their droppings to ensure they aren't soft. 

NEVER feed grass clippings to your pet. The fermented clippings will make them ill.

 As we enter into the warmer spring months, ensure that you provide your pets with adequate shelter from the sun.


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Make sure that you keep their hutch in top-notch condition. Your pet will be happier and healthier and their home will be less appealing to flies. 
Check your pets twice a day to ensure that bottoms are clean and dry and there are no signs of skin sores and wounds. A dirty rear end (or wound) can attract flies leading to a life threatening condition called flystrike. Flies lay their eggs, most commonly on the rear end, and the maggots that hatch attack the skin causing extensive damage. It is mostly seen in rabbits but it is a good idea to check guinea pigs too. 

If you spot a dirty bottom, do speak to your vet as there is often an underlying cause that can be addressed such as diet, teeth issues, weight, arthritis.

Disclaimer: The contents of the Arden House Animal Hospital
 website are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your Veterinary Surgeon with any questions you may have regarding your animal’s medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website

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