Springtime Toxin Awareness for Pets

Spring is associated with longer evenings and warmer weather, sweet treats and beautiful flowers, very much welcomed after the long cold winter months. Whilst we enjoy the change of seasons, it is important to remember the potential hazards that spring can pose to our pets.

Spring plants

Pets love running around but they may chew or eat spring flowers which appear as the weather gets warmer or dig up bulbs from flower beds. These may include snowdrops, spring crocuses, daffodils, primrose, and tulips either growing in the garden and public parks or available in the home as cut flowers. These plants may cause gastrointestinal upset and in some cases require treatment to control vomiting and replace lost fluids. Ingestion of bulbs could cause gastrointestinal blockage which may require intervention at the vets. Lilies are extremely toxic to cats – all parts of the plant can cause severe renal damage.


The adder (Vipera berus berus) is the only venomous snake native to the UK, and is also found across northern Europe. It is a protected species in the UK. Adders are most commonly, but not exclusively, found on dry, sandy heaths, sand dunes, rocky hillsides, moorlands and woodland edges. The clinical signs of an adder bite can include rapid and progressive swelling around the bite site, pain, lethargy, vomiting, bruising, bleeding and collapse.

What should you do if your pet has been bitten by an adder?

• Do not panic.

• Do not interfere with the bite.

• Do not apply a tourniquet.

• Do not attempt to touch or catch the snake.

• Do not kill the snake – it is a protected species.

• If practical, carry your dog to your car and go to your veterinary surgeon – do not delay seeking advice even if your pet is well as things can change quickly.

Adders are not aggressive and generally only bite when provoked. They hibernate in the winter and as a result most bites occur in the spring and summer months. Pets are frequently bitten on the leg, head or neck. If your pet has been bitten by an adder (even if you did not see the snake or are not sure what happened) – contact your vet immediately. Your vet will examine your pet to determine the location of the bite and extent of the swelling.

Mouldy food

Mouldy foods and mouldy plant material can contain toxins called tremorgenic mycotoxins. Dogs that raid household rubbish or garbage bins containing food waste are especially at risk of exposure. Decaying organic matter found in the garden such as silage, rubbish or compost, and fallen apples or walnuts for example, may also pose a risk to inquisitive dogs and cats.

If your dog or cats eats mouldy food or plant material containing tremorgenic mycotoxins, it may become ill very quickly, often within one hour. Common signs that are seen are vomiting, wobbliness, tremors, agitation and hyperactivity, a high body temperature and panting. In severe cases there may be convulsions. Effects could possibly last for several days and deaths in cats and dogs have occurred. Prompt veterinary treatment is essential. The sooner they are treated, the better the outcome.

As the weather warms up, food is likely to go mouldy a lot more quickly. To minimise the chances of your pet accessing mouldy material, our advice to pet owners is:

• Dispose of unwanted and mouldy food promptly and carefully

• Ensure used rubbish bags are securely stored away from pets and that dustbins are firmly closed

• Prevent access by pets to compost heaps. Consider using a secure composting bin.

Tremorgenic mycotoxin toxicity is a particular concern for animals living a life on the streets as food waste is often poorly disposed of and therefore there is a higher risk of accidental ingestions. In addition to this, clinical signs are often rapid in onset and immediate access to veterinary care is often limited.

Calls to the Animal Poison Line are charged. Click here for further information