10 Spring toxins harmful to dogs

The weather is getting warmer, Easter is coming and spring is, well, springing! But for your pooch, there can be a number of dangers that come with the season – from poisonous flowers, to toxic treats.

Cheshire veterinary nurse Becky Williams – who owns Frank’s brother, Archer – has revealed some of the Spring toxins to be aware of, to avoid a trip to the vets, or your dog suffering any devastating symptoms.

Becky said: “I’ve seen cases of every single one of these toxins, and it’s really important that if you think your dog has eaten something toxic, that you get them to the vet as soon as you realise so that they can start treatment.”

Last year, Frank suffered a series of seizures one morning and it was the most terrifying experience of my life. Whilst our vet was unable to find a cause at the time, after much research we now suspect it was a result of pinching some compost whilst we were preparing vegetable beds in the garden. We had no idea about the potential dangers, and we were really lucky that Frank was okay, and didn’t require medication. He was back to his old self the next day – but not all dogs are as fortunate.

Here are 10 common toxins to keep away from your dog this Spring:


Easter is a really fun holiday – particularly if you’ve got little ones in the house – but your house will likely have more chocolate than Willy Wonka’s factory in it over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Becky said: “Chocolate contains theobromine, which is poisonous to dogs. Dark chocolate contains more than milk or white, but you should call your vet if you suspect your dog has ingested any chocolate.”

Ahead of Easter Sunday, be sure to store your Easter eggs out of reach of your dog, and be careful if you plan on doing an Easter Egg Hunt. Chances are your dog will be able to sniff them out before the kids do – particularly if they’re at a lower level. Also beware of foil from Easter eggs, as you don’t want your pup eating that, either.


A buttery hot cross bun is, of course, delicious, but incredibly dangerous for your dog. Becky said: “Raisins, along with grapes and sultanas, can quickly cause kidney failure in dogs. There is no safe dose – even one raisin could be fatal.”

Some of the symptoms of toxicity could include vomiting or diarrhoea, rapid breathing, restlessness or hyperactivity, tremors or incoordination, increased heart rate and seizures.

Spring flowers

There are a whole host of blooms that are toxic to dogs, and with Mother’s Day and Easter both during Spring time, it’s good to be aware of which flowers to avoid buying for dog mums.

Some popular floral choices can be incredibly damaging, even if only a small amount has been ingested – and each one can have different effects.

Becky said: “Daffodils can be particularly toxic, especially the bulbs. The flower heads can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy. Crocuses and tulips are less toxic, but it’s still worth seeking veterinary advice if your dog has ingested any. Outdoors, avoid bluebells, which cause vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort and irregular heartbeat, and steer clear of ivy, which can cause similar symptoms as well as skin irritation.”

Slug and snail pellets

Pesky pests like slugs and snails are contstantly in our veg patch eating the lettuce, or destroying our border blooms. Yes, it’s frustrating – but don’t gofor slug and snail pellets.

“Slugs and snails are more active during the warmer months,” Becky said. “Metaldehyde based pellets are particularly toxic and can be fatal within hours of digestion.”

A good alternative to use would be the organic sheep wool pellets, which are safe around dogs and children, as well as compostable.

Compost heaps

I’ve seen first hand how horrific toxicity from a compost heap can be. As your waste decomposes, it produces mould and toxic chemicals which can result in tremors and seizures in as little as 30 minutes. The reason we didn’t suspect poisoning in Frank in the first instance was because his tremor started at around 6am in the morning, having likely pinched the compost at around 2pm the previous day. We never saw him ingest any of it, but it’s the most likely conclusion.

Symptoms include agitation, panting, drooling, vomiting, tremors and seizures. Keep your compost bin fences off from your dogs, and make sure you bar them from the area if you’re working with it.

Adder bites

If you live in a more rural area, then adders are something you  may need to bear in mind.

Becky said: “The common European adder is the only venomous snake native to the UK. It’s found on dry sandy dunes, rocky hillsides, moorlands and woodland edges. They generally only bite when provoked.”

It’s more likely that this provocation would happen off leash if your pooch is off exploring, and bites are more frequent in spring after the snakes come out of hibernation. A bite may cause swelling, bruising, drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, restlessness, drowsiness and lethargy. If your dog has been bitten by an adder, seek veterinary care as soon as possible.


Becky said: “Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in sweets and treats, and even small amounts can cause toxicity.” With Easter, there may be more sweets in the house, so keep them out of reach of pets. It can also be found in peanut butter, so be sure that if you’re buying peanut butter for your pooch, that you check the ingredient label. Toxicity signs to look out for include lethargy, vomiting and loss of co-ordination.

Onions and garlic

Warmer weather will see many of us rush to dust off the barbecue, but do be mindful that onion and garlic can be harmful to dogs. All parts of an onion are toxic to dogs, including the flesh, leaves, juice, and processed powders – so when you’re putting them on your hotdog, be careful not to drop any on the floor. Onions are part of the allium family, which includes garlic, shallots, leeks and chives, which can also be harmful to pets.

Becky added: “These can cause gastrointestinal upset, anaemia, collapse and can be potentially fatal.”

Bugs and insects

Phoebe is an absolute fiend for chasing wasps and bees, and getting stung last year still hasn’t stopped her trying to chomp them. Becky said that insect bites and stings can cause allergic reactions, and that most cases aren’t an emergency, keep your eye out for breathing changes facial or throat swelling and contact the vet if concerned. However, do try to deter your pooch from antagonising bees and wasps!

Human medication

When I worked in a pharmacy, a lot of pet owners would come in and ask for particular medications and then go on to tell me ‘it’s for me dog’. As these products aren’t liscenced for animal consumption, they are unable to be sold as such. Human medication can be fatal for dogs, or cause a variety of distressing symptoms depending on the drug ingested.

In Spring, you’ll likely be stocking up on heyfever tablets. Be sure to store these in a safe place away from your dog, and avoid leaving tablets and other medication in handbags where inquisitive snouts might find themselves.