British resorts could be closed this summer after swarms of large, barrel jellyfish were spotted off the south west coast in recent weeks, and experts are claiming thousands more could potentially be on the way. Wind-driven currents, an ideal water temperature, a long-term food supply and mass breeding are just some of the reasons why… Read More

Snail and slug bait

The ongoing battle against snails and slugs continues, and pet owners will often apply slug baits to their gardens. These preparations often contain metaldehyde and represent the biggest cause of poisoning fatalities in dogs that are reported to the VPIS. The high fatality rate is due to: the extremely low toxic dose for metaldehyde the… Read More


With keen gardeners everywhere inspired by The Chelsea Flower Show, the incidence of enthusiastic dogs ingesting varying amounts of fertiliser has increased. The products are of low toxicity but may be irritant to the gastrointestinal tract, causing vomiting and diarrhoea. Any exposure to feet or skin should be washed off to reduce the irritant effect… Read More

Common toads

The common toad (Bufo bufo)  is widespread in Britain (and western and central Europe), but is not found in Ireland. With common toads emerging from hibernation in late February, VPIS has started receiving enquiries about pets coming in contact with these amphibians. All Bufo species possess paratoid glands (not related to parotid salivary glands) on… Read More


Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener commonly found in many chewing gums, sweets, foods, oral rinses, toothpastes and supplements. It also exists naturally in fruit and vegetables (in low concentrations) and is a normal intermediary metabolite in glucose metabolism. However xylitol is also poisonous to dogs. VPIS provided advice on the case of an 8 year… Read More


Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) is a plant native to woods and hedgerows and widely cultivated; it flowers from April to June. All parts of these plants contain scillarens which are cardiac glycosides similar in structure to those of foxglove (Digitalis species). Clinical signs of toxicity are generally gastrointestinal (abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea) and cardiac (bradycardia, tachycardia,… Read More

Christmas Plants – Mistletoe and Poinsettia

Most cases reported to VPIS occur around December – January, when these plants are commonly used as a festive decoration and will therefore be found indoors. Mistletoe (Viscum album), a.k.a. European mistletoe Although mistletoe contains toxic compounds, the plant is considered to be of low toxicity. It contains a mixture of toxic alkaline proteins, polypeptide… Read More

Revised treatment doses for chocolate

We have recently reviewed and revised our treatment doses for chocolate. The revised doses are based on case data analysis (of over 700 cases where the dose of chocolate eaten was estimated or known) and analysis of original sources where the theobromine content of chocolate products was measured. Toxic effects in dogs occur at theobromine… Read More