What are the biggest hazards for dogs over springtime?

Springtime normally brings an increased number of cases to our out-of-hours clinics.  Bright sunny days mean that people and their pets are out and about enjoying the weather.  We tend to see more road traffic accidents, cat fights, dog bites, allergic reactions and occasionally cases of heat stroke.

We’ve drawn up a list of some of the main hazards to look out for.

If you’re worried your dog is sick or injured as a result of any of these, please contact your vet as soon as possible, or find your nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic or Vets Now 24/7 hospital.

1. Chocolate

Look out for those Easter eggs and chocolate treats around springtime. Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine (a bit like caffeine) that’s poisonous to dogs.  The amount of theobromine differs depending on the type of chocolate, with dark chocolate and baking chocolate containing the most.

2. Raisins

Don’t forget that goodies such as hot cross buns contain raisins.  Grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas can cause kidney failure in dogs. Experts agree that there is no “safe” dose of grapes and raisins.

Our emergency vets have drawn up an advice guide on what to do if a dog eats grapes or raisins — or foods including them such as hot cross buns, mince pies and fruit loaf.


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener used in home baking and found in many products including some sugar-free gums and diet foods. It can also be found in some chocolate and other sweet treats around Easter time. 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. Seizures and even death may occur. Read how young Labrador Ginny had a lucky escape after eating a large amount of xylitol.

4. Spring flowers

Daffodils can be toxic, particularly the bulbs. But the flower heads can also cause vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy. In severe cases this may result in dehydration, tremors and convulsions. These signs can be seen from 15 minutes to one day following ingestion. Other spring flowers, such as crocuses and tulips, are considered to be less toxic but seek veterinary advice if you are worried your pet has eaten them.

Image of a dog in a meadow for Vets Now article on spring hazards for dogs
There are a number of hazards dog owners should be aware of this spring

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5. Ivy

Dogs who eat ivy (hedera helix) commonly develop drooling, vomiting or diarrhoea. In the most severe cases you may also see blood in the vomit or faeces.  Contact with ivy can cause skin reactions, conjunctivitis, itchiness, and skin rashes. Note that poison Ivy (rhus radicans) is a different plant and only grows in North America.

6. Bluebells

All parts of the bluebell are poisonous to dogs.  Ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal discomfort and there is also a risk of heartbeat irregularity (arrhythmia) if a significant quantity is ingested.

7. Adder bites

The European adder is the only venomous snake native to the UK. Adults are around 50-60cm long and are characterised by having a black or brown zigzag pattern along their back and a V-shaped marking on the back of their head. They are commonly found on dry, sandy heaths, sand dunes, rocky hillsides, moorland and woodland edges.

Bites are most frequent in the spring when adders are still sluggish after coming out of hibernation. They generally only bite when provoked.

The swelling from an adder bite can be severe. Other signs include bruising, drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, restlessness, drowsiness and lethargy. Eventually, dogs may collapse, have blood clotting problems, tremors or convulsions.

8. Slug and snail pellets

Metaldehyde-based slug and snail pellets are among the most dangerous and common poisonings our vets see. Slugs and snails are most active during warm humid spells which is when most slug pellet poisonings will occur. Ingestion can cause severe poisoning and signs often occur within an hour.

One dog who did not survive swallowing slug and snail pellets was Japanese Akita Boris. He tragically died within hours of coming across the pellets during a walk in the park.

9. Anti-histamines

From spring to early summer the pollen count is at its highest and this is when owners are likely to be stocking up on anti-histamine medication. These are highly toxic to dogs and signs of ingestion include vomiting, lethargy, incoordination, wobbliness and tremors. These typically develop within four to seven hours. Some dogs may also become hyper-excitable. If large amounts of anti-histamine have been eaten convulsions, respiratory depression and coma may occur.