The RSPCA is urging pet owners to be aware of the signs and symptoms of poisoning in dogs as the number of incidents reported to the charity has leapt by more than 70%.

The animal welfare charity – the largest and oldest in the UK – has seen an alarming increase in the number of calls to its 24-hour emergency hotline to report suspected poisonings in dogs.

“Thankfully, confirmed cases of deliberate poisonings among cats and dogs are relatively rare but there are a number of foods and products we have around the house which can be lethal to our pets,” RSPCA welfare expert Alice Potter said.

“Every year we receive a number of worrying reports by members of the public claiming people have left out meat laced with paracetamol in parks and that pets have been deliberately poisoned with antifreeze.”

As of 2017 (1 January – 31 August), the charity has already received 244 reports.

In the four years from 2012 to 2016, the charity’s helpline has seen an increase of 73% in the number of reports about these types of incidents.

“Reports of deliberate poisonings are extremely concerning but pets can also end up suffering from poisoning accidentally as many everyday substances and human foods can be extremely dangerous for our four-legged friends,” Alice added.

“Different substances can affect animals in different ways. Some symptoms can take days to appear so we’d advise anyone who is concerned that their pet may have been poisoned to contact their vet as soon as possible.

“Pet owners should be very careful and keep a close eye on what their pet may be eating or is able to get access to. And we’d also ask people to be careful when using substances to ensure that animals are not affected – slug pellets and antifreeze for example – and that substances are securely stored and properly disposed of, rather than dumping them on a roadside or in a park.”

A typical household has a variety of substances and foods which are capable of causing serious harm to our pets. Some of the most common poisons include: alcohol, antifreeze, aspirin, carbon monoxide, chocolate, drugs and medicines, fertilisers, grapes and raisins/sultanas, insecticides, lead (mainly from paints or old car batteries), metaldehyde (slug bait), mushrooms and toadstools, onions, other plants (such as lilies), rat and other vermin poisons, weedkillers and xylitol (a sweetener used in chewing gum and baking).

Signs that your pet could have been poisoned vary and can include any of the following:

  • depression
  • lack of appetite
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • breathing difficulties and bad breath
  • twitching
  • seizures.

Different substances can affect animals in different ways. Some symptoms can take days to appear.

Deliberately poisoning an animal could mean a six-month prison sentence and/or an unlimited fine, if prosecuted of an offence under the Animal Welfare Act.

For information on how to detect poisoning go to

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