Chocolate Toxicity

All year round there is likely to be more chocolate around the household, which means our pets sometimes getting a hold of it.

Chocolate contains theobromine that is highly toxic to our pets. The levels of theobromine do vary depending on the type of chocolate, dark chocolate being the most concentrated.

Dogs are more commonly known to ingest chocolate rather than cats, mainly because cats are more finicky eaters.

Symptoms to watch out for if your pet has consumed any chocolate can include:

  • Restlessness
  • Excitement
  • Hyperactivity
  • Nervousness
  • Trembling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased drinking
  • Urination
  • Increased heart rate and muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Possible death

It is important you seek Veterinary assistance or advice as soon as possible. The Veterinarian will suggest to induce vomiting if your pet has consumed chocolate in the past 2 hours. If it has been longer than 2 hours activated charcoal will be administered to stop further absorption of the toxin.

If your pet is already showing signs of toxicity, medication is given to reduce the severity of seizures and tremors that could lead to dangerous heart conditions. Chocolate ingestion can sometimes be fatal if the right medication and treatment is not given soon after ingestion.

Paralysis Tick

Ixodes Holocyclus, commonly known as the paralysis tick, is found along the east coast of Australia and is incredibly harmful to our pets. It has a grey colouring and when fully fed, can grow as big as a thumbnail. The tick latches on to our pets and as it feeds it releases a toxin, which causes paralysis. The clinical signs usually present within 3-4 days of attachment. The tick becomes engorged and swells to a larger size.

The early symptoms can include lethargy, altered bark/meow, noisy panting, coughing, drooling and weakness and wobbliness in the hind legs. Ultimately the paralysis becomes so severe that your pet cannot walk or lift its head. If your pet shows any of the symptoms mentioned you must seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. If possible remove the tick and bring it in with you so we can identify it is a paralysis tick.

The paralysis tick can be seen at any time of year, but it is more common in spring and early summer. We recommend that you use preventatives and perform tick searches all year round; you can never be too safe. We have already seen an increase in tick paralysis cases at our Jervis Bay clinic and North Nowra hospital, so we recommend you visit us and we can help you select the best tick prevention for your pet.

Insect bites

Stings or bites from other insects such as wasps can happen when dogs and cats are rolling in the grass. These kinds of stings can be painful and cause swelling. In rare cases a pet could have an allergic reaction.

Learn more about insect bites or if you believe your pet is having an allergic reaction contact us immediately.

Rat Bait Poisoning

It’s common that people will spread rat bait around their home to kills off any nasty pests but this is a huge danger to our pets! Rat bait is highly toxic to animals if eaten hence why it kills rodents rapidly. It is an anticoagulant rodenticide and it interferes with the formation of Vitamin of K, which is essential for blood clotting.

Over time your pet can rapidly bleed out. Rat bait poisoning is potentially fatal if you do not seek Veterinary attention early. Within the first hour of you pet eating the bait a Veterinarian needs to induce vomiting with medication.

Can my pet be poisoned from eating a rat that has eaten the bait?

Yes, this is called secondary poisoning.

How long does it take after ingestion to see symptoms?

It can take up to 4 days to see signs of rat bait poisoning. The initial symptoms can include lethargy, weakness, breathing difficulties, loss of appetite and collapse. Soon after they may experience pain on movement, blood in the urine, fresh blood coming from the nose, bruising and pale gums.

If you think your pet may have consumed rat bait be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately.

Snake Bites

Our pets are curious creatures with natural instincts to hunt. During the warmer months in Australia a large number of venomous snakes can be seen, particularly the tiger snake and brown snake. Most often, a snake will slither away when they hear a potential predator, however dogs and cats are likely to harass the snake and resulting in a potentially fatal bite.

The snake venom is so dangerous it contains anticoagulant properties that result in your pet blood being unable to clot. Eventually internal haemorrhage can occur and signs of blood can be spotted in your pet’s urine.

Signs of a Snake Bite

Never rule out a snakebite if you cannot locate a bite wound. Bite wounds can be extremely small and difficult to see especially in those pets with long fur. Clinical signs of a snakebite can vary dependent on the type of snake and the potency of their venom and the dose received.

First aid for a snake bite

If you are certain a snake has bitten your pet and find a bite wound apply immediate pressure (a pressure bandage is ideal) to slow the spread of venom. Keep your pet calm and transport them to a vet as soon as possible.

Symptoms of a snake bite in dogs and cats

  • Weakness or collapse
  • Swelling or bleeding around the bite wound
  • Tremors, shaking, twitching
  • Dilated pupils
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in urine
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Complete paralysis

*NOTE: Many pet owners report that their pets initially collapsed but have since recovered, this is not the case and your pet will still require lifesaving treatment.


The suspicion of a snakebite along with the associated symptoms is enough to diagnose a snakebite. Your veterinarian will perform a series of blood and urine tests that will examine your pet’s clotting times, red blood cells and kidney function. All these tests are good indicators of whether a snakebite has occurred.


The treatment of a snakebite can vary depending on the variety of symptoms your pet may be experiencing. Initially the administration of intravenous fluids and anti-venom usually happen pretty quickly once your pet has been admitted to hospital. Other supportive care may be required such as respiratory support (oxygen supplementation) and consistent monitoring of vital signs.

It is necessary that snakebite patients are administered for at least 24 hours and additional vials of anti-venom may be required. If your pet receives prompt medical treatment it is likely that they will recover successfully, however every pet responds differently to treatment and some may require a longer stay in hospital.

How is Anti-venom made?

An animal such as a horse is injected with a non-lethal dose of snake venom to which triggers an antibody response. The antibodies created from this immune response attack the toxins of the snake venom. The horse’s blood is then separated into serum and used for anti-venom purposes. Anti-venom is expensive due to the production expenses and its minimal shelf life.

Poisonous Plants in Australia

Yesterday Today Tomorrow (Brunfelsia australis)

  • Signs of toxicity: Vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle tremors, depression, convulsions, lack of coordination, increased urination and hyperthermia.
  • Toxic parts: the entire plant.

Lily’s (Liliums)

  • Signs of toxicity: Lethargy, depression, kidney failure, diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration
  • Toxic parts: The entire plant.

Wandering Jew (Tradescantia)

  • Signs of toxicity: Diarrhoea, vomiting and skin allergy.
  • Toxic parts: The leaves.

Avocado (Persea americana)

  • Signs of toxicity: Diarrhoea, vomiting, respiratory distress and cardiac failure.
  • Toxic parts: The fruit, seed, twigs and leaves.

Solanum Tomato, potato, woody nightshade, Natal cherry, peppers (Solanum) (Highly toxic)

  • Signs of toxicity: Nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, dry mouth, tachycardia, weak pulse, weak legs, hallucinations and tremors.
  • Toxic parts: The entire plant.

Mint (Mentha)

  • Signs of toxicity: Stomach pain, nausea, respiratory distress, high blood pressure, seizures, hallucinations, shock, kidney failure, liver failure and fever.
  • Toxic parts: The foilage and flowers.

Onion, leek, chives, garlic, wild onion (Allium)

  • Signs of toxicity: Anorexia, sore stomach, difficulty breathing, blood in urine and weakness
  • Toxic parts: The entire plant.

Nerium oleander

  • Signs of toxicity: Tremors, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, collapse and pale gums.
  • Toxic parts: The entire plant.

Almond tree, black cherry, plums, peach (Prunus) (Highly toxic)

  • Signs of toxicity: Respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, collapse and convulsions.
  • Toxic parts: The entire plant.

Grapes, sultana, raisins, wild grapes (Vitis) (Highly toxic)

  • Signs of toxicity: Lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea and kidney failure.
  • Toxic parts: The entire plant.

Daffodil (Narcissus)

  • Signs of toxicity: Gastrointestinal upset, tremors, cardiac arrhythmias, lethargy and kidney failure.
  • Toxic parts: The entire plant.

Christmas Berry (Heteromeles arbutifolia)

  • Signs of toxicity: Dilated pupils, increased salivation, rapid breathing, muscle tremors, convulsions,, involuntary urination and involuntary defecation.
  • Toxic parts: The berries.

Apricot (Prunus)

  • Signs of toxicity: Pupil dilation, gum inflammation, diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, cardiac arrest, weakness, trembling, convulsions and lack of coordination.
  • Toxic parts: The entire plant.

Macadamia Nut

  • Signs of toxicity: Weakness, paralysis, increased heart rate and hyperthermia.
  • Toxic parts: The nut.

Black Bean (Castanopermum australe)

  • Signs of toxicity: Severe Diarrhoea, weight loss and depression.
  • Toxic parts: Leaves and seeds

Cyclamen (Shooting Star or Persian Violet)

  • Signs of toxicity: Gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, drooling, diarrhoea, heart rhythm abnormalities and seizures.
  • Toxic parts: The entire plant.

Azalea/Rhododendron (Highly toxic)

  • Signs of toxicity: Vomiting, drooling, diarrhoea, weakness, loss of coordination and cardiovascular collapse.
  • Toxic parts: The entire plant.

Sago Palm (Cycas) (Highly toxic)

  • Signs of toxicity: Vomiting, black or bloody stools, bruising, yellow discolouration of skin, seizures, liver failure, lethargy, weakness, constipation, increased thirst and abdominal tenderness.
  • Toxic parts: The entire plant.


  • Signs of toxicity: Gastroenteritis, stomach inflammation and irritation, nausea, intense vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, nervous system and cardiovascular abnormalities.
  • Toxic parts: Bulbs


  • Signs of toxicity: Conjunctivitis, skin irritation, dermatitis and itchness of skin.
  • Toxic parts: The entire plant.

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