Pet-Friendly Summer Garden Safety: Avoid Toxic Hazards

As summer approaches, many pet owners look forward to spending quality time in their gardens with their beloved pets. However, it’s crucial to be aware of potential hazards that can lurk in our gardens, especially toxic plants, and take necessary precautions to keep our pets safe. 

This blog aims to provide essential summer garden safety tips to ensure your pets enjoy a hazard-free and enjoyable time outdoors. 

Summer Garden Safety for Pets - Avoiding Toxic Plants & Hazards
Identify and Remove Toxic Plants 

Several common garden plants can be toxic to pets if ingested. It’s essential to identify these plants and remove them from areas accessible to your furry companions.  

Some common examples include:  

  • Lilies 
  • Azaleas 
  • Rhododendrons 
  • Tulips 
  • Daffodils 
  • Sago palms 

Although the listed above are the most common dangers, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. In order to verify exactly which plants are toxic in your garden, it may require further research, and the ASPCA offers a great resource to search for specific plants toxicity here.

Create a Pet-Friendly Zone  

Designate a pet-friendly area in your garden where your pets can roam and play safely. This area should be free from toxic plants, pesticides, fertilizers, and other potential hazards. Ensure it is securely fenced to prevent pets from wandering off and protect them from outside dangers. 

Use Pet-Safe Pesticides and Fertilisers 

If you must use pesticides or fertilisers in your garden, opt for pet-safe and environmentally friendly products. Avoid using chemicals known to be toxic to animals, as pets can ingest them by licking their paws or fur. Always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer and keep pets away from treated areas until the products have dried or settled. 

Secure Potential Escape Routes 

Check your garden for any escape routes your pets might find, such as loose fences, gaps in hedges, or broken gates. Fix these issues promptly to prevent your pets from escaping and getting lost or injured. 

Summer Garden Safety for Pets - Avoiding Toxic Plants & Hazards
Provide Shade and Fresh Water 

During hot summer days, pets need a shaded area in the garden to seek relief from the sun’s heat. Create a shady spot with a canopy, umbrella, or trees. Additionally, always ensure your pets have access to fresh, clean water to stay hydrated. Keep multiple water sources around the garden, especially if you have a large outdoor space. 

Watch out for Heatstroke 

Pets can quickly succumb to heatstroke in the scorching summer months. Cats are usually good at looking after themselves if they have the freedom to come and go, but for other pets, such as dogs, rabbits, and guinea pigs, avoid leaving them in the garden for extended periods during the hottest parts of the day.

Signs of heatstroke in dogs include excessive panting, lethargy, drooling, and difficulty breathing.

If you suspect heatstroke, move your pet to a cool area, offer water, and seek veterinary assistance immediately. 

Summer Garden Safety for Pets - Avoiding Toxic Plants & Hazards
Beware of Ponds and Pools 

While water features can add beauty to your garden, they can also pose a danger to pets. Ensure that ponds and pools have secure barriers or covers to prevent accidental drowning. Pets should always be supervised when near water to avoid any mishaps. 

Be aware of natural predators 

Gardens are a natural space and, as such, are also a haven for wild animals and birds. Ensure your pet is kept safe from foxes, angry or hungry birds and other creatures that might view them as lunch or threats. 

With these summer garden safety tips, you can create a pet-friendly oasis where your pets can enjoy the outdoors without unnecessary risks. By removing toxic plants, securing potential hazards, providing shade and water, and being mindful of heatstroke and water features, you can ensure your pets have a safe and enjoyable summer in the garden. Remember, a little precaution goes a long way in keeping our pets healthy and happy! 

Worried your pet has consumed or in contact with something dangerous?
If you have any concerns about your pet, if you think they've ingested something they shouldn't have, or might be suffering from heatstroke or any other issue, please get in touch with us as soon as possible by calling 01305 267083

5 Easter Poisons and How to Protect Your Pet

5 Easter Poisons and How to Protect Your Pet | Castle Vets Dorchester

Easter and Spring are celebrated times across the country and bring fresh growth in our gardens, lighter nights, bank holidays and of course…. visits from the Easter Bunny. But it’s also a time we should be wary of some potentially nasty poisons that could make our pets quite unwell.

The number 1 most common poisoning over Easter is chocolate and the one we will devote the most time to in this toxic round-up. Fortunately, most people are now aware of the dangers, but this isn’t the only seasonal hazard to be wary of in our homes:

1. Chocolate

Chocolate is considered by many of us humans to be one of life’s best treats, but for our pets, it’s highly toxic. In some cases, ingestion can even prove fatal.

Chocolate contains something called theobromine. This is a molecule made by plants and is found in cocoa beans amongst others such as tea and cola.  It has lots of different effects on the body – it widens blood vessels, aids urination (diuretic) and is a heart stimulant. Humans can quickly and easily metabolise this substance so it very rarely builds up enough to cause a problem, but dogs (and other animals, but pets such as cats, hamsters and rabbits are much less interested in sweet foods than dogs!) can suffer a build-up. This causes digestive problems, dehydration, internal bleeding, excitability, irregular or abnormal heart beat and muscle tremors. If this poisoning is left untreated, it can then result in seizures and death. 


How much chocolate is too much chocolate?

The amount of Theobromine in chocolate products varies. There’s a much higher concentration in dark chocolate than in chocolate milk shake for example, but it doesn’t take much to negatively affect your pet. As little as 1.8oz of milk chocolate is enough to poison a small dog.


HELP! My dog has eaten some chocolate. What should I do?!

Don’t panic! Call us and we can advise you over the phone and if necessary, we’ll see your pet as soon as possible. Obviously, if you have a small dog and they’ve eaten a whole Easter Egg or box of chocolates, bring them to us straight away calling on the way to let us know you’re coming.

There is no antidote for theobromine so the usual way we treat them is to get them to vomit – ideally within the first two hours after they’ve eaten the chocolate. We might also wash their stomach out and give them some activated charcoal which is really good at absorbing toxins left in their digestive system. 

Depending on the severity of the poisoning, we might also need to put your dog on a drip and give them some medication to calm their heart, control their blood pressure and stop seizures from happening.

With prompt treatment, the outlook is generally good for most dogs, even those who have eaten large amounts.


My dog is exhibiting the symptoms listed above as side effects, but I’m not sure if they’ve eaten chocolate or not. What should I do?

Call us. We can take a look at them and find out what’s going on. Whilst they may not have eaten any chocolate, these symptoms are always signs of something so it’s best to get them checked out as soon as possible and not wait and see.


What can I give as a treat instead of chocolate?

There are lots of options available for sale in the practice if you’d like a handy packet in your pocket. Alternatively, you could use apples, peanut butter stuffed in a Kong, cubed beef, or carrots. You can buy doggy chocolate, but it has little or no nutritional value so it’s not really worth it for the amount of time it’s in their mouths for.

2. Artificial sweetener

Don’t think you’re doing your pooch a favour by giving them diabetic or sugar-free treats. Some of these as well as sugar replacements, chewing gums and even some medicines contain xylitol. This artificial sweetener can cause mild stomach upset in humans, but can be very poisonous to dogs.  If your dog eats it, it can cause their blood sugar levels to quickly drop to dangerous levels. Larger amounts can even cause liver failure in extreme cases. If you think your dog has eaten sweeteners or if they appear weak, tired, collapse or have fits you MUST bring them in straight away. 

Other store cupboard dangers include:

  • Blue cheese
  • Onions
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Tuna in large amounts
  • Coffee and coffee grounds
  • Raw fish
  • Raw eggs
  • Excessive amounts of liver
  • Raw bread dough
  • Cooked bones (not poisonous, but can cause damage if swallowed)
  • Excessive quantities of sugar
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Mouldy food
3. Spring bulbs

All bulbs – and often what grows out of them – are poisonous to pets. Dogs are most likely to be affected by bulbs as in the garden they do like to sniff them out,  root them up and eat them – especially when freshly planted in the Autumn of coming into flower in the Spring.

Daffodils and tulips are the most common bulbs found to have poisoned dogs during these seasons.

Inside, cats are most likely to be poisoned by lilies. These flowers are highly toxic to cats, and poisoning generally occurs when the cat walks across a surface where lilies are and brushes against or walks over pollen that they then groom off and ingest. It is recommended that households with cats don’t have lilies in the house unless you can be sure your cat isn’t going to go into that room or have any contact with where they have been.

Signs of poisoning can include red gums, drooling, upset stomach (vomiting and/or diarrhoea), wobbly gait, tiredness and collapse.

4. Antifreeze

This is a particularly nasty poison, especially for cats as for some reason it smells delicious to them and they will lap it up if it’s found puddled on roads and drives.

It contains something called ethylene glycol and an amount of as little as a teaspoon of antifreeze can cause fatal kidney failure in a cat. It’s estimated that 90,000 animals are poisoned by it each year, so it’s a big problem.

An antidote does exist, but to be effective it must be given within three hours of the cat drinking the poison. As finding out what has happened within this timeframe is unusual, treatment is sadly often ineffective.

It’s vitally important that we keep antifreeze in sealed containers locked away from pets and children and don’t allow it to pool on the floor when using it. Regularly check under your car to see if your radiator is leaking or not, and if so wash the area down thoroughly and take your car to be fixed as soon as possible. You could also look for an antifreeze that contains propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol as this is less poisonous.

Signs of antifreeze poisoning are:

Stage 1: (Within 30 minutes – 12 hours of the poisoning): stumbling, thirst, vomiting

Stage 2: Symptoms seem to subside but huge internal damage is now taking place

Stage 3: Loss of appetite, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea, irregular heartbeat, possible seizures. These all indicate acute kidney failure.

5. Slug bait

As temperatures warm up and lush green shoots appear, so do the slugs and snails. Gardeners often reach for slug pellets to control them without realising they are also toxic to pets who roam through the garden. Dogs are particularly attracted to the pellets.

Slug pellets vary in toxicity depending on what’s in them. Some are fairly safe, others contain metaldehyde which is highly toxic to dogs.

Even small amounts of this substance can cause significant poisoning, so make sure you wash your dog’s feet and mouth if you think they might have come into contact with them even if they haven’t eaten any. This will stop any of the substance from being ingested next time they wash.

Symptoms of slug pellet poisoning are similar to antifreeze and initially include wobbling and being unusually uncoordinated, tremors and fits. These can happen within the first hour after poisoning so you must seek help from a vet as soon as you think your pet might have come into contact with pellets or eaten some even if symptoms haven’t yet started to appear.

Worried your pet has consumed something dangerous?
If you are at all worried your pet has consumed something dangerous, please contact us as soon as possible by calling:
Dorchester on 01305 267083 or Weymouth on 01305 813303

Heatstroke in Dogs | Symptoms, Preventing and Treating Heat Stroke

Heatstroke in dogs

As temperatures rise during the summer, we’re able to get out and enjoy the longer days and beautiful weather with our dogs. 

As humans, we know we need a cold drink or to find some shade when we’re getting too hot, but dogs aren’t as self-aware. It’s also instinctive for dogs to hide any sign of weakness, and even if they’re struggling – they can’t tell us.

When can heatstroke happen? Is it a problem in the UK?

Heatstroke (also known as hyperthermia) describes a body temperature that has risen above normal limits. In this case, we’re looking at temperatures elevated by environmental factors rather than illness. Heatstroke can happen in relatively mild temperatures from around 21 degrees Celsius and higher. 

If a dog’s body temperature exceeds 41.2c, it can even lead to organ failure, so it’s essential we know what to look out for.

Dogs who have been exercising vigorously in heat, are overweight, have underlying health problems or suffer from breathing difficulties, such as flat-faced breeds, are often the first to suffer. It’s also well publicised that leaving dogs in cars – even with windows open and water available – can quickly cause problems, even on a cooler day. 

Unlike us, dogs can’t sweat to control their body temperature but pant instead. Muzzled dogs can often suffer from heatstroke quite quickly as their ability to pant is restricted, so it’s essential to pay extra attention in these situations. 

What are the signs to look out for?

A dog suffering from heatstroke will usually begin to show several of these symptoms:
  • Faster breathing and panting
  • Dry mouth and dry, discoloured gums, alternatively drooling and foaming at the mouth
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Tiredness
  • Confusion
  • Occasionally seizures

Heatstroke is an immediate medical emergency, and if you think your dog might be displaying these symptoms, you need to act quickly to reduce their body temperature safely. The quicker they can be cooled down, the better their chance of a full recovery, but be careful not to use very cold water or ice packs as this is too much of a shock.

What can you do?

Some things you can try are:
  • Pouring cool water over them, concentrating on their head, stomach, armpits and anywhere else with less fur.
  • If you’re at home, put them on a towel in the bath and give them a cool shower
  • Apply a breeze by placing them in front of a fan or air conditioner (a well ventilated area is not enough, it should be moving air)
  • Offer them water
  • Speak to them calmly and reassure them that everything is ok

If you remain concerned or if they had heatstroke for a while before recovering, call us and we will of course see them.

How can I avoid my dog getting heat stroke?

Here are our top tips for warmer times:
  • Exercise your dog when it’s cooler – either morning or evening are ideal
  • Take water and a bowl with you if you’re travelling in the car or walking somewhere without water bowls
  • Avoid hot pavements and sand
  • Never leave your dog in a car when the sun is out
  • Keep your dog a healthy weight
  • If they have a thick coat, consider having them clipped during warmer months
  • Watch how enthusiastically they’re running around. If it’s vigorous and a hot day, keep it short
  • Find shade when you can or limit the amount of time you’re out
  • Encourage them to swim if you’re near water and they like it. A hose pipe in the garden can also be fun!
  • If you have a brachycephalic (flat-faced) dog, a harness is often a better option than a lead as it doesn’t restrict their panting

Worried your dog has heatstroke?

If you remain concerned or if they had heatstroke for a while before recovering, call us and we will of course see them as soon as possible.

Pets and Fireworks | Top Tips To Help Pets Scared of Fireworks

Pets and Fireworks – Why Noise Annoys, and How Fears Can Turn Into Life-Limiting Phobias

Around 60% of our furry friends become agitated and afraid whilst fireworks are going off, so aside from being unpleasant for both them and your family, it’s little surprise that statistically more pets are reported missing on bonfire night than any other night during the year.

If the fear isn’t dealt with, it can quickly turn into a phobia. This is a lot more severe than anxiety and is defined as a persistent, excessive, and irrational fear response. It WILL NOT go away without help. Your dog isn’t going to grow out of it or get used to it and minor anxiety can quickly turn into a fear of thunder, then fear of sudden noise like people calling out in the street, or doors closing, and severely restrict their enjoyment of life – and yours. Scared dogs make difficult companions.

If you feel your pet would benefit from extra help, remember that Castle Club members benefit from unlimited behaviour and training advice, which includes help with anxious pets, training and anything else you may need. (Not a member yet? Click here to read the full list of year-round benefits)

No one knows why pets develop fears and phobias, but it is known that dogs who have separation anxiety often also develop a fear of noise, so if you have a nervous puppy be extra vigilant for the early signs of noise fear.

The signs are different in all animals but can often include:

  • Hiding (cats like to do this more than dogs)
  • Urinating and defecating around the house in otherwise house-trained animals
  • Chewing
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Trying to escape (digging, trying to get out through windows, running away)
  • Dribbling
  • Over-dependence on the owner
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ignoring commands
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Uncharacteristic barking or meowing

Although it sounds wrong, it is important to try NOT to comfort nervous pets whilst they’re showing signs of fear or anxiety as it both rewards a fearful response and reinforces their belief that there is something to be fearful of.  Animals will also pick up on your anxiety which can make the problem worse, so try to remain calm and relaxed and carry on as if nothing is happening. Never punish your pet for fearful behaviour either, as they will associate the fear they feel with punishment and it will justify their fear to them.


Keep this information handy

If you have a potentially anxious pet – although it is generally a sensible list to keep handy – you should have the following information readily available to you during firework season. Storing it on your phone is a good way to do this.

You should note down:

  • Your pet’s microchip number/microchip database (microchips are now a legal requirement in dogs)
  • Local dog warden’s number
  • Local police contact
  • A clear photograph of your pet
  • Access to missing pet websites

Be aware that fireworks night is not just a night! As the date falls on a weekday this year, events will take place on the weekends either side and fireworks are sold well in advance of November 5th until after News Year’s Eve. If your pet is sensitive to them you need to ACT NOW to save them several months of distress.

What can I do?!

Download our FREE guide!

You can download our handy guide on Firework Fears and Phobias where we detail what you can do to help your cats, dogs, rabbits and other small animals during the weeks before and the day of the event. It’s packed with good ideas and will help get your pet through this potentially stressful time.

If you think your pet suffers from more than just minor anxiety or would like to discuss any behavioural issues, book an appointment to come and chat to us about it. We can offer behavioural consultations, supplements and plug-ins to help calm them, and in really bad situations we can prescribe sedatives.

Don’t let your pet suffer unnecessary anxiety.


To find out more and book an appointment, call the practice on  01698 361 136



Castle Club members benefit from unlimited behaviour and training advice, which includes help with anxious pets, training and anything else you may need. (Not a member yet? Click here to read the full list of year-round benefits)