BSAVA/VPIS Guide to Common Canine and Feline Poisons


  • Melissa A. Claus DVM, Dip ACVECC

Published by the BSAVA, 2012, spiral-bound paperback, 184 pages, Price £45.00 (BSAVA Members £30.00), ISBN-13: 978-1-905319-45-9

This is a book that provides rapidly-accessed and easily-processed information regarding poisons and other substances that have been reported to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service in the UK during the past 10 years. It briefly details the most commonly reported substances of varying toxicity, as well as less common but potentially fatal poisons to which dogs and cats may be exposed. The book is arranged in alphabetical order by toxicant name and divided into poisons affecting dogs followed by those affecting cats. A toxicant that affects both species contains a note stating this at the start of the monograph.

Helpful features include a very brief and to-the-point description of the nature of the poison, the pathogenesis, risk factors that make an animal more susceptible to the poison, clinical signs and time till onset of signs, recommended initial treatment, and prognosis. The details are kept to a minimum to make the information easy to read and digest quickly so an action plan can be devised. For each monograph, a traffic light is cleverly used to alert the reader when immediate action needs to be taken (red light), when the ingested substance is relatively harmless (green light), or when some medical intervention is likely to be required (amber light). A large variety of toxicants are included, from medications and foods, to chemicals and plants. A large variety of poisonous or potentially poisonous flora native to the UK are described. This is obviously helpful to local practitioners, but is not so relevant to clinicians outside of the UK. In the case of toxic plants, pictures of parts of the plant are provided to help aid in identification. At the end of the book, a case history checklist is provided to guide a clinician, nurse, or receptionist though acquiring important historical details from the owner. There is also a handy “how-to” section regarding decontamination.

There are some features that are missing, which, if included, would add to the usefulness of the book. The dose of medication at which clinical signs of toxicity can be seen was not included in the monographs. This information would have been useful to have readily available, as owners will often call in after their pet has ingested a known quantity of medication of a known concentration. Along these same lines, when owners call in after their pet has ingested their medication, they will often provide the trademarked name rather than the generic name. I would have liked to see the trademarked name listed in the index and linked to the monograph. Another feature that might make this book a bit more user-friendly would be to list specific clinical signs in the index and link these to various monographs that can cause those signs. It is very often that animals present with clinical signs that are suggestive of poisoning. Indexing the clinical signs could help the clinician formulate a fairly exhaustive list of potential poisons to specifically question the owner about when a patient's clinical signs make intoxication an important differential. Finally, given the brevity with which details of each poison are discussed, it would be great if an accompanying CD or website link could provide references for each monograph. This would provide the clinician the opportunity to research the toxicant further, if desired.


In summary, though there is some room for improvement, this book has many features that would make it a worthy edition to any UK small animal practice.

Melissa A. Claus, DVM, Dip ACVECC

Melissa is Lecturer at Murdoch University College of Veterinary Medicine, and her special interests include all things related to emergency and critical care, especially transfusion medicine, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, electrolyte abnormalities, and extracorporeal organ support.