Spring dangers

Cocker Spaniel sitting on a boat
After the long winter months of mostly staying indoors, many of us like to clean our homes and get back outside. Although these activities can be good for both our physical and mental well-being, they also increase the risk of your dog coming into contact with a number of springtime dangers, such as lungworm, adder bites, ticks and certain poisonous spring flowers and bulbs.


These are the UK's only native poisonous snakes and are found in a wide range of habitats. Adders hibernate over winter and emerge in spring; this is the time when the likelihood of being bitten is highest. These snakes often bask in the sun and inquisitive dogs that stumble upon them are most often bitten around the face, muzzle and front paws.

How to tell if your dog has been bitten by an adder

Signs that your dog has been bitten may appear quickly and can include:

  • Small puncture wounds
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Pain
  • Lameness
  • Dribbling
  • Being sick
  • Increased temperature
  • Bleeding
  • Changes to the heart beat, blood pressure and breathing rate

What to do if your dog is bitten by an adder?

Dogs that are bitten should be taken to a vet as soon as possible. It’s important that until you see the vet, the bite should be left alone. No tourniquets should be applied and you should not attempt to suck out the poison, as this may cause further complications.

If you see an adder in your garden, or when out for a walk, leave it alone. Adders are a protected species and it is illegal to harm or kill them.


Wet spring months usually mean you'll see a fair few slugs and snails around and they all have the potential to carry the dangerous lungworm parasite. When your dog rummages through the undergrowth, drinks from puddles, eats grass, or generally sniffs around outside, they can end up eating or licking slugs, snails or their slime trails, increasing the risk of becoming infected by lungworm.

What are the signs of a lungworm infection?

Signs that your dog may be infected by lungworm include:

  • Coughing
  • Breathing problems
  • Tiredness
  • Taking a long time for cuts to clot
  • Changes in behaviour

If you’re concerned your dog has been infected speak to your vet immediately.

Find out more about lungworm.


Ticks can carry dangerous infectious diseases that can be passed on to both you and your dog.

Always check your dog for ticks after going for walks in the countryside. Thoroughly run your hand over your dog’s body checking for lumps or bumps (don’t forget to check inside their ears).

Ticks should be removed quickly and carefully, but if you’re unsure how to do this then you should always ask your vet for advice.

Never try to burn the ticks off or smother them in lotions or petroleum jelly, as this can increase the risk of being infected by the diseases ticks carry.

Find out more about ticks.

Spring cleaning

Cleaning products themselves are likely to taste unpleasant and so may not be particularly attractive to dogs. Brightly coloured packaging or interestingly shaped bottles on the other hand may appear interesting to them, or seem like an excellent toy to play with. Make sure that any cleaning products cannot be accessed by your dog and that dogs are kept away from areas that are being cleaned, or have recently been cleaned.

Tips to help keep your dog safe:

  • If you leave bleach down a toilet, remember to put the lid down and close the bathroom door so that your dog can not get in
  • Oven cleaners and drain cleaners can be especially harmful. Keep your dog out of the room when using these products
  • If your dog consumes any cleaning products do not try to make them sick. Their vomit may be frothy and foamy and could get into their lungs

Find out more about the dangers of cleaning products.

Spring flowers

There are many different plants commonly found in gardens around the country that could make your dog ill. Some of these are highly poisonous, while others may only cause a mild tummy upset. Incidents of poisoning from spring bulbs are most likely to occur from dogs eating the bulbs in autumn when they are planted, or in spring when they begin to flower.
Effects from poisoning can include vomiting, stomach upset and dribbling, but can escalate to dogs appearing sleepy, wobbly on their legs, or collapsing. In more serious cases, fits and changes to heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure may occur. Dogs can also become unwell if the flowers are eaten, or if water from a vase containing daffodils is drunk.
The toxins found in this plant cause irritation to the mouth and gastrointestinal tract and only usually result in drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea. Serious cases are rare, but effects could include heart problems and breathing difficulties.
Spring crocus
These flower in spring and are said to be of low toxicity and may only cause a mild stomach upset if eaten. These bulbs are not to be confused with autumn crocus, which flower in autumn and can cause severe stomach upset, kidney and liver problems and bone marrow depression.


The type and toxicity of chemicals used to kill plants vary dramatically. Most cases of poisoning occur from dogs that brush up against, chew or lick recently treated plants, or from dogs playing with or drinking from containers.

Clinical effects vary dramatically depending on the type of herbicide, but can include vomiting, dehydration, blood in the stools or in the vomit, ulcers in the mouth, breathing problems, heart problems, kidney and liver failure.

Slug bait

These substances are most often found in the form of pellets and are very attractive to dogs. There are a number of different types of slug bait which vary in toxicity, some of which are said to be relatively safe to mammals. Some slug baits contain a substance called metaldehyde that is highly toxic to dogs. This chemical can quickly cause dogs to develop tremor, twitching and fits, which can go on for a number of days. If using slug pellets, make sure they are scattered around the area you wish to treat, rather than left in piles where they are more easily eaten by your dog.

Dogs in hot cars

Dogs should never be left in the car unattended, even on a mildly warm day. Dogs can die this way, even if the car has been left in the shade and car windows are open. If you are travelling in the car with your dog for a long period of time, make sure you take the necessary precautions, such as making plenty of stops, having lots of water and an appropriate shady space for your dog. 

Find out more about the dangers of hot cars.

How to use this information

The information is intended to be used to prevent poisoning by raising awareness of certain poisons, rather than as a document to be used in an emergency. If you think that your dog has been poisoned, or has come into contact with potentially poisonous substances, contact your local veterinary practice immediately.

Think your dog may be affected?

If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately!

We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information.

Find a vet near you

If you're looking for a vet practice near you, why not visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Find a vet page.

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