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Warm wet weather brings hidden dangers...
31 May 2017
The warm wet weather we have been experiencing has provided the ideal environment for slugs and snails to flourish, and keen gardeners are no doubt very busy just now, sprinkling their Hostas with slug pellets! If you are a pet owner, however, you need to avoid any slug baitproducts containing the toxic chemical, metaldehyde.
Metaldehyde slug bait is usually sold as small blue-green pellets. Unfortunately they seem to be attractive to dogs and slug pellet fatalities have been reported following dogs eating only 250 grams (8 ounces) of bait. Small dogs appear to have higher death rates from the poison than larger dogs. Although some slug pellets contain animal repellent components and are sometimes sold as being ‘pet friendly’, even these can be palatable to greedy dogs.
The effect of the poison after being eaten is rapid, often starting within 30 minutes but sometimes taking up to 3 hours to become apparent. Twitching, tremors and convulsions (seizures or fits) are the main symptoms of metaldehyde poisoning, and these signs can last for 24 hours or more. Liver damage is a secondary effect that can occur a few days later. The slug pellets may turn the dog’s faeces a characteristic blue-green colour. Treatment is advised for ingestion of any quantity of slug pellets, so you must contact your vet straight away if you suspect that your dog might have eaten even a small amount of the bait.
In dogs that have ingested pellets within the last two hours, but that are not yet showing symptoms, the vet may induce vomiting or wash out the stomach. Dogs that already have symptoms of poisoning will require sedating or, in severe cases, a prolonged anaesthetic, sometimes for 24 hours or longer.
It is a good idea to ask your garden centre for a truly pet-friendly way of dealing with slugs and snails (beer traps etc!). It is recommended that you should always read the label on any ‘pet safe’ products and avoid them if they contain metaldehyde.
If you decide to sacrifice your garden to the slugs and snails it is important to remember that they carry parasites like lungworm that can be harmful to dogs. Ironically, one of our vets previously treated a dog for slug bait poisoning with great success, only to find that a year later, after the owners had stopped using the slug bait, their pet developed lungworm!
If your garden is a haven for slugs and snails, please speak to one of our vets about how you can protect your pet from lungworm.
Remember, it’s not just your Hostas you need to be worried about!
See Lungworm - Is your dog at risk? Information Sheet