A fair percentage of the emergency visits to our small animal clinic involve accidental poisonings with pesticides. These can frequently result in death and certainly cause distress to the animal and significant bills for the client! The two most common substances involved in accidental poisonings are rat bait and slug/snail bait.
Dogs that have eaten rat bait lose the ability to clot their blood and subsequently bleed into their lungs, abdomen, joints and/or muscles. The poison works by reducing the liver's ability to recycle Vitamin K - which is essential to the process of blood clotting. It takes two to five days after ingestion for any symptoms to occur.
There is a long list of symptoms that could indicate poisoning, the most common being very pale pink or white coloured gums, lethargy, bleeding from the nose, difficulty breathing, with a soft cough and/or lameness.
If you suspect, or see your pet eat any bait, it is essential that we induce vomiting as soon as possible, before the poison is absorbed. The antidote to rat bait is logically Vitamin K - this treatment is effective but can be expensive and needs to be continued for two to six weeks. Dogs that have been poisoned and have bled extensively may require an emergency blood transfusion.
Slug and snail bait
The most common and lower-priced brands of slug bait contain metaldehyde in a blue/green pellet which also contains soya bean meal, apple, rice or oats. These contain a "bittering" agent but still remain attractive to cats and dogs.
Signs of poisoning occur within minutes of ingestion. These can include vomiting, diarrhoea, an increased respiratory rate and drooling. As the signs progress there are muscle tremors, "frenzied" behaviour, hyperthermia (increased body temperature), loss of coordination, continuous seizures and death. There is no antidote to metaldehyde so we can only treat the symptoms and support the patient while they are affected. The sooner we start treatment, the more success we achieve - however, some animals will still die, even with intensive care.
How can you prevent poisoning?
- Store your baits carefully
- Use bait sparingly and spread it out thinly
- Always put it away after you have finished using it, out of reach of dogs and cats
- Dog-proof your vegetable plot
- Use bait stations that are dog-proof
- Check bait frequently for any signs of disturbance from your dogs
- Burn or bury dead rodents as dogs can be poisoned by eating them
- Consider using "Quash", a different type of slug and snail bait that is less toxic than others. But be aware it canstill cause serious symptoms if enough is eaten.
While immediate treatment is ideal, please do not hesitate to contact us at Totally Vets if you suspect your pet has had access to a poison at any time. The sooner treatment is instigated, the better the chance of a positive outcome.