Wednesday, 20th June 2012
The dangers of slug pellets
It is not unusual for vets to be confronted with a pet that has eaten slug pellets which have been put down in gardens. Slug pellets are widely available and contain a chemical called metaldehyde, to which dogs and cats are highly susceptible to poisoning. Unfortunately for pet owners, dogs and cats are attracted by the taste of slug pellets and will eat them accidentally, and even in small amounts, the toxic effects can be very serious and even fatal. The lethal dose in dogs is equivalent to two teaspoons to a 10 kg dog. Even cats, which are often very particular about what food they will eat, find this poison very palatable.
Signs of poisoning with slug pellets will develop quickly after the poison is eaten. They are severe and very distressing for the affected animal. The signs are caused by the effects of the chemicals on the central nervous system, i.e. the brain and spinal cord. They can include involuntary and uncontrollable twitching, severe muscle tremors extending to spasms, seizures and stiffness. The animal can be very nervous and excitable, with obvious dribbling from the mouth and difficulty with breathing, e.g. panting, rapid heart beat. Vomiting and diarrhoea are possible symptoms as the poison can irritate the digestive system. Cats can demonstrate particularly bizarre and unusually aggressive behaviour after consuming this poison.
If you suspect that your pet has eaten slug pellets or is staggering, agitated or showing any of the signs described above, take him/her to the vet as soon as possible to allow the best chance of successful treatment and recovery. Poisoned animals can die within a couple of hours of taking in the poison due to kidney, liver or respiratory failure. Ring ahead to the veterinary clinic to explain the symptoms and let them know that your pet may require urgent emergency treatment. As with all suspected poisoning cases, bring any packaging or containers along with you. Although there is no specific antidote to metaldehyde, this type of poisoning can often be successfully treated by vets. It involves hospitalisation to allow intensive treatment to relieve the symptoms and prevent serious damage to the internal organs. This may take a number of days. The two variables in these cases are the amount of poison ingested and the time lapse before veterinary treatment is sought.
Exercise precautions when storing or using slug pellets, and all garden chemicals, to avoid potentially fatal toxicity.
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