I remember it clearly like it was yesterday. The frenzied call came at 7am. A friend’s dog had slipped out for a few hours the day before and found his way back home but woke up that morning with the shakes, uncoordinated movements, profuse salivation and constant panting. Fresh out of a pet first aid course, my heart sank as I knew this was probably snail poisoning.
Way too often we read on social media people reporting their pet being poisoned or sightings of poison laid in the most irresponsible and sometimes malicious ways. It would be all too easy for an innocent child to mistake some forms of these poisons for blue play-dough and land in big trouble. It is in our interest to protect animals but also to protect the wider community against these toxic agents so I’ve decided to put together this blog about it so it might help prevent more tragedies.
#1 IF YOU HAVE A RODENT/SNAIL PROBLEM
Consider other alternatives before resorting to toxic agents. Rodenticides and snail poisons are a public health hazard and should only be used under supervision of pest control companies in the correct baiting devices that help reduce accidental poisoning but this isn’t fool proof either. As the snails or rodents to not die immediately there is still a risk that a pet could ingest the poisoned animal and enough of the toxin to cause toxicity. Slugs and snails are considered a delicacy by some so that’s one way to approach that problem. If you’re not keen on the slimy treat, you can always offer a plate of beer which will often attract them where they will get drunk and fall into a painless coma. As for rodents you can make it unpleasant for them to stay. Remove all sources of food and water, scatter some used cat litter granules, and consider using a live capture mouse/rat trap so you can dispose of the offending vermin more humanely than a slow painful poisoning death. Otherwise let a natural predator take care of them though we hate to think of the tortures they will put them through. The bottom line is that if you do not use poison you cannot accidentally poison anyone or anything. Sellers please educate your buyers.
#2 IF YOU SPOT RODENT/SNAIL POISON
If I had a euro for every time I spotted poison and happened to have a brush and dustpan in my backpack I would have exactly zero euros. It never happens at a convenient time but what you do next can change the outcome immensely. If you are close enough to home it might be feasible to get those utensils and pick it up. I recommend using gloves too and storing it in a sealed glass jar until you can dispose of it responsibly. And on that note it is an incident worth reporting to the police as irresponsible use of toxic agents is a serious public health concern and one cannot exclude that this is done to maliciously try to poison someone’s pet. Moreover, if such poison is spotted in the countryside or near farmland it is also a wider issue as crops can get contaminated and protected wildlife can also become poisoned which is illegal endangerment. In our experience the police will gladly dispatch instructions to the cleansing department to clean up the poison and engage administrative law enforcement if needed.
#3 IF YOU HAVE A PET
Consider this photo.
My advice is DON’T ALLOW YOUR PET TO EAT WHAT DIDN’T COME FROM YOU. I hear you! The pavements in your area are riddled with people’s leftover chicken bones because they take the garbage out too early or don’t seal the bag properly. That complaint belongs to a different blog. If your pet is a 4-legged vacuum-deluxe then consider a cage muzzle on walks and inevitably don’t let them out unsupervised (it is the law after all).
#4 IF THIS ADVICE CAME TOO LATE AND YOUR PET ATE POISON
My advice is STAY CALM! No animal was ever saved by a headless chicken. Give first aid, call the vet, collect a sample of the poison and go to the vet in exactly that order and until you get to the vet monitor your pet to check if they need to get more first aid as with some poisons their condition can change quickly. IMPORTANT: DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING UNLESS TOLD TO DO SO BY YOUR VET.
The first aid you need to give will depend on the poison they ate and the symptoms they are showing. If they are not showing any symptoms there is really nothing to do. When the first symptoms show up depends mostly on the type of poison. Snail poison tends to act fast and is an emergency while rodenticide is much slower and can take a long time to act. Take a sample or a photo to show the vet.
Or like this when it is mixed with cat food
TYPE: Neurotoxin, attacks nervous system, fast acting
SYMPTOMS: Neurological symptoms that may or may not include all or some of these: tremors, seizures, loss of coordination, loss of balance, followed by profuse salivation and persistent panting. As the tremors/seizures continue the body will start to overheat and that why the panting and heavy salivation follows. Green or greenish stool or rectal smear is also common once these symptoms are present as the poison will have been through the system.
FIRST AID ADVICE: Keep animal calm. Lie them down if possible on a towel or the back shelf of a car or some other item you may use as a stretcher for transport. Use water or a mixture of water and alcohol (surgical spirit) and rube this into the pet’s fur to keep their temperature down. If you can keep the temperature down you can save the animal’s life and also prevent brain damage caused by the overheating. If you have charcoal pills they could help absorb some of the toxin but it is not worth stopping at the pharmacy for them. Call the vet to let them know you are on the way with a likely poisoning with snail poison and update them on the status of the pet. This means they will be ready for you and can shave valuable minutes of how long it takes for your pet to get treated.
AT THE VETS: They will likely flush the pet’s digestive system to remove most of what’s left, put them on an IV overnight. This may require overnight hospitalisation. Hopefully you caught it soon enough that you may have your pet back good as new.
TYPE: Anticoagulants, blood thinning agent, slow acting
SYMPTOMS: Symptoms can take up to 3 days to show so don’t just assume your pet is fine. As this poison thins the blood symptoms are mild at first. The animal may bleed a little from the gums or have nosebleeds. However, bleeding can occur internally into the abdomen or in the lungs. Checking your pet’s capillary reflex you will know how they are doing. If the pink colour does not return to their gums after 2-5 seconds after relieving pressure, or their gums are pale, the animal may be in shock due to blood loss.
FIRST AID: If your pet is showing signs of blood loss or shock, cover with a blanket, ideally a silver blanket, to fight against heat loss. If you have charcoal pills they can help soak up some of the toxin. Call the vet and follow their advice. If your pet has only just ingested the poison it is unlikely to be an out of my way, sirens-on full blast emergency, but always call the vet ASAP.
AT THE VETS: Your vet will likely administer or prescribe vitamin K either my injection or oral supplements. Depending on your pet’s condition they might need further support or hospitalisation. If caught early pets often make a full recovery.
If you are wondering about the dog I started the blog with, he lived and made a full recovery. My car never quite smelled the same after that but he was back home with his owner the following evening with only a shaved patch on his leg to show for it, For a few hours there it was touch and go but being prepared and staying calm made a whole lot of difference.