By Olaf Klein
Spring is upon us and with it the gardens get their long-awaited attention. If you use snail and slug bait in your veggie garden, you have to be aware that most of these methaldehyde baits are toxic to mammals. We see mostly dogs that have eaten snail bait. The leading symptoms are twitching, excessive drooling, increased excitement or apprehension and quite often stiffening of the body and lost coordination of movement. In the later stages, the muscle tremors can be quite strong and with it we often see rising body temperatures with seizures.
The prognosis depends on the amount of bait consumed and the stage of intoxication when veterinary intervention is performed. There is no antidote available for slug bait poison. So treatment is focused on minimising the impact of the poison consumed. In the early stages, vomiting can be induced by medication, but this may exacerbate already existing over-excitement. Activated charcoal is given to reduce absorption of poison that is still in the intestine. The muscle tremors and seizures have to be treated with a muscle relaxant and quite often the dogs have to be put into a coma and be left on intravenous infusions for a couple of days. Most practices are not hospitals, so overnight the i/v drips are mainly controlled by setting infusion pumps and human supervision is only there during working hours, which is generally ok, but ideally 24-hour supervision is desirable. This is only available in veterinary hospitals and carries considerable costs. The cases I have seen that survived the first day on the infusion have all recovered, but there is the chance of developing liver disease two or three days after the initial survival. Temporary blindness is also noticed in the literature.
In view of these possible outcomes, I’d like to stress the point that all this is totally avoidable by using non-toxic baits. Ask for them at your garden centre. These baits are more expensive, but well worth it.