Metaldehyde Poisoning in Dogs
Metaldehyde — an ingredient of slug and snail baits, and sometimes solid fuel for camp stoves — is poisonous in dogs, primarily affecting their nervous system. This type of poisoning is often seen in coastal and low-lying areas, where use of slug and snail bait is customary. And even though metaldehyde poisoning can be seen in both dogs and cats, it is more common in dogs.
Symptoms and Types
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling (ptyalism)
- Uncoordinated walk
- Muscle tremors
- Increased sensitivity to light, touch, and/or sounds
- Increased respiration (hyperpnea)
You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to your veterinarian. The questions may specifically pertain to exposure to slug and snail baits or other sources of metaldehyde. He or she will then conduct a complete physical examination, as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count (CBC) — the results of which may be varied. A definitive diagnosis is typically made by verifying the presence of metaldehyde in bodily fluids (e.g., vomitus, stomach contents, and urine).
A dog suffering from metaldehyde poisoning is the type of emergency which will need immediate hospitalization and treatment. Unfortunately, there is no antidote available. The only course of treatment is to eliminate the metaldehyde from the dog’s body. Your veterinarian will pump the dog’s stomach and, if it is not convulsing, give activated charcoal to absorb the poison in the stomach and intestines. The dog will be restrained to prevent injury. Fluids are also often necessary to rehydrate the dog.
Living and Management
It is important to not feed a dog that is convulsing or vomiting. Overall prognosis ultimately depends on the amount of metaldehyde ingested, time to treatment, and quality of care provided. If left untreated, however, a dog may die within few hours of ingestion. Watch your dog for vomiting and other symptoms, and call your veterinarian immediately.
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