Slug Bait Poisoning
Rachel Griffith, BVSc
We far too commonly see cases of “slug-bait” or metaldehyde poisoning. A lot of people are not aware what this toxin will do to their pet and unfortunately wait until symptoms appear before contacting the veterinarian. It is of upmost importance that we treat metaldehyde poisonings as soon as possible in order to achieve the best outcome for the patient (unfortunately not all patients will survive this, despite aggressive therapy).
Symptoms of metaldehyde poisoning commence with your pet looking restless, they may also start drooling. The animal will then develop muscle tremors which will proceed to uncontrolled seizures. If left untreated these seizures will result in death.
If you know that your pet has ingested “slug-bait” of any kind – contact your vet immediately.
Preventing this toxicity is far better than trying to treat the severe symptoms associated with it. If you know your pet has eaten “slug-bait” call your vet as soon as possible. If they have not started displaying signs of toxicity and it is still within several hours of ingestion then your pet will be made to vomit which will rid the body of as much bait as possible. Metaldehyde is absorbed very quickly so even with ridding the stomach by vomiting, symptoms may develop and the vet will likely want to keep an eye on your pet over the next several hours. If symptoms have already started appearing, the vet will treat your pet with all or some of the following: emergency stabilization, active cooling, intravenous fluid therapy, appropriate anti-seizure medication, intravenous fluid therapy, and decontamination which may include stomach lavage and/or repeated enemas. The aim of treatment is to control the seizures and treat the life threatening effects of these whilst trying to rid the body of any remaining toxin.
There are alternatives to using “slug-bait” on your property and we recommend if you have pets or children that you seek these out. Egg shells, coffee grounds, copper tape and iron based baits have all been suggested as natural alternatives. It should be noted that whilst these are far safer than metaldehyde, ingestion of these substances can still result in complications so care should be taken to avoid accidental ingestion.
Please spread the word about how dreadful metaldehyde toxicity is, it is unlike most other common toxins found around the household in that death can occur within hours of ingesting the poison. Time is of the essence in treating a patient that has ingested “slug-bait”.