Tips From the Pet Poison HELPLINE — Metaldehyde

We all want to keep our furbabies safe and healthy. Dogster Kristy Sweetland, furmom to Seva and Finlay, will be providing weekly tips and warnings...

Joy  |  May 9th 2007


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We all want to keep our furbabies safe and healthy. Dogster Kristy Sweetland, furmom to Seva and Finlay, will be providing weekly tips and warnings from the Pet Poison HELPLINE to make that job easier. As a veterinary technician with the Pet Poison HELPLINE she’s going to help us all stay more on top of what’s dangerous for our furry family members.

Metaldehyde

Slugs, snails and grubs can be aggravating, cant they? It seems that their ability to wreak havoc on a garden or lawn is second to no other summer creature. A healthy slug can consume vegetation at an alarming rate, and grubs can kill an entire lawn. So whats to be done about these invaders? A few organic weapons are available as well as many non-organic products labeled for use as molluscacides or insecticides. What you use is your decision, but I will tell you about a less than ideal choice if you have dogs or cats nosing around your garden beds.

Metaldehyde is a common active ingredient found in many slug and snail bait products currently on the market. A dog or cat exposed to any product containing this ingredient is likely to have a disastrous outcome. Very small quantities consumed by your cat or dog are capable of serious poisoning. A 20 lb dog would need to ingest less than teaspoon of the most concentrated product on the market before life threatening consequences would follow.

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Darkly coined the Shake & Bake” toxicity, metaldehyde attacks the central nervous system. When ingested in toxic quantities, signs are usually obvious within three hours. Beginning with vomiting and diarrhea and quickly progressing to incoordination and muscle tremors, this toxicity rapidly catapults to a near constant state of seizures and astronomically high body temperatures. It is not uncommon for a dog or cat suffering from metaldehyde toxicity to present to the veterinary hospital with a body temperature of 107 or 108 degrees Fahrenheit. To say that this is incompatible with life is over stating the obvious.

As with many toxic ingestions, time is critical. If you suspect your pet has ingested metaldehyde, call your veterinarian or a poison control center immediately. If you are only just realizing your pet has ingested this due to the manifestation of toxic signs, head immediately to your nearest veterinary hospital. The prognosis is good with rapid action and excellent medical care. Without medical care, this particular toxicity is fatal.

Alternatives to metaldehyde are available. I recommend you do a little research into organic options which can be very helpful. If you feel your invasion requires advanced weaponry, I suggest molluscacides or insecticides containing the active ingredient imidacloprid. Imidacloprid, found in many commercial products, is generally safe and even if ingested in significant quantities, is likely to result in little serious harm. Read those labels! If you have pets and metaldehyde is listed as an active ingredient, it is probably best to leave it on the shelf. Winning the war against parasites is never worth it if your loved one turns out to be a casualty.