How Can I Decontaminate my Yard After Applying Snail Bait?

I loathe snail bait. Metaldehyde is the active ingredient in the most commonly used forms of snail bait. Metaldehyde is horribly toxic to dogs. It...
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I loathe snail bait. Metaldehyde is the active ingredient in the most commonly used forms of snail bait. Metaldehyde is horribly toxic to dogs. It causes tremors, seizures, coma, and death.

Granules containing metaldehyde typically are laced with bran or honey or other tasty items in order to attract snails. Sadly, these items also attract dogs. Dogs will hoover snail bait off the ground, and break into locked cabinets to get at the stuff.

Canine warnings on snail bait packages usually are small and buried in the middle of a bunch of fine print. Garden store employees often claim that snail bait is dog safe — don’t ask me where they come up with that hogwash!

Not long ago I treated a dog for ingestion of metaldehyde. He made a complete recovery, but the owners had a very good question for me. They now knew that snail bait was deadly for dogs. Lesson learned — they would never be using the stuff again. But what were they supposed to do about the yard in which the bait had been applied?

I was somewhat stymied. I answered that all of the affected soil could be removed, or that the yard could be soaked repeatedly with massive quantities of water. But I wondered: is there a simpler answer?

I consulted with a toxicologist on Veterinary Information Network (VIN). It turns out that there isn’t a magic bullet for removing snail bait granules. The fastest method is to remove all of the contaminated soil. If that is not an option, the bait can be tilled into the soil, and the soil repeatedly watered. The toxicologist estimated that with this method the yard should be safe for dogs in about 40 days. That’s right: 40 days.

Snail bait is horrible stuff. Don’t use it.

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