A New Plymouth vet and dog owner are urging gardeners to find alternatives to snail bait after the poisoning of a miniature fox terrier.
Mike King's five-month-old pet dog, Poppy, came close to death after eating the blue and green pellets. She required intensive procedures costing several hundreds of dollars, and for 24-hours it was touch and go.
Mr King said he sprinkled the slug and snail deterrent around newly planted vegies one weekend. The following day Poppy was subdued and by Tuesday November 6 she was experiencing violent fits.
By the time she reached St Aubyn Veterinary Clinic on Tuesday afternoon she could barely stand.
Vet Wesley Bell described her convulsions as extreme muscle spasms. "I knew that at that time we were in for trouble because I have seen dogs die of this stuff."
He says gardeners should use a non-toxin brand called Quash or find alternatives such as salt.
Veterinary staff attempted to give Poppy an emetic to make her vomit but that was unsuccessful because she was shaking so much. Then a tube was inserted into her mouth and her stomach washed out. That procedure was followed by more to combat possible effects of the poison being absorbed into her system.
"We kept her on a drip and kept her anaesthetised for about 24 hours. It meant a lot of intensive care. After about 24 hours she took a turn for the better, but up until then we were pretty worried.
"An awful lot of blue and green stuff came out the other end."
Mr Bell says the work on Poppy will cost many hundreds of dollars.
The toxin in the slug and snail bait is called metaldehyde, and in his 40 years of practice, Mr Bell has seen scores of dogs suffer.
"I have lost very few, but some have died. On one occasion I got called out at five in the morning because this dog, a big german shepherd, was bashing the inside of a garden shed.
"They are conscious but they have no control. It's alarming to see."
Some dogs had been known to eat a whole packet, particularly if they slept in a garden shed or garage where garden supplies were stored.
Cats were less suspectible as they were more particular about food, but poultry and birds were also at risk.
Mr King said he had used the bait before but that was before he got Poppy. "I thought if she eats it, she'll get sick but would learn not to touch it again."
The packet bought by Mr King says an embittering agent on the pellets should deter most dogs and cats from eating them. It goes on to say some pets are inquisitive and may still try them. But Mr Bell is sceptical, saying it's much better if people find other ways to rid gardens of slugs and snails.
- OTHER OPTIONS A call to garden centres revealed other slug and snail control options: Slug traps in which beer is added. The pests drown in the trap and one trap encompasses an area of plants. Traps can be bought or made. Sprinkle something rough like coarse sand, eggshells or seaweed around the base of a plant. Less effective in wet weather. Salt does the trick say some gardeners because it is granulated. Try a garlic and pyretheum spray, which is an organic insecticide. The smell of garlic turns them off. Neem granules might to the trick. Plants absord the neem and pesky insects like snails are detered because they dislike the taste. Let your finger do the work – head out at night with a torch and squash snails and slugs.
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