Spring is upon us, and many of us will be looking forward to the joys of better weather and getting stuck into our gardens. Unfortunately this means exposing our pets to a myriad of dangers, from fertiliser and compost, to slug baits and toxic plants. Are you aware of the dangers your garden poses to pets?
One of the most common dangers at this time of year is slug & snail bait toxicity. Dogs especially like to eat it, either straight out of the box, or from the garden. Most contain metaldehyde that affects the central nervous system.
Fertilisers, including blood & bone can cause gastrointestinal upsets to serious neurological toxicity, depending on the ingredients.
Compost is especially dangerous as the decomposing organic matter can contain fungi which produce neurotoxins called tremorgenic mycotoxins. These toxins can be present in rubbish or other sources of mouldy food – such as old bread. Fallen walnuts are another common cause of poisoning.
There are also many toxic plants, including Brunfelsia (Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow) which is highly toxic to dogs.
All of these produce neurological signs and are usually progressive: anxious behaviour, mild twitching, uncoordinated walk, salivating or drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, tremors, seizures and hyperthermia. Initial signs of poisoning occur in as little as half an hour after ingestion. Death can occur within a couple of hours. Unfortunately, many of these toxins are ingested without the owner’s knowledge. If you know or suspect your pet has eaten any of these substances, bring them into the clinic immediately.
There are no antidotes. Treatment is aimed at managing the clinical signs and getting rid of as much of the toxin as possible through making your pet vomit, gastric lavage (”stomach pump”), and enemas; supportive care with IV fluids, medications or anaesthesia to control the tremors or seizures; cooling the body; and charcoal to help absorb any toxin that remains. Signs may continue for over 24 hours and your pet will have to be hospitalised until all effects of the toxins have stopped. Some animals do not survive.
As with all emergencies, the sooner they get to the vet the better the chance of a positive outcome.