With the coming of spring most gardeners will be spreading snail bait to protect newly planted seedlings. The two commonly used preparations produce entirely different effects and it might be helpful to discuss these so that signs of poisoning can be detected as early as possible.
Defender pellets are green and contain Metaldehyde as their active ingredient. This poison acts on the nervous system.
The first sign of poisoning occurs at least an hour after eating the pellets. If a dog has a full stomach the effects can be delayed for hours. It is not uncommon for dogs to appear normal when put to bed, only to develop severe symptoms during the night.
At first the dog might appear anxious and becomes restless. Soon muscle tremors develop which gradually increase in severity until the whole dog is shaking violently. Any sudden noise or movement can induce a convulsion.
It is important to seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible, as any attempt to make the dog vomit using emetics by mouth are unlikely to succeed and even may be dangerous. The dog may not be able to swallow properly and the medicine may find its way into the respiratory tract.
In the early stages of poisoning the veterinarian might administer an emetic by injection if the dog is not in danger of convulsing.
After vomiting the dog is kept sedated until all tremors have disappeared. Most cases that come to a veterinarian have passed the point where it is possible to use an emetic and the first priority is to administer anticonvulsants.
Removal of the poison is attempted when there is no danger of convulsions by passing a stomach tube and washing out the stomach contents. Sedation is administered as soon as nervous symptoms return. If a large amount of poison has already been absorbed it might be necessary to keep the dog in for some days.
Baysol snail bait is bright blue and its active ingredient is an organophosphate which affects the gastrointestinal tract.
The onset of signs of poisoning is quicker than with Defender and symptoms of poisoning occur within 20 minutes of eating the pellets. The dog starts to salivate profusely and then vomit.
It becomes very depressed and suffers severe colic pains as violent muscle spasms affect the bowel. It soon begins to pass watery feces accompanied by much straining. If much poison has been eaten and left untreated, the dog might collapse and die.
Fortunately there is a specific antidote to the effects of Baysol poisoning. Atropine given by injection quickly reverses the effects of the poison on the gastrointestinal tract.
In rare cases the spasm of the small bowel is so intense that a length of bowel telescopes inside another. Vomiting persists and the intestinal accident has to be surgically corrected.
Puppies are far more prone to picking up snail bait and it is important to shut a dog away when distributing bait, otherwise its natural curiosity will tempt it to try this strange substance.
Even older dogs will suddenly start to eat the pellets and it is unwise to leave the baits in piles. It is more difficult for the animal to eat large quantities if the pellets are distributed evenly according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Cats are much more fastidious eaters than dogs and it is rare for an adult cat to eat the poison. Young kittens are more adventurous and do become poisoned from time to time.
If you suspect that your pet is poisoned, consult your veterinarian promptly and remember which product you have been distributing, as one manufacturer has confused matters by producing metaldehyde pellets colored blue.