By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record April 05, 2008

Snail bait or metaldehyde toxicity is a very common dog poisoning.

This pesticide often comes in a pellet form that resembles a dog treat, and sometimes flavor enhancers added to attract snails entice the canine palate as well. The powder or liquid form can easily be tracked onto paws and ingested during grooming.

Metaldehyde is very toxic, and symptoms can occur within one to four hours. Twitching can transition to seizures and, in the worst cases, lead to death.

There also are secondary problems. The tremors or convulsions are really muscle contractions. When a lot of these occur, they raise the body temperature from the normal 99-102 degrees to 110 degrees or higher. This can lead to brain damage if unchecked.

Some additional symptoms include wobbling, vomiting, diarrhea, rigidity, increased heart rate and decreased respiratory rate. Metaldehyde also can cause significant liver damage.

A diagnosis of metaldehyde toxicity can be confirmed by testing the urine or stomach contents; the toxin also can be present in the plasma and tissues. However, because this is one of the most common causes of muscle tremors, the poison is usually suspected based on the symptoms alone.

Frequently, a muscle relaxant is given immediately to stop the muscle tremors. Vomiting can be induced if it is within one hour of consumption. IVs often will be given for supportive care. Activated charcoal also may be given to prevent further drug absorption.

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to avoid this poison for your pet; your neighbors could be using this or other chemicals in their gardens. There are pet-friendly alternative pest control options available.

Awareness is also very important. If you suspect that your dog has consumed any amount of snail bait, take him or her to your veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately. This toxicity has serious consequences for your pet.

Julie Damron is a veterinarian at Sierra Veterinary Clinic in Stockton. Contact her at [email protected]