All snail baits are toxic to pets, even the so-called ‘pet-safe’ ones. Some brands will claim to have a ‘pet taste deterrent’, but what exactly will deter a species that occasionally eats faeces?
When I was working in emergency practice, I saw far too many cases of snail bait poisoning, most from getting into the pellets around the veggie garden, though a few dogs were silly enough to break into the box in the garage and eat the whole thing.
Snail bait is usually a hazard of spring, and all of them are toxic to pets. They do kill by different mechanisms and cause different clinical signs. Broadly speaking there are three kinds of snail bait;
- Metaldehyde (eg Defender, BlitzEm) is typically green in colour and poisonings are very common. It causes restlessness and muscle tremors progressing to seizures, coma and death. If the patient is treated and survives these seizures, liver failure can occur a few days later. It can take effect in as little as 20 minutes from being eaten.
- Methiocarb (eg Baysol) is typically blue in colour and also causes rapid seizures progressing to coma and death.
- Iron EDTA (eg Multiguard) is often orange or brown in colour and unfortunately often labelled as ‘pet safe’. While it doesn’t cause rapid onset seizures, instead it causes direct intestinal injury, followed by oxidative damage to the liver, heart and brain. To begin with dogs may vomit or have diarrhoea, then they often appear to recover for a day. They they begin to go downhill rapidly with further vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, clotting disorders, liver failure and sometimes cardiovascular collapse. Even if they survive all of this, they may have ongoing gastrointestinal problems afterwards. So you see, not exactly ‘pet safe’.
The best way to protect your pet is to not have any snail bait on your property at all. If your pet gains access to metaldehyde or methiocarb snail baits when you are not at home, there is a possibility they may be dead by the time you return.
If poisoning does occur, it is important to get to a vet as soon as possible, and your closest emergency clinic may be the best option. It is never advisable to wait until the morning if we are closed, and if you suspect your pet may have eaten snail bait, but are unsure, it is best to see a vet before symptoms develop rather than to ‘wait and see’. If this occurs after hours, there are several 24 hours emergency vets near us, listed on the right of our web page.
If you do have a large snail problem, constructing a beer trap is much safer and still very effective against snails. Even if your dog or cat manages to get one lick of beer before toppling the trap, it is far less toxic than using snail pellets, with the added benefit of being organic. You can make one yourself from a softdrink bottle with a pair of scissors.
Remember no snail pellets are safe. Prevention and avoiding these products altogether if you have pets is the key to keeping them safe because they can cause death so rapidly.
Cats are less likely to eat snail pellets, but some cats are known to be repeat offenders when it come to snail bait poisoning. The symptoms are the same. Even if you only have cats, please reconsider the use of any snail pellets in your garden.
If you think any of your pets may have eaten snail bait, please contact us immediately on 97987274 or your closest emergency vet.
written by Dr Mary Parker.