Spring is finally here and it is time to get into the garden for many of us. Unfortunately spring is also a common time of year for snail bait toxicity in pets as many gardeners try to protect their delicate little seedlings. Snail bait poisonings are relatively common as baits are often very palatable for dogs and cats. A small dose of 1 teaspoon per 5 kg body weight can be toxic so prevention is always best.
After first ingesting snail baits symptoms may start to appear immediately or up to 3 hours later. Symptoms may start as vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle tremors and salivation and can progress to seizures.
If you suspect your pet may have eaten snail bait you need to get them to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible. Make sure you take the snail bait packet with you to the vet so they know which toxin your pet has ingested. There is no antidote for most snail baits but if recently ingested your vet may be able to make your pet vomit to bring up any undigested bait.
If your pet is already seizuring they will need to be sedated or anaesthetised to control the symptoms. Prevention of further absorption may be aided by stomach pumps and administration of activated charcoal. Prognosis depends on the amount ingested and how soon you can get to the vet.
The easiest way to prevent snail bait toxicity is to not use it! Also throw out any old baits that may be sitting in the garden shed as dogs will help themselves. Some non-toxic ways to control slugs and snails include hand picking them and stomping on them or dropping them in a bucket of saltwater. You can also use a shallow dish of beer sunk in the ground that will drown snails but will need to refill it every few days. Scratchy things like crushed egg shells, wood ash and sandpaper will deter slugs and snails by working as a barrier. Perhaps consider getting a few ducks or chooks that love to eat snails.
There are some iron based snail baits marketed as being pet safe. If you do have to use baits these ones have a higher margin of safety, though these too will be toxic in high doses. If you use iron based snail baits continue to take precautions to prevent access by your pets.