The ongoing battle against snails and slugs continues, and pet owners will often apply slug baits to their gardens. These preparations often contain metaldehyde and represent the biggest cause of poisoning fatalities in dogs that are reported to the VPIS.

The high fatality rate is due to:

  • the extremely low toxic dose for metaldehyde
  • the fact that owners often ‘clump’ the bait rather than spreading it sparsely, making it easier for a dog to ingest a toxic amount
  • the rapid onset of convulsions and the difficulty of treating and controlling these convulsions

We would recommend treatment for any amount, with gastric lavage being preferred over emesis due to the rapid onset of the convulsions. Thereafter, treatment is aimed at controlling the convulsions: diazepam, propofol, isoflurane, barbiturates and methocarbamol should all be considered.

Metaldehyde is unfortunately not a suitable candidate for intravenous lipid infusion. Intensive supportive care measures should also be used.