Dr. Utchen, why is snail bait bad for dogs?
First, realize that there are two main types of snail baits, and one is considered relatively safe for dogs. Look for the active ingredient and use the kind that contains 1% Iron Phosphate. This is relatively safe for dogs, because there is actually very little iron in the compound, and what there is, is poorly digested and absorbed by dogs, so most of it passes through them without incident. That being said, Iron Phosphate can still be toxic dogs if they ingest enough of it: a 40 lb dog would have to consume about 3 lbs of this bait to receive a lethal dose of iron, although vomiting, diarrhea can occur with as little as about 1/10 of that amount.
However, there are other brands of snail bait that contain an active ingredient called Metaldehyde. Metaldehyde causes muscle tremors that progress to convulsions. Dogs can easily die from this poison.
Signs of poisoning begin to quickly after ingestion:
- Pets can exhibit racing heart rates, vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory failure
- Anxious twitching which becomes uncontrollable
- Twitching progresses to seizures
- Seizures can raise body temperature so high that brain damage can occur
Since snail bait is commonly sold in flavored pellets that resemble dog food it tends to attract dogs. Traces of snail bait can be ingested when licked off paws during a grooming session. Each spring when the snails come out, we see numerous dogs at our practice that have ingested Metaldehyde that require emergency treatment, including iv fluids, injections of anti-seizure medication, and a one- or two-day hospital stay. Recovery depends on how much poison was ingested and how quickly therapy was initiated as well as the general health of the pet.
Pet safe alternatives to toxic snail baits include Sluggo Slug & Snail Bait, handpicking, and copper barriers. Keep all potential poisons well out of reach of your pets.