Poison – a close call

We had a scare yesterday afternoon – Shadow had managed to get hold of an old bag of snail-bait in the garage but was more interested in tearing the plastic bag apart than actually eating the snail-bait.

However, he did ingest some of the snail bait. Now I wasn’t initially too concerned since we’ve always been taught that invertebrate poisons are generally not deadly to vertebrates – however, it seemed to have affected him.

About 4 hours later he started shaking, breathing very heavily and convulsing. This all just before we were about to go through to Stellenbosch to visit family for the day. I was still on my way home from dropping off the kids at my folks and Dina called to say that he was having, what looked like, seizures, and all his muscles were constricting – he was also salivating quite badly. She called the veterinary ER who said we should bring him in immediately since snail-bait is very deadly to pets and he might die from it if not caught and treated early enough as it attacks their nervous system.

I raced back home, picked up Shadow and Dina and raced off to the ER. Unfortunately our vet, literally a few blocks from our house, is not open on a Saturday afternoon so we had to race to the nearest one which is, under normal circumstances a 20 minute drive. I raced as quickly as I could, driving in the emergency lane to get to the ER as quickly as possible.

He was immediately taken in and there was a strong possibility that if they could not get the seizures under control quickly enough that they’d need to put him in a medically induced coma until they could flush out the toxins from his system. Unfortunately it had been too long since he’d ingested the poison to induce vomiting, which is the usual course of action immediately after ingestion.

We didn’t have much choice but to leave him there for the night. Later that evening I gave the ER a call and waited for a call back from the doctor on the prognosis, who at the time, was busy with two other consultations. He called back about half an hour later with some great news. He was so amazed at Shadow’s reaction and improvement to the medication to flush the toxins from his body. He said we should call again in the morning and find out whether Shadow’s situation had improved or not. The worst-case scenario would be that he’d need to be put down since the cost of keeping him in a medically induced coma is highly expensive and not always successful. Thankfully, Shadow seems to have some great genes in him and a very good immune system to be able to bounce back so quickly. The next morning, before we could call, the doctor called back to say he was amazed at Shadow’s recovery and we could come and collect him this morning still.

When I went to pick Shadow up the doctor told me again how amazed he was at his recovery and that he’d never had a case of poisoning before that the animal went back home the next morning. Shadow’s due for another course of inoculations next month and they also want to take a blood sample again at that time to do liver function tests to ensure there’s no damage to his liver from the poison and that he’s recovered nicely.

He’s definitely doing much better as he was jumping up and down playing with Charlie as soon as we got home – close call.

I had to vacuum the front garden to suck up all the snail-bait that was left in the grass to ensure that he didn’t accidentally eat more of it while playing outside. Can you picture it? Having to vacuum the garden?

*whew* that could have gone horribly wrong. So what do we take away from this experience – treat all poisons as deadly, no matter whether it’s intended for vertebrates or invertebrates.