Annie, a nine-year-old Yorkshire terrier dog, was rushed in to Bothell Pet Hospital after her owner Kaira Kirby came home to find that Annie had been vomiting and likely seizing. Upon arrival, Annie was recumbent, unresponsive with muscle twitching, an extremely low heart rate, and a very low body temperature. With such a sudden onset of dramatic illness, Dr. Kim Hsu suspected toxin exposure. Dr. Hsu immediately started supportive care, including IV fluids, oxygen and warming.
Without being able to identify exactly what she had gotten into, Annie’s prognosis was unknown. However, slug bait was suspected given that Annie and her housemate were outside earlier and had access to the neighbor’s yard. A number of toxins exist that can cause neurologic signs in animals, and some of these can be fatal once signs develop.
Fortunately, Annie did respond to initial treatments and within hours showed improvement. She was transferred to an overnight hospital and by the time she was discharged the next morning, Annie was not exhibiting any neurologic signs.
A Speedy Response is Critical
Although ingestion of snail or slug bait was never confirmed in Annie’s case, it is one of the sources of metaldehyde, a neurotoxin that is commonly used especially at this time of year in the Northwest. Fortunately, following metaldehyde ingestion, most patients recover with effective management within 24 hours. However, like many toxins, it is dose-dependent, meaning signs are more severe depending on how much an animal ingests relative to its size. For Annie, a four-pound Yorkie, it would not take much of a toxin for it to be fatal. Additionally, with any suspected toxin exposure, the faster an animal gets treated, the better the prognosis and chances of full recovery.
If toxin ingestion or exposure is ever suspected in your dog, it is important to act immediately. A wait-and-see approach is never recommended. Some toxins do not cause immediate signs of illness, but can have long-term or even fatal effects once the animal starts to show signs. If possible, bring in the packaging or labels from the suspected substance so specific antidotes can be administered. Lastly, in case of an after hour emergency, it is always helpful to know where the nearest 24-hour emergency clinic is located. Click here for location information on emergency veterinary hospitals in the Greater Seattle Area.