Q: Snails have invaded my garden and I want to kill them with snail and slug poison, but my dogs wander through the garden. Is snail poison safe for them?
A: Most snail and slug baits contain metaldehyde (pronounced “met AL de hyde”), which is highly toxic to pets and wildlife. Bait pellets and powders are flavored with molasses and bran to attract snails and slugs; unfortunately, dogs’ sensitive noses also detect the bait.
Even a tiny amount of metaldehyde bait is enough to cause significant toxicity – including death. A dog that licks liquid metaldehyde off his paws also can be poisoned.
Signs of toxicity begin within minutes to hours after ingestion. They include drooling, twitching, seizures, rigidity and loss of coordination. Vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate and breathing difficulties may occur. If the dog survives, liver failure can develop two or three days after metaldehyde exposure.
Safer alternatives include iron phosphate snail and slug baits and beer traps, which you can make using directions you’ll find on the Internet. Another option is to call your cooperative extension service for integrated pest management methods that will eradicate all your garden pests but be safe for pets and the environment.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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