A leading exterminator and a number of concerned citizens have called for the banning of snail poison in Malta after a number of incidents where family pets were targeted with the pellets.
“Mollusc poison should be banned as it is being used in Malta as a targeted pet killing machine,” Arnold Sciberras told Lovin Malta.
“Snail bait represents a major risk for dogs and cats and is a more common source of poisoning than you may expect, and can be in pellet, liquid, or powder,” he continued.
At least eight cases of animals other than slugs being poisoned have been recorded by Sciberras alone.
“We’ve compiled several reports are indicating that snail/slug (mollusc poison) is being used to poison pets and other wildlife (such as lizards, skinks and hedgehogs) in order to avoid defecation of said animals in front of the culprits’ establishments,” Sciberras continued.
Cases of people “with good intentions” placing the poison in the wrong environment and leading to the death of certain animals have also been recorded.
Sciberras pointed out that rodenticides, while still dangerous to other animals, emit an odour that repulses animals other than rodents.
Snail poison, on the other hand, often has brown sugar or molasses added to attract the slugs… however, that also makes it highly attractive to other animals.
Snail poison typically includes metaldehyde, an ingredient in camping stove fuel, which converts to acetaldehyde after being ingested by an animal. Even a small amount of this can be fatal to cats and dogs.
According to Dr Catherine Portelli, Director of Animal Kingdom Clinic, acetaldehyde is toxic to the nervous system and causes ataxia (lack of coordination), seizures and muscle tremors; increased muscle activity, in turn, leads to hyperthermia (high body temperature).
Metaldehyde toxicity can lead to disseminated intravascular coagulopathy, multiple organ failure, and death.
“Within minutes, poisoned animals may show clinical signs,” Sciberras said. “Symptoms may also be delayed and later develop up to three hours after ingestion.”
Unfortunately, there is no antidote for metaldehyde.
Treatment involves addressing the symptoms and trying to get the animal to vomit up the poison using activated charcoal. Sciberras is quick to note that vomiting should never be induced in an animal that is convulsing or unstable.
Treatment also involves controlling convulsions and hyperthermia. If you think your pet may have ingested metaldehyde, do not wait for symptoms to appear. Call your veterinarian immediately and seek medical attention.
Before ending, Sciberras made one final warning.
“Far worse, what attracts our pets also attract infants and small children, especially the bright coloured pellets,” he warned. “If ingested the results are very similar to the ill fate of our pets.”