Slug Pellets and Your Dog: A Potentially Lethal Combination
Slug pellets kill slugs, which is precisely what the pellets are supposed to do. The trouble is that these pellets can have the same effect on your pet dog. While you will do everything you can to prevent your dog from ingesting slug pellets after they've been distributed, accidents can happen, and this can be very serious indeed. What happens when you believe your dog has eaten slug pellets?
You might not think that slug baits will have that much of an effect on your dog. Your dog is a canine, and a slug is a gastropod without a shell, so their physiologies are rather different. But poison is poison, and even a small amount of slug bait can be harmful to a dog. Larger amounts, which create greater potency, can be fatal. The nature of the slug pellet in question can also influence the severity of your dog's reaction.
Metaldehyde and Slug Pellets
If your dog consumed slug pellets that were distributed on your property, you should quickly check the packaging of the pellets in question. Look for metaldehyde being listed as an ingredient. This compound can be lethal, and your dog should be transported to the nearest pet hospital. Just because metaldehyde isn't listed as an ingredient (and some slug pellets use iron phosphate as their active ingredient), it doesn't mean that your dog is out of the woods. Even when the ingestion doesn't prove to be lethal, your dog is at risk of damage to its internal organs, although the toxicity may not be as immediately severe as when metaldehyde has been ingested.
Identifying the Toxin
At the veterinary surgery, treatment will be administered without delay. You might be able to confirm that the poisoning has been caused by slug pellets, but when this is only suspected (however strongly), the vet may test your dog's blood and urine to clearly identify the toxin. That being said, there are key similarities to the treatment of toxic ingestion, regardless of the toxin. These treatments become less effective as more time goes by, which is why the situation is so urgent.
A poisoned dog will often have its stomach pumped (known as gastric lavage), which involves the insertion of a tube into its throat, and this allows the contents of its stomach to be flushed. Your dog may also be given activated charcoal, which traps the toxic agents within the charcoal, preventing them from being absorbed into your dog's system. When the heart and respiratory functions have become compromised, additional medication might be needed. Your dog will probably have to stay (at least overnight) for observation and intravenous hydration, and a follow-up appointment will be needed to check your dog's kidney and liver functions.
To summarize, there shouldn't be any confusion about the seriousness of your dog consuming slug pellets. They're highly toxic, and immediate veterinary treatment is required.