Backyard Poison: The Danger of Snail and Slug Bait to Dogs


Did you plant a vegetable garden this spring? Gardening is great, but dog owners need to take special precautions when dealing with garden pests. Snails and slugs can do harm to your garden, but did you know that eating even a small amount of snail and slug bait can be fatal to dogs?


What is snail bait?


Commercial snail and slug bait is made from metaldehyde, which is very toxic to a dog’s nervous system. Many companies make pellet-type bait that is flavored with bran or molasses to attract snails. This also makes it enticing to dogs. Some snail baits contain insecticides as well.


What are the signs of snail bait poisoning?


A dog can be harmed by as little as 1 teaspoon of snail bait per 10 pounds of body weight. Severe twitching is the most common sign of snail and slug bait poisoning. The muscle contractions from the twitching raise a dog’s body temperature which can lead to brain damage. Other signs include anxiety, seizures, rapid heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, rigidity, respiratory failure, and in some cases, liver failure.


How is it treated?


There is no antidote to metaldehyde, but emergency veterinary care is critical. If less than an hour has gone by, your vet can induce vomiting. If the twitching is extreme, the dog can have his stomach pumped under anesthesia. Diarrhea can be induced, and your dog can be given activated charcoal to absorb the poison. Your dog may also be given muscle relaxants and fluids.


What are some safe alternatives?


Home gardeners with dogs should avoid snail bait made from metaldehyde. Non-toxic commercial alternatives include Sluggo and Escar-Go, which contain iron phosphate instead. There are many other all-natural methods that gardeners swear by, including hand picking, making yeast and honey or beer traps, and using barriers made from copper or scratchy things like sandpaper. Some gardeners report success with coffee grounds, vinegar and water, and planting herbal repellant like mint.


While dogs are more likely to ingest snail and slug bait, cat owners who let their cats in the garden should know that it is also toxic to cats.


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  • Aaron Seminoff
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