Spring is a time of great activity in the garden. However, caring for our lawns and plants can sometimes threaten the safety of our pets.
Many garden chemicals are made from natural ingredients. However, this does not necessarily make them any safer for our pets, fish or waterways. Always check the active ingredient on the label. Unfortunately, even in the absence of chemicals, some of our favourite plants can pose a risk too.
Typical garden toxins can be divided into four main categories:
Baits, Insecticides, Fertilisers and Plants.
Baits - Snail & Slug:
The three most common snail and slug baits are Metaldehyde (which are typically a green pellet), Methiocarb (blue pellet) and Iron EDTA (brown/yellow pellet). Tragically, Metaldehyde and Methiocarb based snail baits can kill your pet quite quickly if ingested. The addition of ‘bittering agents’ offers little protection. In our experience, pets will eat just about anything!
Signs of poisoning can occur between 0-3 hours after ingestion and may include excessive drooling, vomiting, panting, and anxiety which can progress rapidly to depression, a wobbly gait, muscle tremors, seizures, and hyperthermia (high body temperature) which can cause damage to internal organs. Severe cases can result in the animal becoming comatose. Despite veterinary intervention, many of these patients do not respond to treatment.
Unfortunately, whilst Iron EDTA based products are often labelled as being “without using an active which is highly toxic to mammals” these snail baits can still cause acute poisoning.
Typically, the rat and mouse baits contain chemicals which interfere with the bloods ability to clot. Whilst the effects of poisoning are delayed and fairly easily treated in most instances, treatment is expensive, prolonged and not always readily available. Unfortunately, not all cases are identified in a timely manner and this greatly increases the chance of a fatal poisoning.
In addition to the risk posed by the direct ingestion of the baits, cats and dogs (and native animals) can also be indirectly poisoned by eating poisoned rodents. Therefore, placing baits out of reach of your pets will not necessarily protect them from rat bait poisoning.
Pyrethrin/Pyrethroid poisoning in cats
Pyrethrins are derived from Chrysanthemum plants and are commonly used in products designed to kill fleas, ticks, and other insects. Permethrin is the common synthetic version that lasts longer and is widely used as a garden insecticide and functions as a neurotoxin in insects.
Unfortunately, Pyrethrin/Pyrethroids are highly toxic to cats. Cats who have been exposed to toxic levels of pyrethrin/permethrin may show signs within a few hours. Signs can progress from drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, incoordination, disorientation, vocalization, skin twitches, muscle spasm, seizures, depression and death.
Do not allow your cat to come into contact fly mosquito sprays or plants that have been sprayed with insecticides whilst the plants are still wet. Similarly, do not use dog flea products (shampoos and treatments) on cats.
These products are also highly toxic to fish so take care around fishponds and waterways.
Commercially prepared lawn or garden fertilisers contain varying amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and iron. Clinical signs of ingestion range from mild gastric upsets to constipation. However, some fertilisers, also contain insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, or other additives and can therefore be very toxic and even fatal to pets.
Organic fertilizer, like compost, often has a dangerous concentration of mould spores and bacteria. Mould spores have the potential to produce mycotoxins. Similarly, the ‘meal’ based fertilisers made from animal by-products (i.e. Blood and Bone or fish based products) may also pose a risk of mycotoxin poisoning. Poisoning resulting from the ingestion of organic fertilisers can result in clinical signs that include agitation, hyperthermia, hyper-responsiveness, panting, drooling, and vomiting. This can progress to serious neurologic signs including incoordination, tremors, and seizures. Ingestion can result in clinical signs within 30 minutes to several hours. Prompt veterinary care is essential for successful treatment.
Stone fruits can result in gastrointestinal upsets and possible obstructions whilst certain berries, and nuts (especially pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamias and hickory nuts) can be quite toxic. Consider planting different species or, in established gardens, preventing your pet from accessing such produce.
Lilies in the ‘true lily’ and ‘daylily’ families are very dangerous for cats. The entire lily plant is toxic: the stem, leaves, flowers, pollen, and even the water in a vase. Eating just a small amount of a leaf or flower petal, licking a few pollen grains off its fur while grooming, or drinking the water from the vase can cause your cat to develop fatal kidney failure in less than 3 days. The toxin, which only affects cats, has not been identified. Interestingly, whilst dogs may develop mild gastrointestinal signs, dogs that eat lilies do not develop kidney failure. If you have cats, these lilies are best avoided both in the garden and in the home.
If your pet is accidently poisoned, please seek urgent veterinary care and bring any packaging from the offending product with you to help your veterinarian give the best possible care.
This Spring we want everyone to enjoy the outdoors. When planting, feeding, protecting, and weeding your plants, be mindful to ensure that your pets can safely enjoy their time in the garden too.
From the Team at Lucas Veterinary Clinic
9 Merz Street
Ph: 5303 9000