Metaldehyde is the active ingredient in most snail and slug baits, but it's poisonous to cats and can be fatal if treatment is not sought soon after your cat ingests the bait. Metaldehyde, even in small quantities, will attack and cause severe damage to your cat's nervous system. You probably have several neighbours who use snail and slug bait to prevent their plants being damaged, so it's important to understand the symptoms of and treatment options for slug and snail bait poisoning. Here's what you need to know:
Symptoms of slug and snail bait poisoning in cats include the following:
- Gastric upset
- Panting and rapid breathing
- Loss of co-ordination, which may present as your cat bumping into furniture or struggling to keep their balance when walking
Your veterinarian will diagnose poisoning by taking details of your cat's symptoms and their health history. They will also use blood and urine samples to check for dehydration, inflammation and liver damage, which can occur as a result of your cat's body trying to process and get rid of the toxin. You can help your vet make a quick and accurate diagnosis by taking a sample of your cat's vomit for them to analyse. This will save them having to wait to collect a sample in the clinic and allow them to quickly identify the type of poison your cat has ingested.
Once metaldehyde poisoning has been confirmed, your vet will put together a treatment plan. The exact treatment approach will depend on your cat's symptoms but may include the following:
- Forced Gastric Emptying - Emptying the contents of your cat's stomach as quickly as possible after they ingest the poison can prevent it being absorbed into their bloodstream. This treatment is most effective if the poison is still in your cat's stomach and has not yet reached their intestines.
- Activated Charcoal - This treatment is administered as a drink or through a nasogastric tube. It's useful for cleaning the poison out of your cat's intestines as activated charcoal absorbs toxins along the digestive tract and then passes out of your cat's body when they have a bowel movement.
- Intravenous Fluids - Your cat may be given large quantities of intravenous fluids to treat dehydration and support their liver as it tries to cope with processing metaldehyde. Fluids will also increase the amount of urine your cat passes, which can help flush the poison out of their system.
There is no antidote available for this type of poison, and your cat needs to be treated within a few hours of ingesting metaldehyde to give them a good chance of recovering. So, if you even suspect they have ingested poison, take them to be examined as soon as possible.