Slug and snail bait is commonly used in residential gardens, but the active ingredient, metaldehyde, is highly poisonous to cats. If your cat ingests this poison, they can suffer damage to their nervous system and could die without prompt treatment. Here's an overview of the symptoms and treatment options:
Your cat may have ingested slug and snail bait if they are displaying any of the following symptoms:
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Rapid breathing or breathlessness
- Poor co-ordination, which may cause them to walk into things
- Excessive salivation
Metaldehyde poisoning is diagnosed by analysing a sample of your cat's vomit. You can speed up the process by collecting a sample at home, if possible. The vomit can tell your vet the exact poison your cat has swallowed, but the vet can also check for dehydration and inflammation of the liver, which are often present when any type of poison has been ingested, by taking blood and urine samples.
Once your vet has established your cat has eaten slug and snail bait, they will discuss the treatment options with you. Treatment is dependent on the severity of your cat's symptoms, and the following three approaches are commonly used:
- Gastric Emptying - This treatment approach can be effective if you get your cat to the veterinary surgery right after they've ingested the poison. If the poison is still in your cat's stomach, the contents of their stomach will be emptied to prevent the poison reaching their intestines and being absorbed into their bloodstream.
- Activated Charcoal - If the poison has already entered your cat's intestines, activated charcoal can be used to absorb the toxins and carry them out of your cat's body in their next bowel movement. If your cat is able to drink, the vet will administer this treatment as a drink, but it can also be delivered into your cat's digestive tract through a nasogastric tube.
- Intravenous Fluids - In addition to treating dehydration, large volumes of intravenous fluids can be given to your cat to increase their urine output. This approach aims to flush the poison out of your cat's system and support their liver.
If you have a cat that wanders the neighbourhood, you may want to check if your neighbours use a slug and snail bait containing metaldehyde. If you suspect your cat has eaten slug and snail bait, take them to the vet immediately to give them the best chance of making a full recovery.