The Giant African Snail “Lissachatina fulica” (previously “Achatina fulica”) is a plant pest that was smuggled into Trinidad in 2008 and has since spread to different parts of the country over time. The Giant African Snail is an alien invasive species and is one of the world’s most destructive land snails. It is known to feed on 500 different species of plants including many commercially important ones such as banana, cabbage, melongene and papaya.
The Giant African Snail is a known vector of the rat lungworm, a parasite that can cause a form of meningitis in humans. The vector is passed from snail to human by contact with the snail’s mucus or by eating improperly cooked snail meat. Live snails must not be handled with bare hands; waterproof gloves must be used.
The main danger to dogs is the bait used to kill the snails: metaldehyde. Snail bait and snail poisons are readily available in most garden supply stores and pose a significant hazard to the pet dogs that share the garden. Just a small amount of metaldehyde consumed by a dog or other animal can poison them, whether it is consumed directly or by eating a snail that has itself consumed the bait. Snail bait is typically formulated in pellets and flavoured with molasses or bran to attract snails. Unfortunately, the pellets resemble kibbled dog food and the molasses and bran are also attractive to dogs. Snail baits are also available as liquids and powders that can get onto paws and be licked off in normal grooming.
Though less common, the snails themselves can also be dangerous to dogs just as they are to humans, as they can pass on the potentially fatal rat lungworm parasite to dogs. In addition, these snails have been found to carry several other parasites dangerous to dogs and other animals.
Animals which have been impacted by metaldehyde poisoning will experience seizures or other similar types of shaking with a high fever. The onset of this twitching happens quickly and can be seen in just minutes. Other symptoms to look out for include:
• Blue mucous membranes
• Rapid heart rate
• Uncontrolled bowel or urinary movement
As this poisoning is incredibly dangerous and fast-acting, any animal that has come into contact with metaldehyde should immediately go to a veterinary hospital so that they can begin supportive care to manage the symptoms and give the dog their best chance of survival. Liver failure can occur in some patients approximately two to three days after poisoning, so liver enzymes must be monitored by blood tests throughout the recovery period.
The use of snail baits containing metaldehyde should be avoided in any area that can be accessed by pets. Snail bait products containing iron phosphate instead of metaldehyde are considered safer for pets. These baits are still potentially toxic due to the iron content, but much larger doses are required to cause poisoning. Pets should not have access to areas where metaldehyde has been applied, as some products may remain active in soil for several weeks. Always follow labelled instructions for application.
Copyright © Kristel-Marie Ramnath 2023