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Metaldehyde Maladies: The Truth About Snail Bait Toxicity and Pets

There’s nothing worse than seeing your garden spoiled by snails or slugs. Strawberries, artichokes, tomatoes, succulents, flowers, and citrus trees are all prime targets of these ghastly gastropods. However, before you use any commercial products, we urge you to reconsider.

While we’re not asking you to simply accept irregular holes, chew marks, or slime deposits coating your deck, snail bait toxicity can yield disastrous results for otherwise healthy – but curious – pets.

Snail and Slug Management

The most common approach to an infestation of snails and/or slugs involves snail bait products. Snail bait toxicity is measured by the amount of the active ingredient metaldehyde, which kills pests within a day of ingesting it or picking it up with the foot. While the effects of bait are most successful in warm, dry conditions, climates that generally support snails and slugs are coastal, warm, and humid.

Snail Bait Toxicity

Metaldehyde products are not only toxic to pets but are also extremely enticing, especially in the form of pellets sprinkled around the garden. Often flavored with molasses or bran, it’s dangerously tasty to animals – regardless of whether it’s sampled directly or consumed indirectly through grooming.

Snail bait also comes in the form of liquids, powders, and granules that can bring about sudden, severe symptoms, such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Seizure
  • Agitation
  • Panting
  • Fever

Less than a teaspoon causes poisoning per 10 pounds of body weight. Without immediate veterinary support and emergency care, snail bait toxicity can cause organ failure and death.

Alternative Routes

Fortunately, you don’t have to make a choice between living with garden pests or distributing poisonous toxins throughout your property. For example:

  • Iron phosphate baits, such as Sluggo and Escar-Go, are safe to use around pets, kids, and other wildlife.
  • Eliminate areas that attract slugs and snails, such as beneath stored wood, rocks, weedy overgrowth, leafy, low-lying branches, and dense ground covers.
  • Move your vegetable patch or flower garden away from areas frequented by slugs and snails. Protect these spots with copper barriers.
  • Consult your favorite nursery for slug and snail-resistant plants.
  • Install a drip irrigation system to reduce the humidity and moisture caused by sprinkler systems.
  • Don’t allow your pet to roam around the neighborhood; you can only control what you use in your own yard.

Other Reminders

If you use metaldehyde, restrict your pet’s access to the area for at least two weeks. Snail bait should always be stored in a pet-proof container, behind a closed cabinet, and off the floor. If you’re visiting someone, ask if they use snail bait and keep a close eye on your pet. Lastly, pets can be indirectly affected by snail bait toxicity via hunting and eating various snails, slugs, rats, and mice that have eaten the poison.

Treatment and recovery depends largely on the amount ingested, the time it took to seek help, and overall health prior to the incident. Snail bait toxicity is very dangerous, but if handled quickly, the outlook is positive.

Better Safe Than Sorry!

If we can address any questions or concerns regarding snail bait toxicity or other pet safety issues, we hope you’ll let us know.