Slug Bait Poisoning

by Dr. Francesca Matthews 

Metaldehyde Toxicity




Over 5,000 pets each year in New Zealand are presented at a veterinary clinic following ingestion of metaldehyde based slug bait, such as Blitzem®, which is extremely toxic to pets if ingested.  


Animals ingest these baits because the ingredients in them make them very palatable. It is toxic to all pets but the most common animals presented for poisoning are cats, dogs and poultry.




Signs of toxicity are seen within minutes to several hours after ingestion. The first signs seen include depression, vomiting and diarrhoea, increased breathing and heart rate, and salivation. This progresses to muscle tremors and eventually convulsions. Loss of consciousness and death follow seizures.




Diagnosis is usually based on history of exposure and signs the animal is showing. If your pet has had access to slug bait, don't wait for signs to show, take them to the veterinarian immediately. Early treatment improves prognosis significantly. 


Confirmation may be made by evidence of slug pellets in the vomit and/or the vomit may smell vaguely like formaldehyde. It is possible to send stomach contents away to check for presence of aldehydes too, however if this is used (rarely) it is more as an indicator of prognosis, rather than diagnosis.


Blitzem - not safe for pets


Quash - safe for pets





Unfortunately there is no specific antidote. Treatment is symptomatic and designed to remove the poison from the body and control the signs such as the convulsions.
Treatment may include induction of vomiting and will include fluid therapy and sedation or anaesthesia to control any neurological signs such as convulsions.




This is largely dependent on the amount of metaldehyde ingested and on how quickly afterwards they are presented to the veterinarian for treatment.




Quash® is an alternative to metaldehyde-based slug and snail baits. It has been shown to be as or more effective than metaldehyde based baits and even when pets consume large quantities of Quash®, ill-effects are temporary and more likely to be due to the bran in the pellet than the active ingredient (Iron EDTA Complex which rated less toxic than common salt).


Copyright and disclaimer