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Snail & Slug Bait – Bad For Pets – What You Can Use In Your Garden Instead

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Updated: September 15, 2020

Like to garden? Hate snails and slugs? Have pets? Read this...

Most snail and slug poisons contain a compound called metaldehyde, which is also extremely poisonous to cats and dogs. Metaldehyde kills snails and slugs by causing them to dehydrate (it does this both by disturbing their ability to produce their protective mucus coating and by causing them to swell). In cats and dogs it has a much different effect, an effect which can be quite devastating and even fatal!


Signs your pet may have eaten snail & slug bait

When the bait is eaten by a cat or dog, metaldehyde affects the nervous system resulting in, amongst other things, uncontrollable muscle tremors (which are often mistaken for seizures). This excessive muscle activity can dangerously increase body temperature and will also lead to muscle cell death. When these muscle cells die, their release of myoglobin often shows up as dark urine and can lead to kidney failure. 

Metaldehyde is a very dangerous poison for dogs and cats

Because many of these poison baits are flavored with molasses to attract snails and slugs, cats and (especially) dogs are often attracted to them and eat them when given the chance. Any pet that has eaten a metaldehyde-based slug and snail poison should be brought for immediate veterinary evaluation, as time is truly of the essence when dealing with these poisonings.Cat-Smudge-Slug.jpg

A “wait and see” approach is definitely not a good one, as the severity of the poisoning, the prognosis, and the costs all get worse as time passes.

As far as we know eating (one snail or slug) isn't cause for concern but if the snail had just consumed bait before being eaten, it could be a concern. Typically, though, dogs and cats aren't interested in eating snails or slugs.


If your garden is plagued with snails and slugs...

There are safer ways to keep them out of your garden or get rid of them entirely, including:

  • Surround your plants with a layer of broken shells, diatomaceous earth, lava rock or another “rough” material. These surfaces will deter slugs and snails, and will fatally injure those who decide to make the trek.

  • Place copper mesh around your plants to discourage slugs and snails in your garden.

  • Place tuna cans filled with beer in your garden. The snails and slugs will be attracted to the beer, will fall into the can, and drown. (Just be careful not to let your pets (or children) into the garden and around the beer!)

  • If you need to use a poison, chose the pet-SAFER baits which contain iron-phosphate. These iron-phosphate containing baits have been shown to be as effective at killing snails and slugs, yet they are safer than the traditional metaldehyde-containing baits. It’s important to note that they are still dangerous for cats and dogs when eaten, it just takes quite a bit more to cause problems and the problems they cause aren’t nearly as widespread and devastating as those caused by metaldehyde. Hence “pet-SAFER,” rather than “pet-SAFE!”


Now, for something a little lighter... have a look at this heart-warming video

These cats are enjoying this snail in very different ways 😍



Topics: Snails

Please do not ask emergency or other specific medical questions about your pets in the blog comments. As an online informational resource, Preventive Vet is unable to and does not provide specific medical advice or counseling. A thorough physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinary-patient-client relationship is required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet is having an emergency or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic medical conditions, please contact or visit your veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

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