In my experience, metaldehyde toxicosis is one of the most common toxicoses in dogs.
Because I'm an emergency/critical care technician, the first article I turned to when I received the March 2006 issue of Veterinary Medicine was the Toxicology Brief, "The 10 most common toxicoses in dogs." The article contained good information, but I was surprised to find that snail-slug-gopher bait was not on the list. In my experience, metaldehyde toxicosis is one of the most common toxicoses in dogs. We see far more cases of metaldehyde toxicosis than of any of the others on the list, including rodenticide and chocolate, which would be in the top three.
I understand that the authors based their top 10 on the number of calls to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and that, in the case of metaldehyde poisoning, owners probably bypass calling poison control and instead rush their obviously ill dogs to the emergency hospital.
Unfortunately, the information regarding the toxicity of snail-slug-gopher bait is not obvious on the packaging, so the average person does not realize how toxic it is until his or her dog eats it and has to be treated. It would be nice if the manufacturers of these baits would put more effort into letting the public know the potential toxicity of metaldehyde.
Robin Bruzdzinski, BA, RVT
Veterinary Emergency Clinic
1800 Prescott Road
Modesto, CA 95350
Dr. Meadows' response: I appreciate your comments and thank you for your interest in the article. Your comment about metaldehyde toxicosis is quite valid. Metaldehyde toxicosis is most common in California, where most veterinarians are aware of it. In fact, 50% of our calls about metaldehyde come from California; another 10% come from Oregon and about the same number come from Washington state. So if you work on the West Coast, you probably see more cases of slug and snail bait toxicosis than do people in other states. As you noted, the article was based on the number of calls and cases we receive from across the country and, perhaps, did not reflect geographic distribution peculiarities seen with different toxicoses.
Irina Meadows, DVM
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
1717 S. Philo Road, Suite 36
Urbana, IL 61802