The malicious use of aldicarb in South Africa to poison dogs is of major concern and it is arguably the most common intoxication treated by veterinarians64. The Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital (OVAH), Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa, treats between 50 and 100 clinical aldicarb cases per annum (L F Arnot, OVAH, unpubl. data.) giving some indication of the magnitude of the problem. The number of cases seen depends on criminal activity within the area64. The use of aldicarb to poison animals is, however, not only restricted to South Africa, with reports indicating large-scale intentional malicious poisoning of dogs and other species from the United Sates of America2,20 and Spain43.
The extensive use of aldicarb in agriculture, and resultant easy accessibility, has been suggested as 1 of the reasons why the malicious use of aldicarb in recent years has increased, in preference to the more traditional poisons such as strychnine43,57,59,62. Criminals use aldicarb to eliminate dogs within residential areas with the intention of gaining access to these properties for malicious activities. Cats are generally not intentionally targeted, but are assumed to be incidentally affected64.
One teaspoon is enough to kill a grown rhino and a mere 1mg can kill a rodent weighing less than a kilogram – this substance is more poisonous than arsenic.
In recent years, Temik – or “Two-step” as its illegal buyers know it – has become a powerful weapon used by burglars to silence their canine victims. In 2003, the poison was used to maliciously kill 97 pets in the Gauteng province alone.
Temik is widely used as a pesticide on crops such as cotton, potatoes and peanuts. It is registered in terms of the Fertilisers, Farm Seeds, Agricultural and Stock Remedies Act of 1947.
As a member of the carbamate pesticides, classification is divided into super, high and medium toxicity. Temik falls in the super-toxin class, which means that it is highly toxic, says toxicologist Dr Gerbus Muller from the University of Stellenbosch.
The substance has a dark grey to black, granule-like appearance.
Although Temik has received a lot of negative publicity owing to its association with burglaries, it is seen as an extremely effective product sold in the agricultural market.
Symptoms of aldicarb poisoning
Symptoms of aldicarb poisoning include weakness, headaches, vomiting and eventually death, if untreated.
“It takes approximately an hour to an hour and a half for symptoms to show, and (intoxication) lasts for up to six to eight hours,” Muller says. The poison attacks the nervous system and inhibits breathing.
According to Muller, “the main cause of fatality can usually be attributed to asphyxiation, as the lungs are flooded with secretion from the stomach”.
The majority of veterinarians usually observe tremors and salivation, but additional symptoms include diarrhoea and even paralysis.
Rick Allan, manager of the NSPCA’s wildlife unit, describes death from aldicarb poisoning as the “twisting of guts, while dying in agony”.
Prevention and treatment
Although early treatment can be very successful, prevention is still better than cure.
According to Botha and colleagues, their research showed that “the majority of veterinarians (80%) indicated that they thought criminal intent was the main reason why animals were poisoned”.
They advise pet owners to keep their dogs inside or in a back yard at night. Pets should be fed at night to prevent them from eating poisoned bait. Obedience training for dogs to prevent food acceptance from strangers should also be implemented.
A poisoned animal should be taken to a vet as quickly as possible. If this isn’t possible, the only other action is to induce vomiting.
The best-known treatment is atropine, injected intravenously or under the skin. Electrolyte therapy and activated charcoal along with a number of other therapies are also frequently used.
The survival rate is estimated at 50%-75%, following treatment. And the average cost of treatment is estimated to be in the range of R500 to R1500, depending on duration of hospitalisation and range of treatments used.
Poisoning cases in dogs require an accurate assessment and rapid effective treatment to prevent fatalities. The first step in treating a dog poisoning case is to be sure that there has actually been a poisoning. You need to be able to recognize the signs and the symptoms, which can be very difficult as symptoms will vary from animal to animal and from poison to poison. You need to be accurate in your initial assessment of the situation as treatment based on an inaccurate assessment will increase the likelihood of death. You need to know almost instinctively what steps to perform based upon the situation, as there will be precious little time available while a dog is convulsing on yourfloor. By the time you call the vet or try and Google the situation and research the problem there won’t be a problem anymore- only a dead dog.
Dog Poisoning Symptoms
Signs that a dog may have been poisoned are most often drooling, vomiting, fatigue, convulsions, lethargy, and loss of coordination. Although there are a great many things that can make a dog become sick, this combination of multiple symptoms in an otherwise healthy animal with no pre-existing medical conditions is symptomatic of poisoning.
The majority of poisoning cases will fall into one of two categories, ingestion of corrosives or ingestion of non-corrosives. For the purpose of providing you with a set of guidelines to follow, the following is the basic first aid for each.
Corrosives- do not induce vomiting; give some oil orally, Seek Veterinary Attention.
Non-corrosives- induce vomiting and use activated charcoal slurry, Seek Veterinary Attention.
In either instance, perform basic first aid by checking the airway, breathing and circulation. Although some poisons may have no antidote the sooner that it is removed, the less effect it will have, and less irreparable damage it may cause.
How to Induce Vomiting
Syrup of ipecac -1/4 to 1 teaspoon per dose but no more than 2 doses. Given with a large syringe, turkey baster or bulb syringe directly into the back of the throat. Hold the snout closed until the dog swallows then release, if done correctly the dog should begin vomiting within minutes.
Hydrogen Peroxide 3% (standard)– Mix 1 part Peroxide to 1 part water, use a turkey baster as an applicator and give 1 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight. The dog should begin to vomit within five minutes.
Activated Charcoal – DO NOT GIVE CHARCOAL WITH SYRUP OF IPECAC– Available in capsule form and can be administered orally every four hours in two to several ounces of water.
Salt- One half to one teaspoon of salt, placed at the back of the tongue.