Snail and Slug Bait Poisoning in Dogs

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Last updated on
4 min read

Key takeaways

Snail and slug bait poisoning (metaldehyde toxicosis) occurs when dogs ingest a toxic amount of these pest control baits, which typically contain the toxin metaldehyde

  • Symptoms of metaldehyde toxicosis include seizures, muscle tremors, hyperthermia, gastrointestinal upset, and uncoordinated movement
  • Diagnostic tests to confirm toxicosis include a physical examination, blood work, and examination of the stomach contents
  • There is no specific antidote for metaldehyde toxicosis
  • Treatment is primarily supportive, including decontamination of the stomach, IV fluids, anti-seizure medications, and muscle relaxants
  • Most dogs treated promptly after ingestion have a good prognosis
  • Dogs that develop symptoms of toxicity have a poorer prognosis compared to those treated immediately after ingestion, and may develop organ failure shortly after recovering from the initial toxicity
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A closer look: Snail and Slug Bait Poisoning in Dogs

When used correctly, slug and snail bait poison acts to dehydrate the animals by obstructing their mucus production. When ingested in large quantities, it can be fatal to housepets.

Metaldehyde toxicosis is uncommon in dogs, however it is potentially life-threatening and may cause organ failure and death. Dogs seen ingesting slug or snail bait, or presenting with symptoms of metaldehyde toxicosis, require emergency veterinary care. Most dogs treated promptly after ingestion have a good prognosis.

Risk factors

Dogs that are not monitored in areas where the molluscicide may be used are at a higher risk of toxicosis.

Metaldehyde also irritates the gastrointestinal tract.

Possible causes

Snail and slug bait poisoning most commonly results from the compound metaldehyde found within the bait. This toxin primarily affects the nervous system, causing stimulation of neurons throughout the body.

Dogs typically come into contact with snail and slug bait when the products are placed in the environment for pest control. These baits are weather resistant, and may last in the environment for more than 2 weeks.

Metaldehyde can also be found in some solid fuel products for camp stoves.

Main symptoms

Symptoms of metaldehyde toxicosis typically arise within 3-4 hours of ingestion.

Testing and diagnosis

The symptoms of metaldehyde are similar to many other toxicoses, so diagnostic testing aims to identify the type of toxicosis occurring. Diagnostic tests include:

  • Physical examination and history
  • Bloodwork
  • Identification of pellets of bait in the stomach contents
  • Identification of metaldehyde in the stomach contents, urine, or blood, if test are available

Steps to Recovery

There is no antidote available for metaldehyde toxicosis. Cases presented soon after ingestion often have vomiting induced or undergo gastric lavage to remove as much of the bait as possible from the stomach. Note: Induction of vomiting or administration of activated charcoal should only be performed by a veterinarian. There is no safe way to induce vomiting or administer activated charcoal at home.

Other treatments include:

  • Activated charcoal to bind the toxins and prevent absorption
  • IV fluids
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Sedation

Note: always consult a veterinarian before administering activated charcoal. It is not safe to administer activated charcoal at home without medical guidance.

Cases of metaldehyde toxicosis that are treated rapidly after ingestion have a good to excellent prognosis. Many dogs fully recover with aggressive and prompt treatment.

Dogs that develop symptoms of toxicosis have a guarded to poor prognosis. Patients that recover from the nervous system effects of metaldehyde are at risk of developing liver or kidney failure several days later. These patients require ongoing monitoring to identify any signs of organ failure quickly.


Metaldehyde toxicosis can be prevented by only placing slug or snail bait in areas that are inaccessible to pets. Areas where bait has been placed is considered toxic for at least 2 weeks after application, so dogs must be kept away from treated areas. Unused snail or slug bait must be stored in a sealed container and placed out of reach of dogs.

Is Snail and Slug Bait Poisoning in Dogs common?

Metaldehyde toxicosis is uncommon in dogs.

Typical Treatment

  • Supportive care
  • Decontamination


Jessica M. Kitagaki, BS, CVT, VTS (CP-C/F) - Writing for Vetfolio
Barry R. Blakley, DVM, PhD - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual

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