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1080 poisoning

Sodium fluroacetate (1080) is a highly toxic pesticide used to control a range of pest animal species in many countries around the world: the Crookwell district has a long history of 1080 use. And, as many local Crookwell district farmers and pet dog owners know from bitter experience, 1080 has a devastating impact as an inadvertent killer of non-targeted pet and farm dogs. This occurs throughout the year, but the highest incidence is seen now – before and during lambing as farmers conduct baiting programs to reduce fox numbers.

Canines are particularly susceptible to 1080. Once ingested, the toxin is rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, disrupting the body’s citric acid cycle, and impairing the central nervous and cardiovascular systems.

In 1994, Crookwell Veterinary Hospital’s Dr Rob Churchill developed a treatment for 1080 which is now widely used around Australia – refer to Treatment below.

How do dogs access 1080 and how can you prevent this happening?


How dogs access baits


How to prevent poisoning


Lack of communication between neighbours


Always alert all your neighbours when you start a baiting program


Failure to erect signs warning of a baiting program


Always put up signage on your public boundaries, warning of your baiting program


Failure to keep pets and working dogs either muzzled or under control during a baiting program


This is critical! You must ensure you know exactly where your animals are at all times during a baiting program or, if off the lead, use muzzles


An incorrect assumption that time and heavy rains will make baits safe. Rain or heavy dew may leach 1080 from some bait materials, but when leaching does not occur, baits can remain toxic for several weeks


Remember baits can stay toxic for many weeks, even after rain: don’t become complacent


Movement of baits by birds and other wildlife species


Be aware of the potential for baits to be carried and dropped across your property and onto neighbouring properties


Failure to remove vomitus containing the bait


Vomitus remains highly toxic – remove all traces of vomitus immediately, dispose of safely and securely, and always use gloves

 

Diagnosis

Clinical signs of 1080 poisoning are usually noticed within half an hour of ingestion, although symptoms can take more than 6 hours to manifest. Initial symptoms include vomiting, anxiety and shaking. These quickly develop into frenzied behaviour with running and screaming fits, uncontrolled paddling and seizures, followed by total collapse and death from lack of oxygen to the brain. Rigor mortis sets in quickly.

Clinical signs are relatively easily distinguished from other common toxins such as organophosphates, snail bait and strychnine. Asking the right questions helps to confirm the diagnosis: are fox baits laid on the property or on neighboring properties? Has the dog been out of the kennel, off the chain, missing or left unsupervised for any time that day? Have foxes been seen on the property as they may carry baits or vomitus? If the dog vomited at home, what did it vomit?

Treatment

1080 poisoning is an emergency! Successful treatment requires immediate action and transport to the veterinary hospital as quickly as possible. Always ring first to let us know you’re on the way so staff can be prepared.

1080 has no specific antidote and historically, attempts at treatment have been almost universally ineffectual. As stated above, the CVH treatment regime developed by Dr Rob Churchill has dramatically changed the outcome for many poisoned dogs with around 75% now surviving with the following treatment:

  1. Dogs presented with a credible history of ingesting 1080 but showing no clinical signs are given an injection to induce vomiting and admitted for observation.
  2. Animals presented with more advanced symptoms including seizures, screaming, paddling and barking, are immediately anaesthetised and placed on an I/V saline drip with the addition of sodium bicarbonate. This counteracts the specific effects of the toxin on the body’s chemistry.

Intensive care of the affected animal is essential over the next 1 to 3 days: the dog is monitored every 1 to 2 hours, maintained under anaesthesia, on I/V fluids and antibiotics and turned regularly. The animal is allowed to come out of anaesthesia when it can wake without seizure activity. Once the dog begins to recover it is usually able to stand and eat within 12 hours.