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Kerry vet warns locals about possible strychnine poisoning of three dogs

All three dogs were in the same week and the vet managed to save two of them but it worried about more cases.

Image: dog image via Shutterstock

A KERRY VET has warned pet owners to keep their dogs on leads when walking them in Killarney National Park, after three dogs in the space of a week were struck down by what could be strychnine poisoning.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Danny O’Sullivan of Allcare Veterinary Practice said the first dog brought into his surgery was a young sheepdog from a local farm. The dog did its work and then wandered off for a half an hour, returning to his owner with tremors and convulsions.

The farmer had seen strychnine poisoning before and gave the dog something to make him vomit but the next day he was still having violent fits. He took him to O’Sullivan who said his team tried everything to stop the convulsing and in the end had to anaesthetise the dog.

For three days, every time the dog woke up from the anaesthetic, the seizures started again. The vet said it was “very distressing” for the owner and all of the staff to see the animal in such a state.

After three days, however, the dog started to gradually come around and was able to go home. That same day, another dog was brought in with the same symptoms.

The difference with this one was that it was indoors most of the time, “minded like a baby”. The owners had taken the dog by car to Killarney National Park for a walk and within minutes of leaving the park, the dog started experiencing tremors. It was taken straight to O’Sullivan’s office.

“With that dog, the facts were more sure. The dog had very little exposure to anything else other than the park.” The family pet had a speedier recovery than the Collie and was also sent home after being anaesthetised for a full day.

Unfortunately, a third dog, who had also been walking in Killarney National Park, did not make it. In all three, severe disruption of their nervous systems was evident.

The experienced vet said he has not seen “dogs with poison all with similar symptoms since the old days of strychnine”, a toxin which is banned nowadays.

Urine and blood samples from the second dog have been sent to a lab in the UK for testing, in the hope of discovering what exactly caused these dogs to become so violently ill.

It is possible, he said, that someone has laid down the poison to kill foxes, to keep them away from their sheep. However, if it is strychnine that was used, it could be disastrous as the toxin has a long life and is extremely dangerous.

It would mean serious precautions would have to be taken by people using the park. Very small amounts are enough to kill a dog and it could be spread all over the park by birds and small animals.

“What bothered me about this is it’s a public park where everyone walks. If it is that kind of toxin, there are kids running around in there too and that’s dangerous.”

He is advising pet owners in the area to keep their dogs on leads until test results come back and if they see the symptoms described above, take them to a vet immediately.

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