2. Poison Alert (12/2007)
A spate of malicious poisonings in dogs has been causing suffering and death across town. These gratuitous acts of violence perpetrated by unknown parties probably involve the feeding of poisoned meat to healthy dogs in private gardens. The victims have generally not been of the type that is vicious or offensive so there are no obvious motives.
There is a prevailing culture of indiscriminate poisoning in our society ranging from farmers who commonly spray food crops with poison or place it in the veld in an attempt to destroy wildlife ‘vermin’, to gardeners who use it for killing undesirable insects on their flowers and fruit trees. These poisons (which can be deadly to humans) are non-specific and also kill beneficial insects and other forms of wildlife from tree frogs to black eagles. They are freely available for purchase by people of all ages. There are virtually no controls to avoid misuse. The poisons accumulate in the bodies of individuals, the food chain, the soil and groundwater and are mostly non-biodegradable.
The most commonly used group of poisons are the organophosphates (many of which are banned by the EU). The symptoms of toxicity in dogs involve mainly the nervous system resulting in rapid onset of restlessness, hypersensitivity, incoordination, increased salivation, vomiting and diarrhoea, spasms, convulsions, and death. These are also the symptoms of many other types of poisonings and of some other conditions. The diagnosis should be made by a vet. Timely administration of treatment for some poisonings can be lifesaving.
There is very little information available on the effects on humans and other animals of repeated longterm ingestion of food laced with small doses of organophosphates. The rising incidence of neurological diseases like MS, Altzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer, is turning many informed people to organic produce to feed their families, and shun the routine use of life destroying poisons.
Cats are less susceptible to poisoning because they are fastidious eaters. However, a major cause of feline death is paracetamol, routinely used by humans for pain or headache. Paracetamol is often used unwittingly by owners to ‘treat’ the cat that appears to be unwell, with tragic consequences: a single tablet can kill a cat! So please consult your vet before trying to treat your own animals. It is interesting to note with reference to the species specific effects of medicines that most of those intended for human consumption are first tested on animals.