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  • Brandy Wickham

Pet Toxicities on the Rise: Pauanui & Tairua

At CoroVets, we have noticed a recent increase in toxicity cases, particularly since the country went into lockdown. The majority of these cases have been seen in dogs from Pauanui and Tairua, with the biggest culprit being marijuana toxicity. These dogs have either been on off-lead walks with their owners or gone for a wander after briefly getting off their properties. See Coco’s story below!

Some toxicities present with very similar clinical signs. Many of these dogs quickly develop neurological signs, including dilated pupils, tremors, impaired balance and coordination, vomiting and diarrhoea. Some toxins induce more severe neurological signs such as seizures, blindness, hyperthermia (increased body temperature), aspiration of vomited material and can be fatal if not seen by a vet quickly. A common feature of marijuana toxicity includes involuntary urination and drowsiness.

Some of the main toxins we have treated include:

  • Marijuana

  • Caffeine

  • Chocolate (Theobromine)

  • Slug Bait (Metaldehyde)

Other important common toxins include:

  • Rat bait (anticoagulant)

  • Raisins/grapes (renal failure)

  • Blood and bone fertilizer

  • Compost microorganisms

Case Study - Coco Found the Bad Stuff

Coco of Pauanui is one dog we saw recently; a young, fit and otherwise healthy German Short-haired Pointer who knows how to open doors! She saw some dog friends outside, let herself out and went on a walkabout for a couple of hours. When Coco returned, she started to develop strong tremors and balance loss. Her owners had experienced something similar just 4 months prior (marijuana toxicity) and called the vet immediately. They rushed Coco over to Whangamata. During that 30-minute drive, Coco developed severe, sustained seizures, vomiting and bright green diarrhoea. When she arrived, her temperature was 41.8C (normal dog temp should be 37.8-39.2C).

The bright green diarrhoea was the key clue in determining the cause of Coco’s signs: metaldehyde toxicosis, or Slug Bait.

Due to the extreme hyperthermia, sustained seizures (status epilepticus) and potential multiple organ damage this toxin causes, it is lethal without intensive medical intervention. Our first, immediate goal was to stabilise Coco by using drugs to stop her seizures, active cooling to bring her temperature down, IV fluid therapy to support her cardiovascular system and oxygen therapy to prevent damage to her brain and other vital organs, particularly when aspiration pneumonia occurs. These cases demand intensive monitoring and critical care.

Once we have stabilised intensive cases like Coco, we will transfer them to a specialist 24-hour emergency clinic. Coco was transferred to Auckland, where she was placed on a ventilator and had a slow, gradual recovery. Lockdown obviously complicated this process! She is lucky that her owners have pet insurance, and her diagnostics and treatments were unrestricted!*

Happily, she has been discharged home from critical care. She is being treated for pneumonia, but her vision is returning and her parents are thrilled to have her home. We are hopeful that she will make a full recovery with no long-standing effects of hypoxia (reduced oxygen to the brain and other tissues like the liver). We can't wait to see her for her follow-up revisit - after intensive management, cases like Coco's resonate strongly with us when we can get pets home!

There has been a fair amount of community concern in both Pauanui and Tairua that there may be some intentional poisoning of animals occurring. While we cannot comment on whether this may be the case, we would like to take this opportunity to stress the importance of the following:

Pet owners

  • Keep dogs contained or on lead for their own safety, particularly in suspicious areas

  • Just like everyone, we like to consider off-leash areas to be safe, but keep a close eye on your dog

  • Please try to keep your cats indoors, particularly from dusk to dawn.


  • Consider sign-posting and/or fencing your property if you are using baits or other chemicals

  • Consider using Quash instead of other Metaldehyde-based slug baits, as this is less toxic to pets

  • Use caution when adding coffee grounds and/or blood and bone meal to gardens that may be accessible to dogs.


  • Dispose of rubbish, cooked bones, corn cobs and other leftovers responsibly, ideally in a secured bin.

  • Please keep all drugs (recreational or medicinal) away from pets at all times!

  • Please ensure baits and other chemicals are kept safely secured, with no spills.

  • Please check garages and bachs for animals prior to locking up.

  • If marijuana toxicity is suspected, please do not be afraid to tell us! We are bound by confidentiality and an honest answer could save your or someone else's pet.

*Lastly, we are big proponents of pet insurance. Typically, young pets get into trouble; older pets develop diseases. When something unexpected happens, pet insurance provides peace of mind for pet owners and gives us more flexibility when it comes to determining treatment plans, particularly in emergencies! Contact us if you are interested in finding out more about pet insurance at 0800 267 683.

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