Three guard dogs at Budget Rent A Car near the airport are the latest canine victims of paraquat poisoning.
Mixed-breed dogs Mandy, Chica and Lita died last week when they ingested the fatal herbicide after getting out of their fenced-in compound.
The three dogs got out through holes in the fence on Friday, 4 December, but had returned by the following morning, said Alex Marte of Budget.
‘We noticed they were not eating much, they were less active… by Monday, they were just lying down, they didn’t move. By Tuesday, we noticed Mandy having a hard time breathing,’ he said.
Staff took Mandy to the Island Veterinary Services where they were told she had classic symptoms of paraquat poisoning. She was put down and a day later, Lita, who was brought to the veterinary clinic with the same symptoms, was also euthanized.
On Friday, Chica, mother of Mandy and grandmother of Lita, was taken to the vet and died overnight.
‘Chica was doing better than the others. We didn’t think she’d eaten it, but by Friday there was a change in her and we took her to the vet who said there was nothing that could be done,’ said Mr. Marte, assistant operations manager at the car rental company.
He said he did not think the dogs had been deliberately targeted. ‘They got out on Friday. We don’t know where they might have picked this up.’
Paraquat poisoning is almost always fatal once it has been ingested. It results in acute respiratory distress for dogs, usually preceded by vomiting, lack of appetite and lethargy.
Dr. Brandy Darby at the Island Veterinary Services said: ‘They all showed classic signs of paraquat poisoning.’
She added that the dogs’ severe symptoms may have manifested at separate times because, even if they ate the poison at the same time, they may have ingested varying amounts.
She said the majority of dogs that have died of paraquat poisoning have been roaming or have not been on leashes, although there have been cases of owners walking their dogs on a leash in which the dogs have ingested the poison.
The clinic has seen more than a dozen dogs poisoned with paraquat over the past six months.
Most of the poisonings have occurred in the South Sound area, but there have been reports of paraquat poisoning throughout Grand Cayman this year, including in East End, Bodden Town and West Bay.
Department of Agriculture officials have said that Gramocil, the brand name of paraquat that Cayman imports, contains an emetic – a chemical that causes vomiting if it is ingested. Other chemicals are designed to make the smell and taste of the Gramocil unappealing.
The department only sells the paraquat to individuals considered bona fide farmers.
The Cayman Islands Humane Society, reacting to the most recent poisonings, is asking owners to be vigilant when walking their dogs ‘as there is danger out there’.
The organisation urged owners not to allow their dogs to roam, pick up or eat anything outside their living areas and to contact a vet immediately if there are any changes in the dog’s eating habits or if there is irregular breathing.
‘To those individuals who are using paraquat, please be aware, paraquat can kill humans too. There are no cures for paraquat poisoning which means once ingested, the victim dies a slow painful death, unless it is euthanised,’ said Twila Escalante, shelter liaison at the Humane Society.
‘If you are having a nuisance problem, please speak to the owners of the dogs before taking matters into your own hands or call the Humane Society on 949-1461 for assistance.’