Paraquat suspected in dog deaths

Three more dogs have died in the
past couple of weeks due to suspected paraquat poisoning. Paraquat, a
herbicide, has been blamed for the deaths of many dogs in Grand Cayman over the
last couple of years, with poisoning on the beach in South Sound making
headlines last year. The most recent cases originated in the District of East
End.

“It’s just the history of the weed
killer on this Island and many of the others that it is used, it’s kind of the
go-to poison to poison dogs with so there’s a lot of evidence that would say
this is a malicious poisoning,” said Dr. Brenda Bush, one of the veterinarians
who attempted to treat the dogs.

However, according to Ms Bush,
treatment of dogs poisoned with paraquat is very rarely if ever successful.

“In the history of how long I’ve
been here, which is 16 years, we’ve maybe been able to save a few, a handful of
dogs that didn’t get a whole load of the poison and with supportive care get
through it,” she said.

However, even with full supportive
care, most cases deteriorate until the owners cannot stand to see the animal
suffer any more and have it euthanised or it dies on its own, according to Ms
Bush.

According to Brian Crichlow,
assistant director of agriculture at the Department of Agriculture, it appears
that poisoning with paraquat does not happen through normal usage of the
herbicide.

“Past experience has shown that
invariably when an animal is poisoned by paraquat it is a deliberate act and
abuse of the product. Used as directed paraquat is a very effective and
environmentally safe herbicide,” he said.

This view was echoed by Ms Bush,
who said that in the past when they have sent off samples from the dogs that
have died of paraquat poisoning the lab has been able to isolate such high
quantities that it would be very unlikely that it was a casual poisoning.

When used as directed, paraquat is
diluted to a ratio that would make it very unlikely that an animal would ingest
a fatal amount of the herbicide.

“Just casually walking through
weeds that have been sprayed with it, we do know there is some skin absorption
that can happen, but I don’t think it’s that likely that the dogs are actually
doing this,” said Ms Bush.

 

Steps taken to limit paraquat

However, due to the history of
paraquat in Cayman, the Department of Agriculture has already taken steps to
limit the availability of paraquat in Cayman.

“As a result of the abuse of this
product, the Department of Agriculture no longer stocks or sells any herbicide
containing this active ingredient and has not done so since 2009,” said Mr.
Crichlow.

Although this certainly makes a
difference to the availability of the herbicide on Island, Ms Bush believes
this may not take the matter far enough.

“It’s not banned, so there’s no law
against bringing it in if somebody wants to buy it overseas and bring it in. We
need a strict ban on this stuff,” said Ms Bush.

Once ingested, paraquat attacks the
kidneys and can cause irreparable damage. However, most dogs die from the
impact of the poison on the lungs, where it causes lung fibrosis over a period
of time, which is why it takes so long for a dog poisoned with paraquat to die.

“Lung fibrosis takes a while to be
created in there and day by day the dog gets a little bit worse until he
asphyxiates because he can’t expand his lungs to take any more breaths. It’s
really pretty horrible,” said Ms Bush.

In order to prevent dogs from
coming into contact with paraquat or other poisons, Ms Bush said it is critical
for owners to be aware of what their dogs are doing at all times.

“Walk them on a lead, certainly
don’t let them roam and walk on their own. If you’re walking with them have
them on a lead so you can pull them back from something if you see them
sniffing some unknown substance or something that looks like food or bait,”
said Ms Bush.

This was echoed by Mr. Crichlow,
who said that incidents like these highlight the need for responsible pet
ownership.

“Owners must ensure that their dogs
are under control, confined to their property and not allowed to roam freely
through neighbourhoods, with the inherent risk that they may accidentally
ingest a toxic substance or worse yet become such a nuisance to other persons
that someone resorts to this type of deliberate and very regrettable act,” he
said.

Mr. Crichlow said that rather than
people taking matters into their own hands when it comes to nuisance, they
should contact the Department of Agriculture’s Animal Control Unit at 947-3090.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. If a cat/dog is left unattended and an unattended dog kills it… well that is just nature.

    Dogs have been killing cats since the beginning of time… there are so many stray cats and dogs anyways.

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  2. Ok, what the heck do the two comments below me have to do with dogs being brutally poisoned to death?

    Where I come from, after a story like this, the comments would all be in reference to the disgust felt towards the heartless idiots doing this, deep sympathy for the owners who have lost their beloved pets, and extreme sadness and concern for the dogs that have been dying slow, horrific deaths.

    Also, the comments would have would have suggested how to maybe improve the situation, by creating inexpensive spay/neuter clinics, imposing harsher penalties for the torturing of animals in the name of "they annoy me", and increasing and improving public awareness that this is an ongoing problem on this island.

    Seriously.

    WHERE AM I??????????

    The statement by crisscross was pathetic and doesn’t even make sense. My six year-old could have come up with a more intelligent, well written statement.

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  3. First, it is important to understand that if "your" animal, unattended or not, kills or hurt another animal regardless of species, YOU are responsible for your animal and all cost and consequences are accountable to you as an owner.

    I believe the DoA finally having removed the product off the shelves is one step in the right direction. I do find it however unexceptable that private citizens are allowed to import their own chemicals as such without anybody knowing about it and unable to ban the product upon importation. Is paraquat any less dangerous than say potassium chloride or strichnine if used inappropriately? I think not.

    I believe it is high time that all chemicals that are potentially dangerous and most often misunderstood as to what they can do besides what is was made for such as a simple weed killer, should be banned from all hands who are not qualified to use and apply such chemicals.

    I have mentioned this before but I really hope we are not waiting for an infant having been killed because somebody has been irresponsible by ill applying or "forgot" to put it in a safe place.

    I recommend to ban all such chemicals, sooner rather then later.

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  4. Listen here…
    I have had a close friends dog die to poisoning and the scary thing is how do you catch this (these) persons when no one is doing anything about it?? I have see first hand the pain and suffering the dog and owner endure.

    Second, my statements about cats is dogs, as much as it is NOT what you want to hear, there is no law regarding 2 unattended animals fighting. Most cats are left out to roam free all day long… they are subject to cars, dogs, poison etc…. the liability is on the owner.

    RBB was asking a question and I answered it….so now you can tell your sheltered 6 year old about nature, maybe let it watch some discovery channel, or better yet have it read up on why dogs and cats don’t get along… cause it is a reality!!

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  5. Whoops. I owe crisscross an apology.

    I honestly didn’t realize you were responding to the comment beneath you.

    I apologize. It got lost in translation.

    It came across as a cold, insensitive statement to the matter at hand.

    NOT an answer to the previous comment.

    After your explanation, it is clear now. There are quite a lot of "disagrees" to your comment, showing I wasn’t alone in my assumption….

    Again, my apologies.

    I get pretty defensive when things like this happen to defenseless animals.

    Defensive AND aggressive.

    Peace.

    D

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