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
“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
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
“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.
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
“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
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.