Why eat something so toxic?
As humans we have always had a fascination for the unusual…and with up to 50 people a year suffering fugu (a delicacy prepared by trained chefs) poisoning in Japan, with several fatalities, you’d have to wonder why anyone would choose to eat it. When you are a canine, the urge to sample this fatal delicacy comes down to the one thing…….having an amazing nose.
With 250 million odd nasal receptors, a curious attitude and a love of swallowing foul things, all dogs are at risk when walking around harbours and beaches. Puffer fish are often caught in nets and discarded due to their toxic nature. After heavy seas, the dead puffer fish is a common finding washed up on the beach. ‘Pick up a puffer fish’ which requires handling with care, and safe disposal may save a life.
How poisonous are they?
The toxin in the puffer fish, called tetrodotoxin, is found throughout its body organs, and is produced by bacteria. The toxin is 1200 times more lethal than cyanide, making it the second most deadly vertebrate on the planet. One puffer fish could kill up to 30 humans, with no known antidote.
How many dogs die from puffer fish poisoning?
If you are fortunate, and you witness your dog eat a puffer fish, or they vomit up the fish, the vet will be able to make a diagnosis. Without this information the symptoms are exceedingly difficult to diagnose and give a prognosis for.
If your dog vomits or shows the below symptoms after being at the beach, collect the vomitus and call the vet immediately for advice and support.
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Mentally dull and depressed
- Trembling and drooling
- Wobbly walking pattern
- Weakness, starting in the hind legs
- Difficulty breathing and blue tinged gums
- Dilated pupils and the animal stops blinking
Should I do CPR on my pet?
Animals can stop breathing when they become paralysed. In these situations, the heart is often still beating so full CPR is not required. If your pet stops breathing, mouth to nose breathing can be used. Take care not to contact or ingest secretions from your pets’ mouth. Using a plastic poop bag as a dam could help to create a safe barrier.
Mouth to nose resuscitation is known as rescue breathing.
- Close your pets’ mouth and cup your hand over its nose to make a tube.
- Make a seal and blow into the nostrils until you see the chest rise.
- Do this every 3 – 6 seconds until your pet gets to the vet clinic or breathes on its own. Your pets gum colour may become pinker with this technique as oxygen reaches the lungs.
What about chest compressions?
- Place your pet on its side.
- Feel for the heart where the elbow meets the chest. This can be difficult in fatter dogs and so you will need to press hard.
- With one hand over another, place the hand palm down just behind the point of the elbow.
- Press down continuously at a rate of 120 times per minute (two times a second) until the heart starts beating again.
For smaller pets, you can use one hand, placing your fingers and thumb on opposite sides of the chest and squeeze together as fast as you can (usually 120 times per minute).
If there is one other person to help, give breaths at the same time as compressions. Do not stop compressions in order to give a breath. If there is no one to help, give 2 breaths after every 15-30 compressions.
You should try to continue CPR until you can get your pet to the veterinary clinic. Bystander CPR is associated with a much higher chance of survival than no CPR. If your pet regains consciousness or you can feel a regular heartbeat, you can stop compressions and make sure the pet is breathing.