Noses to the ground, dogs will sniff out and eat just about anything. Jimbo, an overeager Jack Russell terrier (is there any other kind?) was one of those dogs. His nose got him in trouble by finding metaldehyde-containing slug baits that he happily consumed.
Metaldehyde is extremely toxic to mammals and birds and is listed as the sixth most common inquiry to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service, a 24-hour, worldwide emergency service for veterinary professionals handling animal poisoning cases. There is no known antidote for this toxin, and mortality rates can reach 23 percent. Dogs can recover from intoxication but supportive treatment is difficult and expensive.
A team of veterinarians at the University of Munich, led by Drs. Elizabeth Mauser and Rene Doerfelt, knew that a new treatment was desperately needed. The team came up with a novel idea; would hemodialysis-hemoperfusion, the same technique used to remove kidney toxins from the blood, be an effective treatment for metaldehyde toxicity in dogs?
Using grant money funded by Morris Animal Foundation, they tested their theory on plasma samples containing metaldehyde. The research group was successful in reducing metaldehyde concentrations in the samples; but would the technique work in a clinical case?
When Jimbo reached Dr. Elisabeth Mauser and her team at the University of Munich, he was experiencing continuous seizures without full recovery of consciousness. The team had to act quickly. Armed with the results of their study, Jimbo was treated with hemodialysis. Within 24 hours, Jimbo was not only back on his feet but was discharged from the clinic.
The veterinary team in Munich has now treated 10 dogs with this novel therapy; all dogs recovered completely. They have presented their findings in Europe, and a publication outlining their experiences is in the works. The treatment could radically improve the chances of survival of dogs affected by metaldehyde ingestion worldwide.