Auckland Beaches’ Poison – Another 30 Dogs Sick, Sea Slugs Poisoned

Cartoon from the New Zealand Herald

Chemical and pesticide poisoning will NOT be tested for by MAF

from NZCity
5 August 2009

MAF Biosecurity is investigating a huge jump in the number of cases of dogs which have fallen ill after being on Auckland’s east coast beaches.

There have been 30 new cases of sick dogs reported in the past 24 hours.
Two dogs have died and health authorities are warning people not to walk their pets or take children on Hauraki Gulf beaches, nor collect shellfish, until more is known about the mystery illness.

Tests into what has caused the poisoning have so far proved inconclusive.

MAF is not testing for chemical or pesticide poisoning, because the clinical signs the dogs presented are not consistent with that sort of poisoning.

So what are frothing at the mouth, paralysis and death usually associated with? Some news reports have already stated that the dogs weren’t affected by toxic algae and birds, sea lions and other marine animals aren’t usually affected by marine neurotoxins but penguins, pilchards and dolphins have died. People are still eating fish (eg snapper) caught in the area without any adverse effects.

Feratox (a cyanide based chemical) is also used to control pests in some locations in Auckland. For example Feratox and cyanide paste has been used in marginal creeks in the Takahe Creek, Oturapa-Mullet Creek, Oruawharo River conservation area, Otekawa Creek and Okahukura conservation area and numerous other locations within the Auckland area. Whilst Great Barrier Island has been treated with Diphacinone (Ditrac blocks) in bait stations and Coumatetralyl (Racumin) in bait stations. See: link

Ingestion of Diphacinone and Coumatetralyl causes nosebleeds, bleeding gums, bloody urine, fatigue, shortness of breath (dyspnea) and may cause fluid in lungs (pulmonary edema). Pulmonary edema can cause froth to appear at the mouth.

Pindone and Magtoxin Pellets
DOC’s pesticide summaries show that Pindone cereal pellets, Pindone Carrot baits and Magtoxin pellets are/will be laid on Rangitoto and Motutapu in July-Oct 2009. See map below in addition to Pestoff20R. Pindone is an anti-coagulant used to control rabbits and Magtoxin releases Phosphine (hydrogen phosphide) gas, said to have the odour of decaying fish. Moderate poisoning with Magtoxin produces weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea and difficulty breathing. Severe poisoning causes pulmonary edema, cyanosis and death, source: Safety Data sheet for Magtoxin

Recently ‘toxic’ sea slugs were thought to have been the cause of the dogs’ illnesses but experts outside of NZ say that the slugs are unlikely to be the cause and may have themselves have been poisoned – some of their dead bodies have been washed onto the beaches, see : Sea slugs may be victims as well. Is the whole ecosystem of the Hauraki Gulf in danger? This problem now seems to be affecting all links in the food chain. Not so 100% Pure NZ.

Update:
Tetrodotoxin was later found to be responsible for the death of the two dogs and was also found in dead sea slugs washed up on the beaches. Tetrodotoxin is highly toxic neurotoxin (100 times more so than potassium cyanide) with no known antidote. It is the product of various types of bacteria such as Pseudoalteromonas tetraodonis, Pseudomonas, Vibrio alginolyticus and some others. Bacterial production of the toxin is found in several species of pufferfish, porcupinefish, ocean sunfish or mola, triggerfish, bBlue-ringed Octopus, rough-skinned newt and Naticidae and numerous other marine life and amphibians. (see wikipedia) where is it either used as a defence mechanism or as a predatory venom. Ingestion causes muscle paralysis and death.

Wikipedia has recently been incorrectly edited by to state that puffer-fish were responsible for the intoxication and also poorly cites a newspaper as the source for that information.

At this time there is no evidence has been published to prove that puffer fish have been identified as the source of the toxin, only that the sea slugs and dogs were affected by Tetrodotoxin. If this situation changes we’ll be on it.

Gulf deaths cast shadow over conservation plans
Beaches deserted after toxin alert
Mass poison drops scheduled to wipeout pests

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