The Scourge of the Garden

D. E. Larsen, DVM

Martha led her new young German Shepherd into the exam room and waited patiently for me to arrive. She had Duke sitting beside her, ears erect and waiting for whatever was to come next.

Obviously proud of her pup, Martha smiled when she shook my hand.

“Shake,” she instructed Duke. Duke extended a paw for me to shake.

“This guy is the smartest pup I have ever had,” Martha said. “He is already teaching the other two knot heads how to behave.”

“Do they get along okay?” I asked.

“Oh yes, they get along fine,” Martha said. “Even if Buddy and Zeus are jealous of all the attention that Duke gets right now.”

Duke was super on the exam table and took his shots like they were nothing. It was nice to see a young German Shepherd that was a great dog from the old mold. German Shepherds are a popular breed. When a dog breed becomes popular, so many backyard breeders pop up and start selling puppies. There is never a selection criterion, and the result is a bunch of pups with poor conformation and abysmal behavior.

“Do you think it would be possible for me to leave Duke here for a few minutes while I run to the store?” Martha asked. “The slugs are terrible this year, and they are eating my garden down to the roots. I have to pick up some slug bait.”

“We will gladly hang onto Duke for you, Martha,” I said. “But I am not a big fan of slug bait. It is terrible stuff, and dogs really like it. They will go right along behind someone is putting out in the garden and lick it up off the ground. Then it is a quick trip to vet, and hopefully, they didn’t get enough to kill to themselves.”

“I have used it before, and our garden is fenced for the deer, so we can keep the dogs out,” Martha said.

“That is probably good. Just be careful with the stuff,” I said. “There is no antidote, and it is all dose-related. We can control the seizures and provide supportive care until the effects wear off, but if they get too much, it cooks their livers, and once in awhile, they are gone before they get here.”

“I don’t know what else a person can use,” Martha said.

“I am no expert, but I hear that a shallow pan filled with beer works well,” I said. “The beer attracts the slugs, and they crawl into the pan and drown.”

“I’ve heard that also,” Martha said. “Maybe I will try it after I get them under control with some slug bait first.”

Martha picked up Duke and headed home when she was done at the store. She lived up the river, maybe halfway to Cascadia. 

We continued our day, and my conversation with Martha quickly faded into the background.

And then the phone rang.

A very frantic Martha was crying on the phone as she spoke with Sandy. 

“I had the grocery bag sitting on the table, and those damn dogs knocked it on the floor and tore open the two boxes of slug bait,” Martha cried. “Buddy and Zeus are in seizures, and Duke is looking sick.”

“Get them down here as fast as you can,” Sandy said. “We will be ready for you when you get here.”

Dixie came back and told me Martha was on her way to the clinic with all three dogs. “They at two boxes of slug bait,” she said.

“If they ate that much, there is probably not going to be much that we can do for them,” I said.

Martha came through the door with Duke a short time later. Duke was still on his feet but walking stiff-legged, and his eyes were dancing in the sockets.

“Buddy and Zeus are both dead out in the car,” Martha said with tears streaming down her face. “Duke is lucky that they ate most of the stuff.”

Duke only required a slight sedative to control his symptoms. We took care of the arrangements to get Buddy and Zeus cremated for Martha.

“If only I had listened to what you were telling me,” Martha said. “I feel so guilty. Why do dogs like that terrible stuff?”

“There is a movement underway to require they add a bittering agent to the stuff to try to make it less attractive to dogs,” I said. “That might solve a large amount of the consumption like Buddy and Zeus got into, but the small amount like Duke got might still happen. Al least most of those are manageable.”

“Well, for now, I am going to pick up some disposal aluminum pie plates and set them out filled with beer,” Martha said. “At least I have plenty of beer at the house. Bob won’t even miss a few cans.”

“It might be a good idea for us to keep Duke overnight,” I said.

“If it is possible, I would like to take him home,” Martha said. “He would be better off at home than here where nobody is watching him. And it is going to feel like the house is empty without the big dogs. I really think I will need Duke to cuddle with tonight.”

So Duke went home, and he was fine in the morning. He lucked out being the low man and the totem pole in this situation. That is not always the case when the low dog is left to lick up the leavings. But that is another story.

Photo by Rudolf-Peter Bakker on Unsplash

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

6 thoughts on “The Scourge of the Garden

  1. I had a bad feeling how this story was going to end. There is a product out called “Sluggo” which is basically iron phosphate, and is claimed to cause snails and slugs to crease feeding. It claims to be pet and wildlife safe. “Sluggo Plus” contains iron phosphate and Spinosad. I don’t know how safe either of these really are.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. This episode occurred in the early 1980s. Sorry that I cannot get it closer but my memory is not good with dates unless I have an event attached to it. I have no experience with iron phosphate. I will check into it.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. We have used it here as it is OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) certified, and only around certain things, usually vulnerable plant starts. It doesn’t take much.


      3. If you do find come across any information on any toxicity to pets or wildlife, I would be interested. Many of these alternative solutions have some sort of collateral damage.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: