Mbombela residents terrorised by pet poisonings

Multiple dogs have died due to being poisoned in the Steiltes suburb of Mbombela. Local owners were advised to get their pets to the vet as soon as possible should they begin displaying symptoms of poisoning.

A spate of seemingly malicious dog poisonings terrorised Mbombela residents from Friday to Monday, September 8 to 11. Only a few dogs survived.

Several pet owners confirmed that eight dogs had died due to the incidents, but it cannot be ruled out that more were killed during those few days. One of the first pets to die was Tyson, a three-year-old Rottweiler, who was described by his owner as the friendliest dog you would ever meet.

Tyson. Photo: Supplied
“Tyson was like my son. He was my boy. He had the most awesome personality,” said his owner, who asked not to be named.

“I don’t know who would go around poisoning dogs. I feel like it was done purely for the sake of just killing them,” said the audibly heartbroken owner.

He said he had been visiting his neighbour’s house with Tyson and had taken him out to go to the toilet at about 01:00.

“I called him and saw he was acting strange. He was twitching. I then saw there was extreme salivation and he was foaming at the mouth. I realised he had been poisoned. I called for my neighbour and I started the process of looking for a 24-hour vet. I battled to find one, and eventually we got hold of the West Acres Animal Hospital through a security officer who had arrived at my house. By the time I laid him down on the vet’s table, he was dead. That was about 20 minutes after I think he was exposed to the poison.”

Another resident, Charl Kleinhaus, lost four of his dogs in the space of just under a day. His grandson’s four-year-old pit bull, Blackie, his Belgian Malinois, Mila, his two-year-old miniature dachshund, Peanut, and his mother’s 14-year-old Jack Russell, Jessy. He said Blackie was the first to die.

Charl Kleinhaus lost four dogs. One of them was a two-year-old miniature dachshund named Peanut. Photo: Charl Kleinhaus
He found him on the veranda early on Friday morning, and as he was running to put him in the car to rush him to the vet, Blackie took his last breath.
Jessy and Blackie. Photo: Charl Kleinhaus.

He said Jessy, Peanut and Mila all died within half an hour of each other later on Friday.

Chris Kleinhaus with Mila and Blackie. Both dogs died of poison. Photo: Charl Kleinhaus

Staffies Rautenbach said both his Yorkshire terriers had at about 02:00 on Friday, and that he and his wife were devastated. The terriers were just five-and-a-half months old, and named Moa and Boesman.

Boesman and Moa, five-month-old Yorkies that died. > Photo: SuppliedLinda Kotze’s eight-year-old Labrador died on Monday morning. She said she found Mia dead in her garden at about 08:00 on Monday after she had come home from dropping her kids at school.

She said she has many other dogs, and the vet suspects that Mia had eaten all the poison.

“She saved the other pets by eating it all, but I am heartbroken over her death,” she said.

Linda Kotze’s eight-year-old Labrador, Mia, died. Photo: Supplied

Anastasia Smit’s German shepherd named Duke thankfully survived. Smit said she had gone out to drop her kids at school at 07:00 on Friday, and when she arrived home at 08:00, she found Duke reacting to the poison. She managed to get him to the vet with seconds to spare.

“When we got to the vet, I was told his temperature was 41°C, and apparently his organs would have started shutting down at 42°C.

Anastasia Smit’s dog, Duke, thankfully survived. Photo: Supplied

“I think he was exposed by the secretions of my neighbour’s dog that was poisoned. He is doing much better, but now stays in the house. I don’t know how much poison is still in the garden or how long it will last.”

Following the spate of dog-poisoning incidents that hit Steiltes, Lowvelder spoke with local vets and a member of the task team who set out to find the culprits who threw poison into the yards of several Steiltes properties:

Dr Molly Lubbinge of The Vets @ 66 had said it was very difficult to say what type of poison it is without it having been tested.

Dr Molly Lubbinge of The Vets @ 66. Photo: Supplied

“It is a blueish-green paste and was found rubbed on gates or rolled into balls and thrown into yards. It has a strong chemical smell to it. The blueish colour reminds one of snail bait, which contains metaldehyde, which is very rapidly absorbed and can cause similar symptoms.”

The signs are severe shivers, muscle twitches and very severe salivation. Lubbinge said it was reported to her that one of the dogs had died just 15 minutes after it had started to display them.

She said to phone the vet immediately if one’s dog is displaying symptoms.

Dr Jacqui Hardy of West Acres Animal Hospital also said that due to the colour, it appeared to possibly be snail bait, but that it could be combined with other chemicals too.

Dr Jacqui Hardy of West Acres Animal Hospital. Photo: Supplied
Typical signs of malicious poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, walking off balance and muscle tremors. This very quickly proceeds to seizures, respiratory failure and death.

Hardy said if one’s dogs are displaying symptoms of poisonings, such as muscle tremors and vomiting, they should call the vet immediately. “Save your vet’s emergency number on your phone so that you do not have to waste time trying to find numbers on the internet.”

She said time is of the essence, and trying to start treatments like activated charcoal at home could waste precious time in getting one’s pet help.

“The charcoal does bind toxins and it is often part of the treatment used for poisoning cases, but if symptoms have started showing, it means that some of the poison is already in the pet’s system and the charcoal cannot counteract what has already been absorbed.

“It can also be very risky to administer oral medication to an animal that is showing neurological signs. It will not be able to protect its airway, and this increases the risk of medication and vomit going into the lungs. Please call your vet and get your pet there as soon as possible so that appropriate antidotes and seizure medications can be given as fast as possible.”

Dr Heinrich Henzen of the Nelspruit Animal Hospital told Lowvelder that they had had five dogs that were poisoned brought to them. Four survived. One died. Another two came in that had already died.

Dr Heinrich Henzen of the Nelspruit Animal Hospital.

He said based on the consistency and smell, as well as the symptoms displayed, the majority of the poison brought to them seemed to be snail bait, but that other toxins such as Temik could have been mixed in.

Henzen said the people who distributed the poison could have thrown in some mixtures that were more Temik than snail bait and vice versa, and that would then depend on the symptoms the pet displayed.

“We saw dogs come in muscle twitches and were shaking, others were foaming at the mouth, others were vomiting profusely and some were just completely flat.”

He added that the poison lasts for a very long time and that dogs should not be buried in people’s gardens, but rather taken to the vet to be correctly and safely disposed of.

“Five dogs brought in for poisonings is a problem. Three dogs in a row is an issue. Even just two dogs is a problem,” he said.

Rika Venter, who belongs to the task team created by local Jacques Benadé, advised people that it is best not to keep the poison, but to hand it in at a vet to test and be disposed of correctly.

Rika Venter. Photo: Supplied

She added that the dogs who died should not be buried on people’s properties, taken to dump sites or out in fields as the poison can be absorbed by the soil and remain dangerous and toxic to both animals and humans for years to come. She urged people to take their dogs to the vet to also be disposed of correctly.

Venter added that the poison seems to have been thrown by the culprits into yards and that some could remain on public pavements and roads. She therefore cautioned people to walk their dogs with a muzzle to keep them from licking or eating leftover toxins. She also urged people to keep their dogs indoors and check their gardens every morning for poison, or anything unusual.

“We are also asking vets and people to report any incidents of their pets being poisoned to us. We want to know how widespread the cases are and if they are still continuing.”

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