Snail Bait (metaldehyde or methiocarb) Poisoning in Cats

snail bait poisoning in cats

What are the symptoms of snail bait poisoning     How is it diagnosed?     How is it treated?     Snail bait alternatives

Although seen more commonly in dogs than cats, snail bait poisoning does occur in cats too. Snail bait contains one of two poisons, metaldehyde, and methiocarb, both of which can be fatal to cats if ingested. These products typically contain around 3% poison and the rest contains a bait such as bran or molasses which are not only attractive to snails and slugs but also other animals. Up to 50% of pets who consume snail bait will die.

Metaldehyne comes in green pellets.

Methiocarb comes in blue pellets.

Bait may also come in powder form, which sticks to your pet’s coat and paws and may be licked off. Lethal dose is 100-300 mg/kg) [1]. Some snail bait manufacturers also add a bittering agent to deter pets and children, however, this will not put some pets off. If you must use snail bait, ensure your pet doesn’t have access to the treated area and don’t pile it up.

Ingestion can be fatal, only a small amount of snail bait is enough to kill a cat.

What are the symptoms of snail bait poisoning in cats?

Both metaldehyde and methiocarb are neurotoxin, resulting in central nervous system stimulation. Symptoms occur soon as soon as an hour after ingestion and can include:

Increased muscle activity due to tremors causes hyperthermia (an increase in the cat’s body temperature), which can cause brain and organ damage.

How is snail bait poisoning diagnosed? 

Take along the snail bait packet to the veterinarian so he can check the active ingredients and tailor treatment to the particular poison.

Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you. He may be able to reach an early diagnosis from the following information:

  • History of exposure to snail bait
  • Examination of the stomach contents

Your veterinarian may also wish to perform the following tests:

  • Complete blood count, biochemical profile and urinalysis to evaluate the overall health of your cat
  • Arterial blood gas test

How is snail bait poisoning treated? 

There is no antidote to metaldehyde poisoning but atropine may be administered as an antidoet to methiocarb poisoning.

Treatment for both is aimed at preventing further absorption of the poison and controlling symptoms.

Gastric decontamination and preventing further absorption:

  • Induce vomiting if snail bait has been ingested within the previous hour.
  • If inducing vomiting is not possible, your veterinarian may choose to pump the stomach instead (gastric lavage)
  • Activated charcoal will be given to absorb the remaining toxins

Managing clinical symptoms:

  • Muscle tremors can be controlled with medications such as methocarbamol.
  • Medications such as diazepam (Valium)  or fenatyl to control seizures and muscle tremors.
  • Cats who fail to respond to the above medications may require anesthesia.
  • Fluid therapy to correct acidosis (high levels of acid in the blood) and dehydration. This will also help to flush out the poison

Are there any safe alternatives to snail bait?

Pet owners should avoid the use of snail bait containing poisons if possible and switch to safer options.

  • According to this site, adhesive copper tape can be used to deter snails and slugs
  • Fill a container with beer which will attract the slugs. Once in the container they will drown
  • Hand pick and place any snails/slugs in boiling water
  • Crushed egg shells around the base of plants


[1] The Merck Veterinary Manual