Blow fish toxicity is relatively common in Western Australia due to the abundance of dog friendly beaches and foreshores. The toxin is also found in the puffer fish and toad fish. All parts of the fish are toxic however the potency varies with the season. The toxin is famous as a Japanese delicacy where specialised chefs can prepare the Fugu fish to give patrons a mild tingling or numbness of the lips. However, if ingested in sufficient quantities this toxin can cause paralysis and death. Thankfully, ingestion of the fish often results in the animal vomiting up the fish and avoiding further absorption of the toxin.
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Mentally dull and depressed
- Trembling and drooling
- Wobbly walking pattern
- Difficulty breathing and blue tinged gums
- Dilated pupils and the animal stops blinking
Blow fish toxin takes time to be absorbed and cause paralysis, so your pet should be monitored carefully for several hours. Seek veterinary attention.
Emergency treatment before transport to a veterinarian
If your pet has vomited, inspect the vomit for fish and collect what you can to bring to your vet for evidence and possible identification
If your pet is paralysed, check your pets gum colour and depth of breathing and if the gums are bluer than normal or it isn’t breathing, conduct rescue breathing (see chapter on CPR)
What to expect at the vet
Your vet will possibly induce vomiting if your pet is sufficiently alert to do this.
Hospitalisation and close monitoring of neurological symptoms.
If your pet is paralysed or showing evidence of weakness such that inducing vomiting can be dangerous to your pet, the vet may perform stomach pumping (gastric lavage) to remove any remaining fish.
If your pet is paralysed it will need mechanical ventilation (where the vet or a machine manually provides breaths through a breathing tube).
Intravenous fluid therapy to support the blood pressure.
Your vet may possibly administer activated charcoal (to help absorb the toxin) if your pet’s airway is secure.
Blood testing to assess severity of illness and ventilation, and response to treatment.
Many pets are only mildly affected and will recover within a day or two. Pets that become paralysed have a good chance of recovery with appropriate care (removal of the toxin and breathing support). Without veterinary care, pets that are paralysed are not likely to recover.
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