The problem

Because dogs are dogs, they roam and scavenge and may eat possum carcasses poisoned by 1080. This poison has been found in possum carcasses three months after the death, and cold dry conditions will delay its breakdown. Also, poisoned possums may wander from the poison zone.

Protecting your dog

  • Keep working dogs well fed.
  • Dogs should be kennelled or chained when not working.
  • Check whether stock around the area of 1080 drops can be managed without dogs.
  • Restrain dogs when they are out on the farm and 1080 is currently being used.
  • If necessary, dogs may be muzzled. But remember a muzzle may stress the dog if it’s not used to wearing it. It needs to be gradually introduced to the dog. The dog must be able to pant and drink with the muzzle on.
  • Know what to do in an emergency (read below), especially if you are in a dangerous area.

Know the signs of poisoning

Signs may appear from as little as half an hour to as much as several hours after poisoning.

Watch for changes in behaviour. The dog may be:

  • Disorientated
  • Restless
  • Hyperactive
  • Sensitive to touch
  • Aggressive - snap at things
  • Running around in circles
  • Howling or barking

At the next stage, the dog may start to:

  • Drool at the mouth
  • Vomit
  • Defaecate
  • Urinate
  • Show muscle tremors
  • Have convulsions

Death can occur within 2 to 12 hours after poisoning

Emergency action when you suspect poisoning 

  • Remember there is no antidote to 1080 - only early action will save a dog.
  • Make the dog vomit immediately.
  • Do this by placing one or two crystals of washing soda (available from a supermarket) down the dog’s throat.
  • Or use emetic pills available from a poisoning contractor.
  • Try half a teaspoon of salt thrown on the back of the dog’s tongue.
  • Once you have made the dog vomit, take the dog to the vet immediately.
  • Phone the vet clinic to warn them you are coming and the nature of the problem.
  • Do not waste time getting to the clinic.

Information from National Possum Control Agency, PO Box 11-461, Wellington. Phone (04) 499-7559.