Toxic Puffer Fish Poisoning in Dogs

    Our cover photo gal is Phoebe.  Phoebe’s owner contacted In the Cove to warn dog owners about the potentially deadly puffer fish in the Lane Cove River.

    Phoebe’s owners took her for a walk at Burns Bay Reserve.  After Phoebe returned home she started vomiting.  Her owner rushed her to the vet.  At the vet, she started having seizures and became unconscious and stopped breathing.  The vet pumped her stomach, stablised her.  After an anxious night, she recovered and is now home with her owners.  The vet suspected it good be puffer fish poisoning but could not be sure.

    A couple of days later, one of the owners was at Burns Bay Reserve and noticed, near the play equipment, two dead kookaburras and a fish.  Their local vet advised them to bring in the dead animals and it was ascertained that the fish was a puffer fish.  Pufferfish and dogs can be a deadly combination.  Some dogs might only be mildly impacted. Other dogs may become paralysed and will only recover if they see a vet who takes the appropriate action (i.e. removal of the toxin and places the dog on breathing support).

    According to the Museum of Tropical Queensland, there are 57 varieties of puffer fish in Australia.  Wow, who knew?  ITC just thought puffer fish were in Japan.

    The Museum of Tropical Queensland advises you can identify a blowfish, pufferfish, toadfish by a combination of:

    • Skin without scales (but sometimes with numerous tiny prickles);
    • Four sharp-edged tooth plates, divided centrally to form powerful beak-like jaws;
    • Belly inflatable;
    • No ventral fins; and
    • Dorsal and anal fins without spines and situated far back on the body.

    If you speak to Anglers, they will tell you that toadfish are common fish in sheltered waterways (like the Lane Cove River).

    Puffer Fish store the toxin tetrodotoxin in their skin and internal organs. All parts of the fish can be toxic.  Pufferfish can also be toxic to humans.

    If you observe any of the following symptoms, immediately take your pet to the vet.

    • Vomiting and diarrhea;
    • Trembling and drooling;
    • Wobbly walking;
    • Difficulty breathing;
    • Blue-tinged gums;
    • Weakness;
    • Dilated pupils and not blinking;
    • Mentally dull and depressed;
    • Paralysis; and
    • Coma

    If your dog does vomit (and this next bit does sound gross) check to see if they bring up the remains of the fish and then very carefully bring the fish to the vet (use gloves etc) with your sick dog.  This will help the Vet to identify the issue.
    It is important to act quickly as death can occur anywhere from as little as 20 minutes to 4 -6 hours post ingestion.

    Take Care when your dog is near the waterways or a park that is near waterways (the dead pufferfish found at Burns Bay Reserve was at the flying fox which is quite a distance from the water).

    If your dog eats something they shouldn’t don’t hesitate to get them to the Vet asap.

    ITC is glad Pheobe is well again and we thank the owners for bringing this to ITC’s attention.

    Do you have a local issue you would like help with? ITC is here to help just email us at [email protected]

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