With the approach of spring, veterinarians in Southern California can expect a flurry of poisonings as gardeners begin to apply products to kill snails and slugs to their yards. Metaldehyde is the product in "snail bait" poison and is highly toxic to humans and pets, especially dogs. The poison is ingested by the pet, which will then show signs of toxicity that range from tremors and weakness to seizures and collapse, depending on the amount ingested.
The unfortunate situation is made worse by the fact that "snail bait" comes in two forms, a powder or granular form and in pellet form. The pellets look like dry dog kibbles and are therefore more attractive to the dog. They also tend to last longer in the garden, increasing the potential for exposure.
I recommend that anyone who has pets or small children not use the pellets. It is much safer if the granular form is used in small amounts. You should, in the evening, lightly dampen the area of the yard to be treated, then apply small amounts of the granules by sprinkling them thinly over the area. Keep your pets indoors that night and in the morning, remove all the dead snails and water down the area to further dissolve any remaining poison. Never put the pelleted form of snail bait near pet foods and keep it out of the reach of children. Be sure to read the label well before using this product. A little precaution and common sense will avoid some serious mistakes when using this pesticide. If your pet should ingest any garden poison, take him immediately to your veterinarian and be sure to bring the product with you for identification.