Dog on Beach

Living on the Jersey Shore has lots of fun perks, but for the pets of Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, it can add some additional hazards. Paralytic shellfish poisoning in dogs is serious and often fatal, so being sure that you understand how to protect your pet is key.

Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning in Dogs

Shellfish poisoning is a foodborne illness that occurs after ingesting shellfish contaminated with saxitoxin. This contamination usually occurs during blooms of blue-green algae, which in themselves are dangerous. Saxitoxin is a neurotoxin which affects the ability of the nerves in the body to fire signals resulting in movement. 

After the ingestion of toxic amounts of the compound in contaminated shellfish, symptoms ensue quickly (usually in about 30 minutes). They can include:

  • Tingling and burning sensation in face and extremities (described in humans but likely experienced by pets as well)
  • Loss of coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Limb paralysis
  • Paralysis of the respiratory system at higher doses

Paralytic shellfish poisoning in dogs is serious and nothing to scoff at. There is no antidote and quick action is required to provide supportive care and breathing support to poisoned pets until the toxin is finally removed from the body through the urinary system. 

Without quick care, this is a potentially fatal toxicity. Thankfully, with intervention most pets are able to recover.

Seafood Safety for Pets

If your dog enjoys long walks on the beach, not to fear! There are definitely things that you can do to ensure that your pet stays safe. 

We recommend:

  • Not allowing your pet to pester critters, shelled or otherwise
  • Keeping your dog on a leash to help control exposure
  • Not feeding your pet uncooked shellfish
  • Watching out for local beach advisories

If your pet may have eaten contaminated shellfish, contacting our facility and heading over as soon as possible is essential. Do not leave the pet unattended and monitor closely for any signs of symptoms of toxicity. If there is any indication that the pet may be affected, an emergency visit is warranted. 

Thankfully, fatalities due to paralytic shellfish poisoning are pretty rare, but they are a concern for beach goers. Keeping the possibility in your mind is definitely prudent, especially for dog owners whose pets like to munch on their beach finds.