Dog dies from poison after swimming at rural waterhole

Toby the dog died of poisoning after swimming at a waterhole known as Old Bridge.
Toby the dog died of poisoning after swimming at a waterhole known as Old Bridge.

A DAY trip to the Boyne Valley near Gladstone was never meant to end in the death of beloved family pet Toby.

What began as a relaxing road trip ended in horror for owners Alex Barnes and Renee Van Dartel, when their one-year-old bitzer began fitting and foaming from the mouth on the trip home.

A tense evening followed on Sunday, with Toby in veterinary care until he sadly passed away on Monday morning.

Renee said she and partner Alex were still suffering from shock, amplified by the cause of Toby's death - poisoning.

"It was a traumatic experience; Toby could've lived a lot longer," she said.

"Toby was like my large furry child. I expect him to be waiting for me as usual.

"It breaks my heart to realise he will never do that again. "We both love and miss him so much."

The 40kg Toby was enjoying a trip to a local waterhole, referred to by locals as "Old Bridge" which crosses the Boyne River near Nagoorin.

This is the fourth confirmed case of dogs falling victim to poisoning at the same locality.

Specific chemicals, while difficult to determine, suggest the poison was not 1080, but rather an organic phosphate poisoning, possibly strychnine.

Chemical composition of strychnine results in muscular convulsions and asphyxia, as displayed in Toby's symptoms.

Miss Van Dartel woke on Sunday evening in a panicked state after realising she was experiencing a reaction on her face and arms.

"I woke up at 2am covered in a rash with bad swelling to my face," she said. "I was expecting myself to start fitting and foaming from the mouth, too."

Miss Van Dartel has since recovered from the reaction, but warns dog owners to take care with their loved ones to ensure they don't sustain the same devastating loss.

Renee Van Dartel's dog died at the weekend from poison in the Nagoorin area.
Renee Van Dartel's dog died at the weekend from poison in the Nagoorin area. Brenda Strong

Poisoned dogs are hard to treat: vet

POISON ingested by canines is notoriously difficult to treat, says veterinary surgeon Danielle Dunn.

Although not a common instance in the Gladstone region, Dr Dunn says the most effective insurance against poisoning is prevention.

"Usually by the time the dogs starts to display clinical signs, it is too late," she said.

"If an owner is able to get veterinary assistance within 10 minutes, we can administer medication to induce vomiting. Other than that, prevention by keeping your dog on a lead at all times is the best method."

When baiting takes place, particularly in rural and regional areas, it is strictly monitored, requiring specific conditions and approval from neighbouring tenants.

Baiting chemicals such as 1080 and strychnine are approved by Biosecurity Qld and the Department of Agriculture to control primarily wild dogs and wild pigs.

The presence of baiting chemicals is strictly prohibited within 2km of any habitation or public amenity, 5m of a fenced boundary, 50m of a declared road centreline or 5km of a town.

Sources of dangerous chemicals resulting in the deaths of dogs is difficult to determine, with scavenger birds able to carry baits across properties and long distances.

And being next to a flowing river, it is almost impossible to ascertain a definitive point of origin.

Dr Dunn said she would expect any known site of baiting to have visible signage.

"As a pet owner, you do largely rely on the responsibility of the people laying bait," she said.

"Keeping a dog on a lead really is the safest method, also to prevent snakebites as well."


  • Muscle convulsions, fever, seizures, foaming.

What to do:

  • Seek veterinary care
  • Call 13 11 26 if human poisoning

Topics:  boyne valley pets poison

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