How dogs get poisoned by 1080

On the rare occasions when dogs come into contact with 1080, the outcome is often fatal. Dogs tend to roam, so they're at greater risk of 1080 poisoning than other domestic animals. Dog deaths are usually the result of them getting into an area being treated with 1080. However, most deaths reported to us happen when dogs eat poisoned possum carcasses, not bait. Dogs don’t recognise boundaries and are scavengers, so any animal carcass is a potential target for them.

Why we use 1080

Part of our work at OSPRI involves controlling NZ's possum population to prevent the spread of bovine TB to our livestock.

Bovine TB is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis, and it spreads through close contact between animals. In New Zealand, possums are the main carrier and spreader of TB. We use a variety of methods to control possum numbers, including:

  • hand-laid 1080 in bait stations, and
  • 1080 applied from the air.

We take any dog deaths due to 1080 poisoning seriously, and we review our operational practices when a death is reported to us.

What to do if your dog has eaten poison

If a dog ingests 1080 poison through roaming or scavenging, the symptoms of exposure should appear anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours later. Dogs who have been exposed to 1080 may:

  • display changes in behaviour — they may become disoriented, restless or hyperactive
  • run in circles, bark or howl without reason
  • be sensitive to touch
  • become aggressive.

If you think your dog has chewed or eaten part of a poisoned carcass, make it vomit immediately. You can do this by:

  • putting one or two crystals of washing soda, available from supermarkets, down the dog’s throat — this is the most reliable way to induce vomiting
  • giving the dog emetic pills, available from poisoning contractors
  • throwing half a teaspoon of salt on the back of the dog’s tongue.

You'll need to take your dog to the nearest vet as soon as possible. Phone ahead to tell them you're on the way and explain the problem. Dogs can die anywhere from 2 to 12 hours after ingesting poison — it's important to know there's no antidote for 1080.

For more help, contact the National Poisons Centre 24-hour emergency service on 0800 764 766.

Protecting your dog

Preventing dogs from exposure to 1080 poison is the most effective way of protecting them.

  • If possible, keep your dogs away from any areas where pest control work is happening.
  • If you're close to an area where pest control operations are under way, read the warning signs provided and follow their instructions.
  • If you enter a poisoned area, muzzle your dog to prevent it scavenging or keep it on a short leash at all times.
  • Avoid waterways flowing out of operational areas and adjacent beaches. Possum carcasses may wash downstream.

If you're a farmer working your dogs in or around a poisoned area, there are some precautions you can take to help keep them safe.

  • Consider whether you can manage stock around the area of the 1080 drop without dogs.
  • Keep your working dogs well fed. Feed them meat rather than biscuits during and after a 1080 operation so they're less inclined to scavenge on dead possums.
  • Kennel or chain your dogs when they're not working.
  • If necessary, muzzle your dogs. A muzzle may annoy a dog if it's not used to wearing one, so introduce it gradually. A muzzle may also result in heat stress during work. Make sure the dog can still pant and drink water if it's wearing one, particularly in hot weather.