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Devon dog owners warned as palm oil poisons an animal a day

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: February 15, 2014

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A deadly menace washed up by the savage storms is poisoning dogs at a rate of one a day.

Several animals have died after licking or nibbling on boulder-sized chunks of palm oil which have been found littering beaches in Devon and Cornwall.

Hundreds more have been left writhing in agony with their owners facing huge vets bills for emergency treatment.

The strange blobs emit a stench of diesel and were thought to be firelighters. but the source of the pollution has yet to be found. But the Maritime and Coastguard Agency identified it as solidified palm oil, a substance used in food, soaps, shampoos and biofuels.

It is harmless to humans but can kill dogs unless they get swift treatment which involves being fed charcoal to soak up the oil and induce vomiting.

The first reported casualty came when a three-year-old miniature schnauzer was killed after ingesting a single, tiny lump.

The Garrett-Peel family rushed three-year-old Zanzi to a vet when the oil formed a glue-like blockage inside his stomach, but surgeons were unable to save him.

In the past few weeks Britain’s tempestuous seas have hurled more and more clumps on to land, with vets reporting at least one new case of poisoning every day.

The latest victim, a border collie-cross called Poppy, died after consuming the substance last weekend on Portwrinkle Beach, near Torpoint in South East Cornwall.

Her owner Lara Kleckham had no idea it posed a threat until her pet fell ill and refused to eat the next day.

Poppy was given antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and anti-sickness medication in an attempt to stimulate her appetite but died several days later.

Mrs Kleckham said: “She had immune haemolytic anaemia, which the vet said can result from ingesting a toxin.

“Watching a previously healthy, beloved family pet suffer in this way is very upsetting. It is more upsetting as I was unaware of the substance or of the risk to dogs.”

Chris Gardner, of St Clements Vets in Truro, said the toll could rise.

He said: “We were seeing dogs on a daily basis. Then it went quiet in the storms, probably because there weren’t so many people on the beaches.

“But we had a dog brought in Wednesday from Porthtowan. It is still an ongoing issue.

“I have seen 2ft-diameter lumps. It has a strong diesel smell, so if you smell it on your dog get advice immediately.”

Cornwall Council has erected signs at beaches in the affected areas to inform dog walkers of the threat.

David Owens, the council’s assistant head of environment, said: “Once again we are especially advising dog-owners to be vigilant. Please keep your dog on a lead as there have been reports in the past that the substance could be dangerous for dogs if they eat a large amount of it.

“Our contractors Cory are removing the substance from Cornwall Council-owned beaches which have been affected and will be providing advice to the owners of private beaches on how to dispose of the substance.”

The palm oil has even been spotted far inland on the banks of tidal rivers such as the Dart in South Devon, where dog walkers have been binning the white waxy lumps.

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