August 12, 2009

Sea slugs might be to blame for dog deaths

Sea slugs found on a New Zealand beach held enough of a poisonous substance to kill laboratory mice, scientists said Wednesday.

Researchers have not yet determined what the toxin is or whether it is responsible for the deaths of two dogs that apparently ingested something deadly on Narrow Neck Beach in Auckland, The New Zealand Herald reported.

Paul McNabb, an algae specialist at the Cawthron Institute, said the next step is to determine if the toxin in the slugs is the same as the toxin in the dogs' vomit. While not all test results are in, the slugs are the only toxic beach inhabitants found so far.

Experts say sea slugs in New Zealand are not toxic normally but might have become so from ingesting a toxin, possibly from algae. A dog that ate a toxic slug or even held one in its mouth might become mortally ill.

Authorities have posted warnings against swimming or bringing children or pets to the beach.