Belfast Telegraph

Dog's agonising death after lifting toxic plant during walk on beach

By Linda Stewart

The owner of a dog that died after coming into contact with one of the world's most poisonous plants on a beach has described her devastation.

The German shepherd dog died vomiting blood five days after picking up the poisonous hemlock water dropwort root on the shore at Drain's Bay, Co Antrim.

Larne Borough Council has cleared away 15 kilos of root material from the beach and erected signs warning dog owners to watch out for the poisonous plant, which has been described as the most toxic in the UK.

It's believed flooding may have disturbed the riverbank habitat where the hemlock water dropwort grows and swept it downstream to the beach.

Julie Neill, from Larne, said her German shepherd Jack hadn't even eaten the plant, but was poisoned after simply picking it up in his mouth and putting it down again.

"He was a lovely big thing and it's just been a tragedy," she said. "We let him out of the car and he was excited because he loved the beach. I saw him with some creamy coloured stuff. I got him to leave it and he dropped it. He didn't eat it – he just had it in his mouth."

It wasn't until five days later that Jack began to fall ill, Julie explained.

"He got so sick and I had to rush him for emergency treatment. He died within five or six hours," she said.

"It's been a week-and-a-half since he died and I've been finding it really difficult. If it can be so toxic to dogs, think what it could do to a human. God forbid if a 'wean' picks it up."

Gleno Veterinary Centre, which treated Jack, posted an image of the roots on its Facebook page. "The best thing is to avoid walking your dogs on beaches until we get confirmation that it is again safe to do so," an official said.

FACTFILE

Hemlock water dropwort is also known as 'poison parsnip'. The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology says that it is the most toxic plant in the United Kingdom to both humans and animals. The leaves smell characteristically of celery or parsley, while the roots are pale yellow and are composed of five or more fleshy tubers (hence the name Dead Man's Fingers).

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