She said she spent the night nursing Rio and Timmy through their “trips” as they shook, twitched, vomited and peed. Picture: Michaela Strachan/Instagram
She said she spent the night nursing Rio and Timmy through their “trips” as they shook, twitched, vomited and peed. Picture: Michaela Strachan/Instagram

Michaela Strachan shares rough night nurturing her dogs through suspected tik poisoning

By Theolin Tembo Time of article published Aug 18, 2021

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Cape Town - A Cape Town pet owner shared her tumultuous experience when her beloved dogs looked like they were both having seizures and couldn’t stand up.

“Springwatch” presenter Michaela Strachan took to Instagram on Sunday sharing her rough night after her dogs had ingested what was believed to be crystal meth-laced faeces while on a walk.

Strachan has hosted “Springwatch”, which along with “Autumnwatch” and “Winterwatch“, are annual BBC television series which focus on the experiences of wildlife during the changing of the seasons.

She said that a few hours after walking her dogs, Rio and Timmy, through a ruined fort on Table Mountain, she noticed that they looked as though they were having seizures.

“We rushed them to the vet and she recognised the symptoms as an overdose of a drug called tik (crystal meth). Apparently the ruined fort is where a lot of homeless people hang out and take tik, so the dogs must’ve eaten human poo with tik in it.”

Strachan shared that the vet had told her this isn’t the first time they had come across the issue. She said she spent the night nursing Rio and Timmy through their “trips” as they shook, twitched, vomited and peed.

She added that they woke up “confused, disorientated, paranoid and spaced out”.

Cape of Good Hope SPCA head vet Dr Esté Spies and Dr Stephanie Chatry said that they see different types of poisoning on a regular basis, including malicious and accidental.

They said that while they have never specifically suspected poisoning as a result of crystal meth in human excrement, as mentioned by Strachan, they have treated many poisoning cases where the specific poison could not be identified.

“The most common poisons we see include pesticide, insecticides, snail-bait, marijuana and rat poison. In these cases, the animals are treated symptomatically and supportively.”

Strachan did just that, and she said that on Monday morning her “weird experience” has passed and the dogs are okay – and even showed them back on the beach, their normal tail-wagging selves.

“Rio and Timmy on the beach and back to their old selves. Tails wagging, noses wet, tongues out and chasing seaweed. Seemingly none the worse for their guest appearance in Breaking Bad! Thank you for all your comments and support.”

Chatry said that if pet owners suspect their animals have been poisoned, they should take them to the nearest vet immediately, and ensure that any contaminated area is cleaned up.

“Wear gloves when handling the animal or immediately wash their hands following it. Ensure the other animals in the household are stowed away and don’t have access to the suspected poison.

“If a malicious cause is suspected, notify the police or security company to monitor the house while you’re at the vet. If a cause is known and the packaging is available, it’s best to bring it with you to the vet, for specific treatment and an antidote, if available, can be administered.”

She added that it is usually not recommended for owners to treat their pets themselves, even in an initial stage.

“Unfortunately, when animals ingest poison, time is often of the essence to prevent organ damage and possibly death. Delaying the treatment in an attempt to treat the dogs yourself may be the difference between the vet successfully treating the dog or the animal dying.

“Poisonings in domestic animals are very common, both malicious and accidental.”

Cape of Good Hope SPCA’s on-site animal behaviourist, Nicole Nel, shared insights into dogs and their poo-eating habits (termed “coprophagia”).

“Dogs are inherently scavengers/foragers, so eating rubbish, scraps, poo etc is common, and as disgusting as it is to humans, it’s pleasurable to them.

“There’s a few reasons why they do it, from being a pleasurable activity that they rehearse (regularly for some, if not interrupted or managed), to a learnt behaviour from puppyhood (often eating of own faeces), or as a result of diet (certain deficiencies), or it can be behavioural.”

Nel said the first thing to do is to rule out any health issues, and that once that is done, a certified behaviourist can look at what is reinforcing the behaviour and/or underlying behaviour/emotional issues. They will then help the owners in managing the behaviour of the dogs.

“If you have a dog who frequently eats faeces or other gross items on walks, consider a training schedule with a certified positive reinforcement trainer, to work on effective strategies like a reliable recall, engagement (checking in with you regularly), and teaching your dog a reliable “leave it” cue.“

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