A BUSHMILLS woman has warned pet owners to avoid the river walk on the Conagher Road as two of her dogs became ill after drinking the water during a walk.
Tracy Strachan often walks her three Labradors in the local area, but on Sunday past, decided to go somewhere different to walk her pets.
Tracy said: “Conagher Road isn't where we'd normally go, but on Sunday I decided I'd try the river walk. I just had two of the labs with me as one was at home, but it was a terrifying experience.”
Tracy explained that it was soon after one of the dogs lapped up some of the river water that they started to change.
She said: “One of them drank a fair bit and the other only had a small drink, but the change in them was startling.”
Right in front of Tracy, the dogs began hallucinating.
She said: “They were practically jumping off the ceiling, they were chewing their own skin and eating their own feet. It was scary, like they were both on drugs.”
Quick thinking Tracy called Millburn Veterinary Practice and vet, Anne-Marie Carr attended the house.
Tracy said: “After Anne-Marie saw them she was sure they had consumed toxins of some kind, she ran blood tests and got the dog who had the worst symptoms on IV fluids. He was still poorly days later, but the dog that had only drank a small amount of water wasn't just as bad.”
Tracy is certain that the incident is the result of drinking water from the river, and that is reinforced by the fact that the dog that was left at home, never took sick.
She added: “The vet said she would inform the authorities and the toxin people. I just can't praise the vet enough, she was quick-thinking and calm and really reassured me.
“I just wanted to warn other pet owners. The water looked clean, it looked pure and fresh, but perhaps after the storm the night before something invaded it, but there were no bubbles or anything that would worry you when letting your dog drink.
“I just don't want it to happen to anyone else.”
The Chronicle spoke to Anne-Marie Carr, the vet, who tended Tracy's dogs on Sunday. She said evidence showed that the two dogs had came into contact with something toxic.
She said: “Although we can't confirm the toxins came from the river, it certainly seems so. The dogs were suffering from Hyperesthesia (an extreme reaction, increased sensitivity to a sensory stimulant such as touch or vision) and were biting themselves and leaping in the air, they were clearly very distressed.
“One responded to symptomatic treatment but the second one needed IV fluids and is making a good recovery at present.”
Anne-Marie said they suspected toxins were involved and that as it did seem to happen whilst on the walk, she would err on the side of caution and avoid the river walk area until tests are carried out.
When asked if coming into contact with toxins such as this could kill a pet, she said: “Anything that has an affect on their organs could potentially kill a pet, particularly if treatment isn't sought. We ran the blood results and symptoms through the National Poisons Bureau but it didn't narrow it down any. So whilst pretty confident that the dogs came into contact with a toxic substance, we have no idea what it was.”
A spokesperson for NIEA told The Chronicle: “An NIEA Inspector examined the area on Wednesday January 31 and found no pollution or signs of pollution in the river.
“Anyone can report a pollution incident at any time by phoning the Water Pollution Hotline at 0800 80 70 60. To give our inspectors the best chance to find, and source, any pollution, reports to the hotline should be made as soon as possible after a pollution incident has been spotted.”