ABU DHABI // Two dogs have died in Abu Dhabi from suspected poisoning – just weeks after a number of pets suffered the same fate in Dubai.
Max, a five-year-old German shepherd mix, and Bailey, a four-year-old Golden Doodle, died traumatic, painful deaths on Saturday after their owners took them camping on Al Bahrani Island, just west of the city centre off the Corniche.
“Our suspicion is that it’s probably rat poison,” said Tania Vandeputte, 51, whose family adopted Max shortly after moving to Abu Dhabi about six years ago.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure it was rat poison, but the vet said it was definitely a toxic substance.”
The Vandeputtes are going public with their story to warn other campers of the potentially deadly hazards of leaving animals unattended.
“You have to be very, very careful, you can’t really let your dog run loose here anywhere,” Mrs Vandeputte said.
Mrs Vandeputte said Max had been roaming freely around the campsite with two other dogs on Friday. At 3am on Saturday, the family was abruptly awakened by their pet’s high-pitched barking.
“He became delirious,” Mrs Vandeputte said. “First whining, and then barking like crazy and then shaking and he wasn’t at that point having the seizures, but when my husband turned on the light he became completely out of control and started to have diarrhoea.”
When the Vandeputtes moved Max outside the tent, he took off after biting his owner – an act of aggression very uncharacteristic of their loyal and loving dog, Mrs Vandeputte said.
They were unable to find him until sunrise when his body was discovered lifeless by the shore.
“We were trying to pull ourselves together and starting to pack up the camp and the other little dog started to throw up and he had a couple of little seizures and foam at the mouth,” Mrs Vandeputte said, referring to Bailey. “He started to act exactly like our dog, this high-pitched barking and trying to run away, just going crazy.”
Bailey’s owner, Ken, credited the coastguard for helping the families free their boat from the low tide, allowing them to rush Bailey to a veterinarian, but he died en route.
Ken, 56-year-old a Canadian physician who lives in Abu Dhabi with his wife, said they are still in deep shock and mourning the loss of their beloved pet.
“Bailey was a gift from heaven and loved by all,” Ken said, remembering his dog’s compassionate and friendly demeanour. “Bailey was a member of our family.”
A veterinarian who conducted a post-mortem on Max hours after his death said he found no evidence of a snake bite, scorpion wound or any other external trauma on the animal’s body.
“The story they’re telling, it fits very much with poison, but there’s no way I can be sure,” said Dr Ahmad Jakish, of the British Veterinary Centre.
Only toxicology tests could conclusively determine whether the dogs were killed by a poisonous substance, and neither family opted to go through with the examinations, which can cost hundreds of dirhams.
“There were two dogs who died the same way,” Dr Jakish said. “If two dogs died of the same symptoms, at the same time, at the same location, in a very fast way, acutely, then I would think, OK, it’s a poison.”
Dr Jakish advised owners to always keep their pets on a lead where they can keep guard over their whereabouts and safety. In the case that a pet is suspected of eating a poisonous substance, the animal should be immediately taken to a veterinarian.
In November, several owners reported similar pet deaths in Dubai. But Dr Jakish said that in the three years he has been practicing in Abu Dhabi, Max’s case is the first he’s seen that he expects to be a real poison case.