x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Pesticides a threat to UAE pets, vets warn

Too many pest control firms do not conform to safety standards leading to animal deaths, say veterinarians in the UAE.

ABU DHABI // Veterinarians are urging pet owners to take extra precautions this summer against the threat of pesticide poisoning.

Dr Sara Elliott, a vet at the British Veterinary Hospital in Dubai, said she treats several animals a month for rodenticide or pesticide poisoning.

Too many pest control companies, she said, were unprofessional and did not understand how to use chemicals.

The vet said the cases she treats are only the tip of the iceberg as it does not take into consideration wild or poorly cared-for animals.

“The name of the chemical will be in Arabic, with no data sheet provided, and no one at the company knows what it is but when you do find out the name of it, you find that everything has been used incorrectly,” she said. “They’ve not taken any consideration of the safety aspects.”

Dr Elliott cited an example where one customer’s garden was sprayed with pesticides designed to be washed off. As the irrigation system could only water the ground, the pesticide remained and the garden became a “permanent toxic zone”.

“In cases like this the pesticide is not broken down, so it just dilutes into the soil,” she said.

She has also had cases where dogs were poisoned after eating rat bait at a children’s playground. Rodenticide can cause internal bleeding and even kill pets and children.

The vet said: “In this case, the pest control company has been paid to empty the bait traps but, instead, had just poured the bait on top of the bait box out in the open, rather than inside it.”

Dr Elliot believes education, training, legislation and warning systems need to be improved to ensure workers had standards to meet and were held accountable when they failed to meet them.

The country is all too familiar with the dangers of illegal, and improper use of, pesticides.

The most recent human case was the death of an 11-year-old girl after her family’s apartment in Sharjah was sprayed with illegal pesticide in June.

Farah Ebrahim died of heart failure on July 1 due to exposure to aluminium phosphide, known as bomb. Her death followed that of two toddlers in Ajman and a beauty salon worker in Fujairah during June alone.

As for the animals affected, treatment is possible, Dr Elliott said, but it depends on identifying the poison and treating it specifically.

“It also depends on the time the animal is presented to us after exposure,” she said. “Of the animals we see which are poisoned, the recovery and death rates usually depend on the time from poisoning to treatment. On average, we see death rates of 10 per cent but this is much less with fast treatment.

“A lot of the poisonings we see are from people commissioning companies to treat pests in their own garden or houses. By using reputable companies and making sure that these companies are using appropriate treatments, poisonings can be prevented.”

Rentokil’s UAE general manager, James Nicholson, said there were safer rodenticides on the market.

However, he added that many companies in the UAE used cheaper, untreated chemicals.

“The legislation is there, but a lot of companies aren’t working to it,” he said. “A lot of this comes down to the fact that everyone has the same tools but it’s how you use those tools.”

And poisons are not the only hazard for the nation’s pets. One vet, Dr Fadi Daoud, of Abu Dhabi’s Australian Veterinarian Hospital, said traffic accidents are the city’s worst problem, leading to numerous “horrible” animal deaths.

His hospital treats about five animals a month for injuries sustained in car accidents – injuries that are always “very serious”, according to Dr Daoud.

“It’s heartbreaking because the damage is always severe. And I see it more often than anything else. More than 70 per cent sustain severe fractures and damage to internal organs,” he said.

halbustani@thenational.ae