Sea Hare poisoning in Western Australia

March 11, 2005
From: Dr Tony Pusey

I am a practicing veterinarian in Margaret River [South west Western Australia] and thought that I should update you on a recent poisoning I had to attend. There is currently a mass mortality of Aplysia gigantea (presumably) at the mouth of the Blackwood River at Augusta. Up to 300 individuals have been counted in one small beach alone. 2 nights ago I was presented with a seizuring dog that had been observed to eat something (unknown) an hour before whilst at the above beach. The dog was in extreme hyperthermia - 41.5 degrees C, extreme panting and extreme muscle fasciculations and tremor. Organophosphate poisoning was possible as the owner had not actually observed what the dog was eating or possibly just licking. There was no response to atropine administration. Seizure severity increased and dog was anaesthetised, the stomach washed (nothing recovered) iv fluids, shock doses of cortisone, and colonic lavage to normalise body temp and gastric lavage with activated charcoal suspension was administered. The dog required anaesthesia for more than 12 hours as each time we attmpted to allow the dog to wake up the seizures and panting would recur. Anaesthesia with pentobarbitone was followed by sedation with diazepam and the dog made an uneventful recovery 36 hours later. I am not sure that the mortalities recorded 3 years ago in Geraldton were from neurological causes or severe gastro-intestinal as I seem to recall. I would certainly appreciate any feedback from other vets (or others) if they have any further thoughts or advice.
Tony Pusey

Pusey, T., 2005 (Mar 11) Sea Hare poisoning in Western Australia. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Tony,
In an earlier message [#9237] I mentioned the possiblity of toxic dinoflagellates being involved. I am not an expert in these things but the mixture of gastro-intestinal and neurological symptoms certainly are similar to ciguatera poisoning where people are poisoned by fish contaminated with a toxic species of dinoflagellate. It might be worth checking out ciguatera poisoning symptoms and treatment.

What puzzles me is that mass mortality of Sea Hares is a worldwide phenomenon and yet only in Western Australia have there been reports of dog poisoning.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2005 (Mar 11). Comment on Sea Hare poisoning in Western Australia by Dr Tony Pusey. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from


Aplysia gigantea

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