Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - GARDENING AND PETS - BY CRAIG REILLY

QIt seems that al­most ev­ery day we are see­ing warn­ings about ‘poi­sonous parsnip’ cases on our beaches. Can you tell me if this is all hype or is there re­ally a se­ri­ous prob­lem please?

Graham, Groom­sport

AYou are right Graham, there has been a lot of me­dia and so­cial me­dia cov­er­age and warn­ings. The facts are that there have been fa­tal­i­ties so the short an­swer is, yes, there is a real con­cern. Frankly though, the risk is a lit­tle over-hyped, given there are warn­ings about even touch­ing these ‘lethal’ roots/tu­bers.

Over the past few years we’ve had spo­radic episodes where heavy rain washes these plants from river banks out to sea and they then in­evitably get washed up on beaches. This year, once again, north Down seems to be a hot spot for these land­ings.

Wa­ter Drop­wort (part of the Hem­lock fam­ily) con­tains po­tent neu­ro­tox­ins. There was a notable case in Glas­gow where four for­agers col­lected these roots and used them to make a curry. They all ended up be­ing hos­pi­talised with var­i­ous neu­ro­log­i­cal is­sues, in­clud­ing seizures. So, my ad­vice is to pre­vent your dog from eat­ing them and ide­ally from touch­ing them ei­ther, al­though I do not know of any cases of tox­i­c­ity from sim­ple skin con­tact.

If you see then ly­ing on a beach use a pooh bag to lift them and please safely dis­pose of them in a bin. If you can’t do that, or if there are too many for you to col­lect, please take a minute to tele­phone the ap­pro­pri­ate lo­cal coun­cil (Ards and North Down for you) and they will turn out to clear them away. Face­book and other so­cial me­dia can be use­ful in these sorts of sit­u­a­tions as a way of get­ting a warn­ing to lots of peo­ple quickly and ef­fec­tively, al­though it’s al­ways im­por­tant to keep these is­sues in per­spec­tive.

If you know your dog has eaten them, rush your pet to the vet im­me­di­ately — the only treat­ments are symp­to­matic and death can en­sue, so your vet will want to safely in­duce vom­it­ing be­fore the tox­ins are ab­sorbed. We don’t have a lot of data as to how long it takes to ab­sorb a toxic/lethal dose so time re­ally is of the essence. Don’t take the chance of wait­ing and see­ing.

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