Every dog owners worst nightmare; rat poison in Giardini Naxos

Feeling sorry for himself, but he'll be fine.

Dave the motorhome is parked up in Eden Parking, the campsite we stopped in at Christmas in Giardini Naxos (N37.82224 E15.26699). At the moment he is facing a blanket of cloud, but when this clears he’ll have a great view of Mount Etna. Looking at the websites we’ve been following, she’s building up for another burst – we just hope the cloud clears in time. Speaking to people on the site, the last burst on 5 – 6 March left bits of stone and ash over all of the vans, it’s a good job we haven’t bothered to clean Dave!

Last night there was a new Pope in town, well not exactly in town, but you know what I mean. We expected the church bells to ring out in celebration, but it looks like everyone was glued to their TV sets as the only noise was the sound of rain on Dave’s roof. So we settled down, watched a movie and slept like logs.

This morning it was still raining both outside and inside Dave – the rear skylight has sprung another leak. Our shoes sat underneath it and caught the majority of the water, so they are now drying instead of Dave’s floor. The rain turned to sleet and it was time to leave, we had thought about driving around the north side of Etna so we wouldn’t be retracing our steps, and to see if we could spy the new crater formed by the eruption earlier this year. But the low cloud would mean Etna would be invisible to us, so we opted for the free motorway instead to get us quickly to the coast. Once there it was only €1.70 in tolls to get up to Giardini Naxos and the safe haven of our €6 a night campsite.

Rain patterns on Dave's window as we fly along the motorway
Rain patterns on Dave’s window as we fly along the motorway
In the cloud is Enna, a town we stopped in on our way across Sicily late last year!
In the cloud is Enna, a town we stopped in on our way across Sicily late last year!
Inland Sicily - lush green and no nearby neighbours!
Inland Sicily – lush green and no nearby neighbours!
It's amazing the toll machines still work!
It’s amazing the toll machines still work!
Coming into Catania; Etna should be directly in front of us
Coming into Catania; Etna should be directly in front of us

As we drove north rain turned into blue skies and we were welcomed with sunshine. Parking up we hooked up and got a load of washing in the machine (sad I know, but a priority these days!). As I cooked us up some lunch Jay spotted Charlie had snaffled something to eat from up on the wall behind us. He doesn’t know why, but for some reason he sensed he should get it off him and asked me to help. Looking at our scavenging mutt fear crept over me as I spotted writing on the package in is mouth, which said in many languages ‘Rat Poison’.

We got it off him, but not before he’d managed to eat some. Panic set in, he only ate a bit, but he’s only little. Jay searched the internet for the obvious question ‘what to do if your dog eats rat poison’ although we knew what the answer would be; get him to the vets. I went over to see Rosario the campsite owner and explained in my best sign language (with the assistance of the packet of poison) what had happened. He looked up vets for me on the internet, found one nearby and called it. It was now 1.15pm and of course it was closed for lunch. Being Italy it wouldn’t open until 4pm.

Fearing Charlie might already be dead by then we went over to see Rene, a permanent resident on the campsite who seems to speak every language there is). I asked him if there was an emergency vet, ‘no, only emergency for people, not animal’. Between us we quickly concluded that the best thing to do would be to make Charlie sick and get as much of the poison out as we could. Milk and salt was the suggestion for Rosario and Rene and Jay raced off to administer the concoction. Charlie happily wolfed it down – he loves milk – but then nothing.

We searched frantically on the internet to see how to make him sick. Every site we found talked of giving him Hydrogen Peroxide, but we didn’t have any and the pharmacies were… you guessed it, closed for lunch. More searching and I found a site that said a teaspoon of salt would do the trick. I was torn, I’d read over the winter that dogs back home were dying because of the rock salt used on the roads getting onto their paws and them licking them, so another teaspoon of the stuff direct into him would surely do some damage. But then maybe not as much as poison.

Jay held the little furry one while I poured out the salt, on my word Jay pulled his mouth open (something he’d never normally be able to do, even to give him medicine, but maybe Jay found extra strength, or maybe Charlie knew something was wrong and let him) and in went the salt. I was expecting instant vomit, but nothing, just a disgruntled pampered pooch. Time passed and still nothing. He went to his water bowl an we thought giving him some water might help him bring it up, so he tried that.  He gulped down a load of water then went and sat on his bed looking sorry for himself.

I tried to hold back the tears welling in my eyes, and there was a very real thought that this would be it, we’d lose him, all for a stupid lunch break. I hugged Charlie so tightly and tried so hard not to cry in front of Jay as I could tell he was holding it in too. We read everything we could find on the internet about rat poison; even knowing that he could have charcoal up to twelve hours after he’d eaten the poison didn’t help. Rosario knocked on the door, he doesn’t speak English but I could work out that he was saying something about no salt or milk and he would take us to the vets at 3pm.

As soon as Rosario had gone Charlie stood up and started wandering around on his bench, a sure sign he’s about to throw up and sure enough he did. Not much, but a large chunk of the poison came up. More water and ten minutes later he threw up again, this time his lunch that he’d eaten before the poison came up – never before have I been so happy that he’s been sick. Another painfully slow hour passed before Rosario arrived at quarter to three in his car. He drove us to a nearby town, stopping at the police station for directions. The rabbit warren of tiny, narrow streets caught out Rosario – a Sicilian, driving a car – and I think he was pleased when I suggested we park and walk.

After asking several people we were greeted at a doorway by a man in green scrubs – a vet if ever I saw one! He spoke no English, but Rosario had obviously phoned ahead and Charlie was put straight on the table and given an injection of antidote. Then we were given a prescription for vitamin K for him which will help to stop his blood from thinning (that’s how rat poison works – you learn something knew every day!). Rosario insisted on paying the vet, which we were very grateful for as we were in need of a cashpoint, but we’ll pay him back. I think he feels responsible as it was on his campsite, but the poison was quite well out of reach of most dogs, just not our eternally hungry, bloodhound-like pet.

Driving back a wave of relief swept over me, he’s going to be OK. Jay sat in the back of the car holding him, I couldn’t help myself putting my hand behind me and giving Charlie a little stroke. Back at the campsite Rosario said he would go to the pharmacy for us, but he had already done loads for us. We thanked him and said we would go there, he popped back over five minutes later to tell us when it opened and where it was.

Charlie’s evening stroll was along the seafront to the pharmacy, where they spoke perfect English and explained what we needed to do with the vitamin K he’d been prescribed  Rat poison takes a few days for symptoms to appear, but we stopped him eating most of it and probably got what he did eat out of his system before he even got to the vets, in some ways we’ve been very lucky today. On our way to the pharmacy we couldn’t deny Charlie a play on the beach, in fact as we were so worried we’d lost him I suspect pampered pooch may become even more pampered for a while – but we’ll still remind him from time to time how we saved his life.

Jay and Charlie on the beach
Jay and Charlie on the beach

Exhausted from a very emotional day, we’re in Dave with the heater on. The rain has caught up with us, but luckily after we had got the washing in. Tonight I think we’ll have quite a few drinks, we need them after today, and maybe one of us will sleep on the bench with Charlie, just to make sure he’s OK. Something like that makes you realise how precious the people and pets around you are.

We’ll stay here for a few days so we can keep an eye on Charlie and know we’re close to the vets if he has any problems. We really want to see some Etna action too (we keep peeking out of the windscreen in the hope that we can see something, but it’s still cloudy) and this is a great place for that, but finally we need a little rest (and clean up of Dave) before we head back across Italy and over to Greece.

Ju x


  1. Oh no!! Poor Charlie. Really hope he’s OK. Sending big hugs to you all! I think you’ll be needing some of those after today. xxx

  2. poor charlie,but i think he will be ok,it happened to our west highland terrier molly when she was omly a pup,we have a walk in loft and there was poision there from previous visits.we noticed the blue around her mouth,mass panic set in,we took her to the vets,who administrated drugs into her,and she made a full recovery.but he also told us that she would have had to eaten quite a lot to have killed her?hope you enjoy the rest of your trip without ant mishaps,good luck.frank.

  3. OMG…..You must be exhausted.
    I’ve had the same experience with rat bait while baby sitting someone else’s dog. The dog was fine in the end, took the vitamin K.
    But it was very stressful at the time.
    Thoughts are with you.

  4. What a horrible day and hopefully Charlie is feeling better soon. Peanut says a few days and Charlie will be pawfect xxx

  5. Glad the family member is OK, i know we would be very freaked out if it happened to our pet, they become more than just a dog or what ever tho as you well know, i’m no vet but let him drink “loads” of water to flush his system. I hope all is well tomorrow.

  6. Horrible experience . Funny you previously were doing washing because someone told me recently when there Labrador recently devoured a load of mince pies, raisins and currents poisonous for dogs, the vet told them to force down washing powder to make him vomit. Tip for future ? Hope Charlie makes full recovery.

  7. Oh my goodness, I’ve just woken up and am reading this while drinking my morning coffee…with my Charlie at my feet, how precious they are? My heart was sinking as I was reading your post. I’m so glad it appears you’ve done the right thing and in time….hope he recovers and doesn’t suffer any more symtoms….keep spoiling him!! Oh and another big hug for him from the UK!! Still loving your blog by the way!!

  8. Glad charlie is good keep an eye on him. We are also in Sicily, came to get some sun but sadly no !!!!!. WE are at this moment on the south coast near Ragusa. We are making our way up to Messina (hopefully in about a weeks time)to carry on our travels to Greece.
    We have been following your exploits and look forward to catching up in person soon .

  9. What drama!
    Poor little guy, it is so upsetting when our devoted dogs become unwell. I am very glad to hear he is OK. Enjoying every post, thank you once again for sharing the journey.

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