A much-loved family dog suffered terrifying seizures and was left on the brink of death … by a near-fatal reaction to eating soil in her back garden.

Two-year-old cocker spaniel Daisy contracted serious poisoning – just from playing outside at her family home in Belfast.

Thanks to owner Stuart Madill’s quick thinking – and to emergency care from Vets Now – Daisy has now made a full recovery.

But with summer in full swing and dogs spending more and more time outside, Stuart and his family are keen for other owners to be aware of tremorgenic mycotoxin intoxication, the deadly syndrome which so nearly claimed Daisy’s life, and which can be triggered by eating just a small amount of perfectly innocent-looking soil.

Daisy’s ordeal came after she was sniffing around in the garden and chasing her ball about – just as she does every evening.

Suddenly, and with no warning at all that anything was remotely wrong, Daisy came inside, was badly sick on the kitchen floor and began convulsing uncontrollably.

Shocked Stuart immediately picked up the phone to Vets Now and our team arranged for Daisy to be admitted straightaway to our Belfast emergency clinic.

A few seconds later Stuart was rushing to his car – with poor Daisy’s condition getting more and more distressing by the second.

Stuart said: “It’s only a twenty-minute journey but it felt like it took for ever.

“All the time her seizures were getting worse and worse.

“My son had Daisy in his arms – but the seizures were so violent that she was jumping out of his grasp.”

As the journey went on, Daisy was getting hotter and hotter and, on arrival, her temperature was a lethally high 42.2 Celsius.

Our team whisked her in for treatment and had to spray her with water to cool her down as they bgan giving anti-seizure medicine.

Daisy’s temperature did come down, but she was still convulsing – meaning that the seizures were an indication of something else being wrong.

Our team then diagnosed tremorgenic mycotoxins and began giving Daisy intravenous therapy to stem the poisoning.

Tremorgenic mycotoxins are metabolites produced by fungi often found in compost or mouldy food.

They can have an extremely rapid onset, with clinical signs starting from just 15 minutes. The bigger the dose the more rapid the onset is.

Stuart had been having some work done in his garden and had been turning over the soil – which Daisy took a nibble of, as dogs often do.

Daisy the cocker on couchBut what Daisy and Stuart couldn’t have known was that in the process of turning over the soil potentially lethal fungi had been loosened and brought to the surface.

After a few hours, Daisy’s condition stabilised, though she was still very unsteady on her feet.

And after 36 hours of intensive treatment, she was well enough to go home – tired but on the mend.

Stuart said: “It really was touch and go. The clinical team were very honest with us and explained that even if Daisy survived, which was no means certain, she could be left with brain damage.

“And it was so serious that they asked us to think about whether we would want them to resuscitate Daisy if her heart stopped beating.

“But Daisy’s a very strong character and bit by bit, she pulled through, much to our relief.”

Now, a month later, Daisy is back to her normal playful self, but Stuart is keen for other owners to be aware of the unexpected dangers which can lurk in gardens.

“I had no idea that this condition could be triggered by a bit of garden soil and I’m not sure many other owners would know either,” he said.

“It really was a very traumatic experience and we’re really grateful to the team at Vets Now for their expertise and for saving Daisy’s life.”

Our Belfast principal vet Sasha Burns Fraser said: “This condition is incredibly aggressive, and every minute really does matter.

“So, Stuart did absolutely the right thing in seeking help straightaway. If he’d delayed or hesitated, it’s unlikely we would have had this positive outcome.

“Signs to look out for here include hyperthermia (high temperature), salivation, vomiting, ataxia (the appearance of drunkenness when walking), rapid heart rate, muscle tremors and seizures.

“Luckily for Daisy, she responded incredibly well to the therapy we gave her.

“She is an adorable little character, and we were all so pleased to see such a turnaround for her and to be able to reunite her with her family again.”