Pet warning after toxic pufferfish washout hits Fish Hoek and Glencairn beaches

Beachgoers have been warned to keep their dogs away from the toxic fish washing ashore. Picture: Satheesha J / Wikimedia Commons

Beachgoers have been warned to keep their dogs away from the toxic fish washing ashore. Picture: Satheesha J / Wikimedia Commons

Published Mar 18, 2024


The idyllic shores of Fish Hoek and Glencairn beaches have been marred by a concerning sight: a multitude of dead pufferfish littering the sand.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DFFE) emphasised in previous years that these washouts of pufferfish are not unprecedented, typically occurring once or twice a year, often following strong south-east winds.

The City of Cape Town said in 2021, after a similar mass pufferfish washout, that “while considered a natural phenomenon within the region's ecology, the exact cause behind these mass beachings remains uncertain, with no discernible impact reported on broader marine life”.

The DFFE had previously indicated that there are some interesting causes of past pufferfish mortalities.

These include mass courtship; spawning and fighting that sees male pufferfish inflate themselves, and then sometimes get rolled or blown out of the water by waves and/or wind.

However, the dead pufferfish may pose implications for public safety, as these marine creatures are known to harbour potent neurotoxins, including tetrodotoxin, which pose severe health risks, if ingested.

The concern extends beyond human health, as pets are also vulnerable to the toxic effects of pufferfish.

Dog lovers are advised to keep their pets away from the shoreline and prevent them from consuming the washed-up marine life, which could potentially endanger their health.

This recent incident follows previous pufferfish washouts in the region, including occurrences in 2022 when approximately 80 pufferfish washed ashore on Long Beach in Simon's Town, and 2021 when nearly 70 bags of dead pufferfish were removed from beaches along the Muizenberg and Fish Hoek coasts.

According to WebMD, if a pet, such as a dog, consumes a pufferfish, it can have severe and potentially fatal consequences.

Pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a potent neurotoxin that can be found in various parts of their body, including their skin, liver, and reproductive organs.

This toxin is highly toxic and can affect the nervous system, leading to paralysis and, ultimately, respiratory failure. Symptoms of pufferfish poisoning in pets may include:

– Drooling

– Vomiting

– Diarrhoea

– Difficulty breathing

– Paralysis

– Seizures

– Coma

If you suspect that your pet has consumed a pufferfish or is showing any of these symptoms, it is crucial to seek immediate veterinary attention. Treatment may involve supportive care, such as IV fluids and respiratory support, as well as measures to help remove the toxin from the pet's system.

Prompt treatment increases the chances of a successful outcome for the pet.

IOL Environment