Palm oil pollution – toxic waste to dogs
Derived from the fruit of the oil palm, palm oil is an edible vegetable oil; grown mainly in Africa and south America. It is often used as a simple cooking oil but can be also be found in food snacks, cosmetics, soaps and bio-fuels, this is the case in particular with palm kernel oil, aka palm nut oil. It is also used by big ships as a cleaning agent for fuel tanks.
So how does it end up on the beach? Well under the current international law vessels are allowed to dump up to 100 litres of palm oil contaminated water into the sea, for each and every chemical tank on board! This can have a huge impact on the marine environment: depleting water of oxygen, killing fish, coating sea bird’s wings and washing up on the beaches with potentially serious consequences for our canine companions.
Whilst palm oil alone is not poisonous to dogs, it does have a laxative effect and when eaten can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and therefore dehydration. In extreme cases pancreatitis can develop.
Due to the semi solid state that it washes up in, it can also form blockages in the intestines. Some dogs have become seriously ill after ingesting palm oil and have required veterinary treatment.
It is important to remember that palm oil that has washed up on the beach is most likely contaminated with other toxic material such as diesel oil from the ships that dumped it (completely legally) as little as 12 miles off shore.
So, what does palm oil look like after it has scrubbed a chemical fuel tank, been dumped over board and washed up on the beach that you and your pooch like to stroll down?
Well unlike a petroleum oil slick, palm oil forms what looks like waxy blobs or boulders. They will often smell like diesel which dogs seem to love and are typically white, yellow or orange.
Whilst there is no evidence that palm oil has caused any fatalities in dogs; a study of 60 dogs who had ingested palm oil found that less than half displayed diarrhoea and vomiting and a minority of the dogs developed serious health complications as a result.
If you think your dog has ingested palm oil out on a walk, call you vet for advice straight away!
In all likely hood your dog will be fine, but it’s important to be aware of the potential risks and the symptoms as dehydration from diarrhoea and vomiting can be serious.
If you notice palm oil on your beach, inform your local authority and snap a pic to share with your fellow dog owners.
Washed up palm oil can often spring up after rough, stormy weather, so if you think that there may be risk of encountering it on your walk, keep your dog on a lead.
Here are a couple of links to interesting current articles about palm oil pollution in the UK: