STRANGE lumps of fat being washed up on Shoreham Beach are believed to be palm oil, a substance dangerous to dogs and other animals.
A Lancing dog walker had to rush his pet greyhound to the vet for emergency treatment after it ate some of the white, chalk-like fat.
Andrew Rogers, of Brighton Road, recognised the substance immediately sought veterinary help.
His dog, Lily, was taken to a surgery in Hove where she was given medicine to help rid her system of the hazardous palm oil, which has been known to kill dogs in other parts of the country.
Mr Rogers said: “We were very worried. It certainly seems to be very attractive to dogs and Lily had eaten a fair quantity of it. We knew we had to act quickly.”
He said although Lily was not showing any symptoms of illness, he had read that they took a while to become apparent and was not prepared to take any risks.
Vet Bronwen Eastwood treated Lily at Wilbury surgery in Hove.
She said the palm oil had ‘a really disgusting volatile smell to it’, like firelighters.
She advised dog owners to muzzle their pets while walking on the beach following stormy weather, or keep them on the lead.
If a dog does eat some unusual substance on the beach it should be taken directly to the vet, as a matter of urgency, with a sample of the substance.
“Don’t wait for the symptoms to kick in,” said Mrs Eastwood.
“If you are not sure, pick it up and bring it in.”
A statement from Adur District Council read: “Watch out for white lumps that look a bit candle wax. It is likely to be congealed and rancid Palm Oil. It smells rotten but dogs seem to like it and will often eat it if given the chance. It may make them very ill.
“A ship poured a large amount of this oil into the sea off of the coast of Cornwall back in October.
“It has been emulsified with sea water into this thick white substance, and as it’s been in the open for so long it is now very rancid.
“Pieces are still being removed by our cleansing teams but there are reports of ill dogs being taken to vets after being on the beach.”
The Vetinary Poisons Information Service said: “We have received a number of emergency enquiries about dogs that have eaten it. The main problems are vomiting and diarrhoea and these can lead to dehydration, particularly in young or small dogs.
“We do not think it is the age of the oil that is causing this, as fresh oil would cause the same problems.
“There is also a potential risk of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreatitis) which can result in vague, non-specific signs including vomiting and diarrhoea.
“This is a risk in dogs that eat a large amount of any fatty or oily food substance.
“There have been reports of blockages of the gut in dogs that have eaten palm oil washed up in Cornwall.
“We would suggest anyone with a dog that has eaten palm oil contact their vet for advice, particularly if the dog is already unwell. There is no specific treatment but the dog may need medication to control vomiting and intravenous fluid to treat or prevent dehydration. The main thing owners can do it prevent exposure.
“So please keep your eyes out for this stuff and keep your dogs away from it.”
An Environment Agency spokesman confirmed that a report had come in at 7.19pm last Wednesday, that an oil-like substance resembling chalk boulders had been washed up onto the beach.
“This had had an effect on the caller’s dog and he was concerned about this,” said the spokesman.
Jamie Benton, leader of the EA’s land and water team, spoke to the caller and, from his description of the substance, thought it sounded like palm oil.
Mr Benton passed the details to Adur District Council, who inspected the beach and are arranging to have the substance removed.
The council is continuing to monitor the beaches following the stormy conditions.
Cases have been reported of a rancid, fat-like substance washing up on beaches across the South, and some believe it to be the result of ships flushing out their tanks out at sea.
Despite its danger to dogs, the substance is not believed to be hazardous to humans.
n Has your dog fallen ill after eating palm oil washed up on the beach?
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