19 Jan BEACHED BLUE BUTTONS
The Animal Poisons Helpline is occasionally phoned about blue button (Porpita porpita) exposures. Blue buttons are small marine organisms with impressive bright blue tentacles and a symmetrical coin-like centre. Similar to bluebottles, they are not a jellyfish but are a colony of many smaller living organisms (known as hydroids). With their gas-filled float, blue buttons are able to float on the surface of water and can be washed ashore (most frequently along the coast of NSW and QLD) after heavy winds and large tides.
When washed ashore, dogs will often investigate by sniffing at and picking up the creatures in their mouth. Blue button tentacles contain millions of stinging cells, and when mouthed or ingested can result in stings to the mouth and throat. These stings are immediately painful and affected dogs may drool, lick excessively, eat grass and vomit. Stings can less frequently result in local swelling of the mouth and throat and in rare cases this may lead to breathing difficulties. Allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, are also possible.
If heading to the beach with your dog, spend a few minutes inspecting the shoreline before removing your pet’s leash, particularly in the days following strong onshore winds. If there are washed up blue buttons or other potentially dangerous marine creatures (such as bluebottles, jellyfish, pufferfish or sea hares), keeping your pet leashed is a good idea. If your pet has ingested something they should not have, please phone the Animal Poisons Helpline for advice. The Animal Poisons Helpline provides free advice to pet owners in Australia and New Zealand and can be reached on 1300 869 738 (AU) or 0800 869 738 (NZ).