Aussies warned as dog becomes violently sick from beach creature

An Aussie dog owner is warning others to beware after his large golden retriever ended up at the vet following a trip to the beach. Jimmy Elkington was at Marcus Beach on the Sunshine Coast on Tuesday afternoon with his two golden retrievers, Luka and Dougie, enjoying their afternoon stroll, when he noticed the “strange looking blue jelly things”.

“They were everywhere and we’d never seen them before,” he told Yahoo News Australia. “Fast forward 40 minutes and we were walking back up the sand track to the car and Luka started eating grass unusually quickly. Any grass he saw, he was eating it.”

By the time Jimmy was washing the sand off Luka, a friend reported that her small dog, who had also been down at the beach, had been violently sick several times.

Two golden retrievers at the beach (left) and Luka the golden retriever (right).
Jimmy took Luka and Dougie to Marcus beach on the Sunshine Coast on Tuesday, but Luka ended up ill. Source: Supplied

“We got home and Luka was still eating grass and acting a little unusual but I thought we’d wait until he was actually sick and monitor him, but then we got a message from that friend with an article about those blue button things,” Jimmy explained. “At that moment, Luka threw up all the grass and started eating more and just looked terrible. Panting, slobbering etc.

“The article was from a few years ago however it stated how bad these things could be, so we jumped in the car and beelined for the emergency vets.”

Multiple emergency dashes to the vet

Once at the vets, Jimmy’s friend soon arrived as well, and then more people began showing up. “While we were in the waiting room, several other families arrived with their dogs who had the same experience,” he said.

Five minutes later, Jimmy and 12-year-old Luka — who was “still in a bit of a state” — were called in. “Apparently his heart was ok and he was breathing,” the owner said, adding that the vet gave him shots for anti nausea and inflammation. “Luka popped out all drowsy and we went home. He slept it off and he’s ok now.

“It was super scary at the time as we’d never seen him react this way, and he’s had all sorts of reactions and trips to the vet in the past. From chocolate covered macadamia nuts to eating fertiliser and cane toads. You name it!”

So what are the strange blue creatures?

The blue button, or porpita porpita, is an oceanic plankton hydroid, according to Dr Merrick Ekins, the Collection Manager for Sessile Marine Invertebrates at Queensland Museum. While it can be found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world, he told Yahoo News Australia that “they often wash up on beaches in south east Queensland after strong northeasterly winds.

A blue button on the sand.
Jimmy said the “strange looking blue jelly things” were everywhere. Source: Facebook

“It is not unusual for blue buttons to be found on beaches in southeast Queensland, particularly after strong offshore winds,” he explained. “Given the recent weather conditions in Queensland, this is not unusual.”

Dr Emma Wilkie, an Emergency Veterinarian at the Small Animal Specialist Hospital, said blue buttons have stinging strands protruding from the disk that forms their main body, and at the end of each strand they have little stingers. “To humans these can cause a bit of skin irritation,” she told Yahoo News. “But to pets, of course they love to put everything in their mouths, so we see that same stinging sensation but on the really sensitive membranes of the mouth and the inside of the oesophagus and even the stomach as well.”

In mild cases, a sting can cause excessive drooling as well as wrenching, gagging and vomiting. “In really severe cases, what we can see is a hypersensitivity reaction,” Dr Wilkie said, “which is essentially an allergic reaction. And again, this ranges from mild to severe. So in mild cases, we can see a bit of facial swelling and irritation, but really severe cases can even have an anaphylactic reaction.”

Jimmy and his wife Noelle with their dog Luka.
Luka is back home and on the mend. Sourced: Supplied

While she added that death would be “very rare” pet owners need to be careful. “I think the mild cases are much more common,” Dr Wilkie said. “I certainly haven't seen one resulting death but I think you know, anything that's going on with a pet you need to get them checked out by a vet. And if they don't get treatment, they could be severely affected by it.

What should pet owners look out for?

The effect of a blue button sting in a dog would be felt right away.

“If they've popped one in their mouth and copped a string to the inside of their mouth, the feeling would be pretty immediate and you’d be seeing those signs of agitation and irritation right away,” Dr Wilkie explained. “And it may progress to the retching, gagging and vomiting from there.”

Owners in that situation are advised to get to a vet right away. “Depending on how your pet looks and what signs they see is when the vet will determine a treatment plan,” she said. “Mild cases might just need a few anti nausea medications or antacid medications and some pain relief, but in severe cases, they might make the hospital stay.”

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