Warning to dog owners as toxic shellfish found on Norfolk beaches

Dead Starfish

Toxins from shellfish can be harmful. - Credit: Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority

Mass strandings of toxic shellfish on the coasts of Norfolk and Suffolk have prompted a warning to dog owners that they could harm their pets.

The Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) says it has been made aware of several of the mass strandings.

There have been reports in the Cromer and Overstrand areas.

The authority says: "It is important to know that some stranded species, in particular types of starfish, may contain Paralytic shellfish toxins (PST) toxins that could be harmful to humans and dogs if consumed."

In 2018, two dogs, a seven-year-old Siberian husky and a golden retriever called Hattie both died in separate incidents on the East Anglian coastline.

Hattie had been walking on Cley beach, while the other dog was at Felixstowe.

Dead starfish

A warning has been issued after mass strandings of toxic shellfish on Norfolk and Suffolk beaches. - Credit: Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority

Tests confirmed the dogs had been killed by the Paralytic Shellfish Poisioning toxin (PSP), thought to have come from contaminated creatures eaten by the dogs.

Further testing carried out by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) found low levels of PSP toxins in crabs, whelks and shrimps from the affected areas.

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However, further tests on starfish samples showed that they contained extremely high levels of toxins.

The toxins can be harmful to humans as well.

Eastern IFCA said that symptoms, which usually develop in humans within 30 minutes, include:

Tingling/burning sensation followed by numbness in the lips, tongue and face which progresses to extremities

Paralysis of limbs, loss of muscle co-ordination, constrictive sensation in the throat

In high doses, paralysis can extend to the respiratory system, affecting breathing

Other symptoms exhibited in dogs exposed to toxins have included vomiting, reduction in movement, difficulty walking and/or standing, loss of consciousness

The authority said: "If you plan to walk your dog on your local beach, please keep them on a lead and ensure they do not consume any stranded animals.

"If you suspect that your dog has consumed stranded fauna and is feeling unwell, please contact your local vet immediately."