Perth couple’s tearful warning after pet puppy falls victim to sea hare on Albany holiday

Headshot of Sarah Makse
Sarah MakseAlbany Advertiser
Caroline Abbott and her pet pooch Smudgy in Albany before tragedy struck.
Camera IconCaroline Abbott and her pet pooch Smudgy in Albany before tragedy struck. Credit: Supplied./Supplied.

A Perth couple holidaying in Albany have been left devastated after their cavoodle puppy Smudgy was killed by a suspected toxic sea hare while walking on Goode Beach last Tuesday.

Heartbroken by the loss of their 10-month-old “fur baby”, Caroline and Greg Abbott are desperate to warn other dog owners of the dangers that lurk on our shores.

Although non-toxic to humans, the toxins produced by the slug-like creatures can be deadly for dogs if ingested, causing excessive drooling, muscle spasms, vomiting, seizures and even death.

“The grief is unbearable. The tears don’t stop,” Mrs Abbott said.

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“We never want anyone to go through and witness what we saw — ever.”

The couple had been enjoying a walk with Smudgy on a lead along Goode Beach and said they had not seen anything in the water or on the sand before the incident.

But as they walked back to their car, Smudgy’s state quickly deteriorated. She started to stagger and vomit, and soon fell unconscious.

The distraught couple raced to the Lockyer Avenue Veterinary Hospital, but Smudgy died just 15 minutes after they first noticed her symptoms.

A sea hare washed up on Middleton Beach.
Camera IconA sea hare washed up on Middleton Beach. Credit: Supplied

Although the cause of Smudgy’s death remains unconfirmed, vets told the couple she likely came into contact with a sea hare.

WA Museum senior research scientist Nerida Wilson said sea hares tended to wash up on beaches at the end of summer after winter storms.

“Sea hares are common inhabitants in the area, and are a delight to look at while snorkelling,” she said.

“However, their natural defences against predators can have an unfortunate outcome for dogs that may encounter them if they wash up on beaches.

“Dog owners should pay careful attention to what their dogs investigate on beaches, and if their pet shows any muscle weakness or trembling after such an outing, they should immediately take their dogs to a vet.”

Greg and Caroline Abbott in Albany with their beloved Smudgy.
Camera IconGreg and Caroline Abbott in Albany with their beloved Smudgy. Credit: Supplied

Mrs Abbott said she wanted to warn other pet owners to remain vigilant when visiting the beach.

“I just don’t think there are enough signs. If signage could go up in Albany it would be wonderful to warn people,”.” she said.

“If I knew that these creatures come up after big storms, I would never have gone on the beach with her.”

City of Albany reserves manager Jacqui Freeman said unfortunately a number of natural dangers could be found along the south coast.

“Due to the significant size and unrestricted coastline access, signage has been found to be a costly and ineffective exercise in getting this message to the community,” she said

“The City look to utilise other means of communication such as social media and public awareness messaging to highlight these issues and always encourage community to look out for one another when they are out and about across our coast.”

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