Dog owners have been urged to exercise caution along the coast after six toxic Sea Hares were discovered on the Esperance foreshore and West Beach between March 11 and 12.
Five Sea Hares were found at the Boat Ramp along the Esplanade, with a sixth reported at West Beach.
The animals are known to be highly toxic, producing an ink-like substance.
Photographer Rachel Clarke said she was at the beach taking photos when she spotted the sea slugs.
“It was just horrible to look at and I’d never seen one before but I thought it looked very interesting and so I took a photo of it,” she said.
“I would say the largest one of the three on the beach was about 30 centimetres wide and around 45 centimetres long.
“I posted it to my personal Facebook page asking if anyone had any idea what it was as I was curious and a friend of mine sent me a news article from Perth about the Sea Hares and when I realised how dangerous they were, for dogs in particular, I posted the photo in the Esperance Community Page.
“There were quite a few dogs on the beach at the time and I love animals so I was a bit concerned.”
Western Australian Museum Research Scientist Dr Nerida Wilson said the sea slugs often washed up in the late summer months on the south west coasts.
“It appears to be a natural mortality event and has been noted in WA for decades,” she said.
“It is important for dog owners to know that sea hares can be very toxic for dogs and, if your dog encounters a sea hare at the beach and shows any sign of muscle weakness or trembling, it is recommended to take them to the vet immediately.
“The sea hares are not toxic to touch for humans, although they may stain your hands with a purple ink they use for defence.”
Swans Veterinary Services Associate Veterinarian Dr Joshua Ovens urged dog owners who believed their dog may have been exposed to contact their vet and have their dog seen to.
“In terms of clinical signs, if your dog has licked or eaten one, they’ll tend to drool excessively, they can get muscle spasms and begin shaking, vomiting and it can progress to seizures and possible death if they get a really large dosage,” he said.
“It depends on the dog and it depends on the sea hare as well.
“Some dogs are more susceptible to it and some sea hares produce more than others so it’s difficult to tell how much is too much in terms of exposure to it.”