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Rodenticide Toxins: Rat Poison and Pets

Unfortunately, many pets get into toxins — even toxins that were meant to get rid of pests like mice and rats. An extremely common type of toxicity is rodenticide, or rat poison. There are three main groups of rat poison used, and they can all be very toxic to dogs and cats (and even our exotic pets, too). The most common type of rat poison used is an anticoagulant poison and include chemicals such as brodifacoum and bromadiolone. This type of toxin prevents blood from clotting by decreasing the body’s amount of usable Vitamin K1, which is used in several clotting factors — meaning that pets that eat this toxin cannot clot their blood properly. Approximately 2-3 days after ingestion, pets can start to bleed from their gums and their gastrointestinal tract, and they can bleed into body cavities such as the chest, abdomen or joints. You might see blood in your pet’s mouth, abnormal bruising, or blood in their vomit or stool, or they may look pale, have difficulty breathing, have an enlarged abdomen, or have joint swelling. Testing often involves evaluating your pet’s clotting times, and treatment at this stage frequently involves a hospital stay, plasma, possibly a blood transfusion, and repeat blood work with possible radiographs or an ultrasound.

Patients that usually have the best prognosis from this type of toxicity are those that are actually seen eating the rat poison by their owners, who then bring them in for treatment right away. Upon arrival, decontamination and treatment to prevent bleeding disorders are initiated. Decontamination often involves initiating vomiting and giving activated charcoal orally. Most patients are started on Vitamin K1 as well, to increase the amount of usable Vitamin K1 in the body and prevent clotting abnormalities. When treatment is started soon after ingestion, most patients recover very well, so getting your pet to the animal hospital quickly is extremely important.

The two other types of rat poison used are cholecalciferol/vitamin D3 rat poison and bromethalin. Cholecalciferol increases the amount of calcium in the body, which can deposit on organs and cause organ dysfunction, including kidney failure. Vague symptoms, including depression, anorexia, vomiting, and increased drinking and urinating, may be seen 1-2 days after ingestion. Once severe clinical signs are seen, treatment is usually aggressive and normally involves hospitalization — and due to the advanced effects of the toxin, the pet may not survive. Again, early treatment and decontamination will likely lead to a much better prognosis for your pet.

Bromethalin poisoning produces neurologic signs, such as disorientation or stumbling, tremors, and paralysis, and a pet that has ingested this toxin may start to show signs 10-24 hours after ingestion — but the symptoms can progress for 1 to 2 weeks. Again, pets with severe signs often need to be hospitalized with aggressive therapy, and patients that are brought in immediately for decontamination have a much better chance for recovery.

If your pet has ingested any toxin — especially rat poison — bring him/her to a veterinarian immediately for early treatment. And be sure to bring with you the container that the poison came in, so we can direct our treatment appropriately.

To prevent accidental ingestion and help avoid these kinds of poisonings, keep all toxins — including those intended to kill rodents — well out of reach of your pets.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

10 Comments
  1. Reply
    Alan Brown

    We buried my dad who died this week. My brother, a career criminal in & out of prison his entire adult life, loaded up his car stealing a bunch of things from dad’s house. I changed the locks to keep him out bc I am the executor of my dad’s estate & successor trustee of my parents trust. Both of them are now gone, so my bother feels he is entitled to everything being the eldest. He got angry I locked him out, and he threatened to get even any way possible. I’m single w/no kids, and only 1 passion, my 12-year old Shih Tzu “Mini Pie” (a loveable dog who is a real slice of heaven). I haven’t any problems w/anyone except this brother. Someone threw rat poison over my fenced in backyard. My dog started bleeding from the mouth profusely yesterday around 7pm. I got her to the Vet ER 30-minutes later. They kept her to give platelets, Vita K, Anti-Vomit meds, X-Rays, & doing blood work, but have not mentioned a transfusion. Everything so far has been $1,300. I cannot lose my dad & my dog in the same week. I have nothing else that is good in my life. I need my dog to survive. Can anyone suggest anything for me to propose &/or encourage or demand the Vet to do to help her chances of survival w/o long-term problems? Shih Tzu dogs can live to be 16 or 17, if cared for properly. I need my dog to live as long as possible. Any suggestions? Anything at all? Obviously, I need to move & keep my address secret away from my older brother who is from Missouri. Other than that, anything?

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Sounds like they are doing everything. A transfusion would be last resort but the next step. Keep with the ER/Specialty clinic and good luck! There is nothing more than TLC, medication and time that can help now!

    • Reply
      casey

      Is your dog okay? My baby Carrie is at the ER now and I am so scared. She was bleeding and had swelling. I can not lose her. Our bill is up to 1900$ right now. That is the least of my worries. Please tell me how your dog is doing!

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  3. Reply
    Karen

    my dog ate rat poison i took her to the vet any they asked what has she eaten and said those rat poison blocks they asked it it had this thing in it, it did they said it would be a miracle if she lived right now shes paralyzed and i have to help her eat

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Sorry to hear that.

  4. Reply
    Irene Garcia

    My Dig is a Shih Tzu 2 year s old ate a very small piece of theRat poison the green block it’s been like an hour an half and she’s not showing any signs of anything or poisoning I annotated with praying oil And prayed for her please keep my princess on prayers also

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      The effects do not kick in for many hours, please make her vomit and bring her to a vet…prayer oil is not the answer here I’m afraid.

  5. Reply
    Shannon

    I woke up Sat to notice my dog had eaten a 3oz pack of rat poison we rushed her to the vet immediately and they gave her a shot and sent her home and some meds ! Said to bring her back if she starts bleeding. She’s been fine but has thrown up one time this morning and acts fine just more tired today! How many days before we are in the clear or will she even survive?

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Depends on the brand and active ingredient of the poison. Warfarin based rodenticides are the most common and last about 3 weeks. I can not believe they did not make her vomit? I assume the medicine in Vitamin K? If so then you should be good if you keep giving it and follow the vet instructions. Dont stop early and test her clotting factors before stopping….. watch for bleeding is a very poor way to describe the symptoms. You are looking for skin bruising, coughing, bloody urine or stool, bloody gums and nose bleeds or anything that looks abnormal. The dog is unlikely to spontaneously start bleeding. Call you vet for a follow up. Good luck.

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