This time of year, more people will reach for a rodenticide (rat poison) to keep pesky mice out of barns and homes. Increased exposure means increased risk….and not all rat poisons are equal in their potential harm to our pets.
If your pet has been exposed to or eaten rat poison it is very important to find the box and look at the ingredients. Although it may not always be possible, knowing the type and active ingredient of the poison, the estimated amount ingested, your pet’s current weight, and when the poison was ingested will ensure the veterinary team can provide the best possible treatment available.
Not all rat poisons are equal!
There are 4 main types of rat poison available on the market:
- Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3)
- Phosphide rodenticides
The two we most commonly see are the anticoagulants and bromethalin. Of the two bromethalin is the most devastating as there is no antidote.
Vitamin K is the antitode for the anticoagulant rodenticides and if ingestion of the anticoagulants is caught early it is fairly straight forward to treat with a great prognosis. Anticoagulants cause a failure of clotting and early signs can be bleeding from the gums, bruising of the skin, or bleeding in vomit or feces. Bleeding can continue into joints or body cavities leading to death without treatment.
Bromethalin on the other hand is a neurotoxin that causes fluid to build up around the brain and spinal cord, leading to signs such as stumbling, mental dullness, seizures, tremors, paralysis, and death.
The signs of both toxins are delayed… with Bromethalin it can be 12-24 hours and signs can continue for days and with the Anticoagulants any signs of failure to clot and bleed may be delayed 2-3 days.
What to do if your pet ingests a rat poison?
Seek veterinary care! Pets seen eating bait or with owners that realize bait was ingested early have the best prognosis. Early decontamination (inducing vomiting) and treatment is critical. If pets are already showing signs of poisoning the prognosis is more guarded. Remember the signs of poisoning are delayed so your pet may initially act completely normal after ingesting the bait. With rat poisons waiting can mean the difference between life and death (especially with Bromethalin rodenticides).
How to protect your pet?
- Supervise your pet in any unknown location and survey the location for any bait stations or rodenticide left out. Many pets are unknowingly exposed when they go for a run at the family farm or visit a vacationer’s cabin where owners were unaware of the presence of bait.
- Avoid rodenticide bait and/or ensure no access by your pet.
- Talk with neighbors and family to encourage them to avoid poisons if your pet may have access to their property as well.
- Keep cats indoors or supervised if at all able.
- Do a careful walk-thru of any new properties, home, apartment prior to allowing your pet exposure looking for hazards and bait. Don’t forget basements, cabinets, closets, garages, and around the outdoor areas.
Avoidance of any potential rat poison remains the best option to keep our pets safe. The most life-threatening situation emerges when a pet presents with signs after they unknowingly ingested the rat poison. Stay safe!