Dr. Fiona is a veterinarian guest blogger for pet insurance provider, Pets Best.
Many efforts have been made to control rodent populations and keep them out of our homes. Rat poison is effective, but can pose a risk to your pets. This is especially true in the fall or cooler months when rodents may try to move indoors to avoid cold temperatures. Home owners will often place poison or rat bait out to prevent rats or mice from scurrying indoors during the changing of the seasons. In this article we will talk about how toxic rat poison can be to dogs or cats, symptoms of rat poisoning, and treatment.
Rat Poison Toxicity to Dogs or Cats
Toxicity depends on the type and formulation of rat poison (rodenticide), as well as how big your pet is and how much they ate. Bottom line, if you think your pet ate ANY rat poison, you should immediately seek veterinary attention.
Dangers of Pets Ingesting a Rodent That Ate Rat Poison
Yes. It’s more likely to occur if a smaller pet ate a big rat with a belly full of bait. However, dogs and cats that consume rodents on a regular basis and therefore get consistent low doses of the toxin are at risk for ‘relay toxicosis’ due to how long the poison stays in the body and accumulates.
How Toxic are Rat Poisons?
Rat poisons and baits can vary greatly from the main ingredient to the amount of the poison present. Different rat poisons will work differently, for example:
- Some contain cholecalciferol, which kills by causing an increase in blood calcium levels
- Some contain bromethalin, which is a progressive neurotoxin
- The most common rat poisons contain anti-coagulants, which inhibit the blood’s ability to clot. Anti-coagulant rat poisons stop the liver’s ability to produce vitamin K, which is crucial to the production of coagulating. Therefore, it kills by making an animal bleed to death (internally or externally if they get a cut).
Bringing the package or label from the medication with you to the veterinarian is very helpful to ensure the correct treatment.
Why Do Pets Eat Rat Poison?
While many rat baits contain bittering agents to prevent accidental ingestion by children, these due little in preventing a dog or cat from eating it. The pellets are often green or blue, and since pets don’t see many colors, they can be mistaken for kibble.
Symptoms of Rat Poisoning
Signs of toxicity, such as bleeding, can take days to happen. Often signs are vague. Initially you may see lethargy, weakness and a lack of appetite. As bleeding progresses, signs will reflect at the site of the bleeding. When signs do occur, everyday things that would normally result in a bruise or small insignificant problems turn into life-threatening bleeding situation.
Treating a Pet for Rat Poison
The rat poisons that contain cholecalciferol or bromethalin can be very difficult to treat. However, the anti-coagulant types are quite treatable if caught early. The most important anecdote is making the pet vomit. Ideally this happens immediately after ingestion, in order to prevent the toxin from being absorbed. Then the veterinarian will likely administer activated charcoal, which ‘soaks up’ any remaining toxin to prevent absorption. After that the pet should be on a vitamin K supplement for 2 to 4 weeks, depending on type ingested. You veterinarian may want to perform blood work prior to discontinuing the vitamin K to ensure all the toxin is gone. Blood transfusions and aggressive hospitalization may occur depending on the severity of your pet’s poisoning.
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