Written by Brooke Coutts, CVT
A common case we see coming into the Emergency Department are pets that have gotten into rat poison. When dogs get into rat bait, it is very important to be sure of what type of rat poison they have eaten. There are 3 common ingredients in rat poisons. It is even more important to know what type they got into because they are treated in different ways.
What do you do if you suspect your pet may have eaten a rat poison:
- Call your local veterinarian
- Call poison control ASPCA (888) 426-4435 https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control
A little more information on rat and mouse poisons:
Warfarin, Bromethalin, and Cholecalciferol are the 3 types of poisons commonly seen in rat baits.
Warfarin is an anticoagulant compound that reduces the body’s ability to clot blood normally, leading to internal bleeding.
Symptoms: Immediate ingestion of anticoagulant rodenticides (Warfarin) typically does not cause symptoms. Occasionally, an animal may vomit. Since many of these rodenticides are green in color, the vomit may also be green. Exposure to anticoagulant rodenticides may lead to clinical signs of bleeding after 3-4 days. The symptoms depend on where bleeding occurs. Common symptoms may include:
- Visible external bleeding
- Weakness or lethargy
- Pale gums
- Difficulty breathing
Bromethalin is a neurotoxin that can lead to irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system. Bromethalin ingestion can lead to 2 distinct syndromes – acute and chronic.
Acute symptoms: May develop within 4-36 hours of high-dose exposure
- Weakness, with progression to paralysis
- Acute death
Chronic Symptoms: May develop up to 7 days after acute exposure. May also occur after chronic, low-dose exposures.
- Ataxia (wobbly gait)
- Seizures (less likely)
Cholecalciferol contains large amount of vitamin D. This vitamin can be found in diet supplements or in certain rat baits. This causes too much calcium and phosphorus to build up in the blood. Death can occur if severe electrolyte abnormalities develop, usually from mineral deposits in internal organs.
Symptoms: Poor appetite, vomiting, constipation, neurologic signs (like seizures or muscle twitching), increased thirst, increased urination, and inability to concentrate urine.
More severe signs including kidney failure and death due to severe electrolyte abnormalities developing from mineral deposits in internal organs.
There are alternatives that may be used in place of Rat Baits, and are worth looking into as a different option. Peppermint oil, traps, sticky pads, etc., can all be used. Keep in mind that many food products that attract rats and mice, and are toxic to rats and mice, are also toxic to dogs.
If you believe your pet may have gotten into Rat Poison, contact your local veterinarian, or call ASPCA Poison Control at (888) 426-4435.