As the seasons change and the temperatures cool off, small rodents, such as mice and rats, begin to seek shelter in places such as garages, sheds, and homes. To deter these less-than-desirable inhabitants, many people choose to use rodenticides (i.e., rodent killers). But, these products are designed to kill small wildlife, and they can also seriously harm your pet. Here are five facts every pet owner should know about rat poisons.
#1: Rat poisons are made to taste good
You might think, “Why on earth would my pet eat mouse or rat poison?” Well, for the same reason a small rodent may eat it—its alluring taste. Rat poisons are available in different flavors, such as peanut butter, and are designed to lure rodents with a tempting scent. Once the animal ingests the product, the unique effects of the poison take place. Dogs are more likely to be attracted to a rodenticide’s enticing flavor; however, cats and other domestic animals occasionally eat these poisonous products.
#2: Many different rat-poison types are available
Each rodenticide type kills with a different mechanism. Most cases of rat-poison ingestion are dose-dependent, meaning the toxic effects depend on how much poison the animal ingested.
- Long-acting anticoagulants (LAACs) — LAACs inhibit blood clotting and can cause internal bleeding. They work similarly to certain human blood thinners, such as warfarin. In most cases, it takes approximately three to five days to see clinical signs associated with this poison. Signs may include lethargy or exercise intolerance, pale gums, coughing or vomiting (with or without blood), nose bleeds, swellings on the skin, bleeding gums, or collapse.
- Cholecalciferol (i.e., vitamin D3) — These poisons primarily provide a calcium and phosphorus overdose. High levels of these minerals in the body can cause severe and acute kidney failure. Overdose signs may include increased drinking and urination, bad “uremic” breath, weakness, and collapse. Symptoms generally occur two to three days after poison ingestion.
- Bromethalin — With this poison, which induces brain swelling, you may see signs such as incoordination, tremors or seizures, or paralysis if toxicity is suspected. Cats are more susceptible than dogs to the effects of bromethalin.
- Zinc and aluminum phosphates — These poisons are more commonly used in gopher or mole baits, but some rodent baits include these ingredients. These products are especially dangerous, as they produce a toxic phosphine gas in the stomach. If an affected pet vomits, the poisonous gas can be exposed to nearby pets and people, causing lung irritation or other signs.
#3: Some poisons are more challenging to treat
LAACs are a more common rodenticide type that, fortunately, does have an antidote, called vitamin K1. Affected pets will need treatment for about 30 days. Vitamin D3 toxicities are more difficult to treat and generally require hospitalization and aggressive intravenous fluid therapy. Pets who ingest bromethalin poisons may need a series of activated charcoal treatments to bind the toxin in the body, along with hospitalization. Phosphate poisoning requires antacid therapy, induced vomiting, and possibly gastric lavage.
#4: Knowing the type of poison your pet ate is crucial
Rodenticide-ingestion treatment greatly depends on the active ingredient in the poison, so your veterinarian needs this essential information when treating your pet. If you have access to the rodenticide packaging or know what type of poison your pet ate, bring this with you to the veterinary hospital. Remember, many toxins sound alike—bromethalin and brodifacoum, the active ingredient in a LAAC, for example.
#5: Timing is key
As with any poison ingestion, getting immediate help is vital.
Knowledge about the different rodenticide types and their signs is essential for your pet’s safety. Also, never attempt treatment for any poison ingestion without a veterinarian’s direction. Contact us, or call the Pet Poison Control Center at 855-886-7965.