Tech Talks: Rodenticide Poisoning

Tech Talks by Emily Harbury, LVT

Autumn is the height of a yearly battle against rodents in the Wenatchee Valley. It’s also the time of year for a spike in numbers of animals entering our clinic who have ingested rodenticide. While you may want to get rid of rodents, you certainly do not want to pose a hazard to children or family pets. There are 2 things in particular I would like to highlight in this article:

  1. How to most safely use rodenticides
  2. How to diagnose and treat rodenticide poisoning in your pet

If you choose to use rodenticide on your premises, be aware that there are many types of poisons available. That old can of rodenticide you’ve had for years in your storage shed may contain really awful active ingredients that are highly toxic to pets, wildlife and waterways and have no antidote. Rodenticides with older ingredients should be disposed of safely. The recommended types of rodenticide contain anticoagulants. Active ingredients in anticoagulants include: warfarin, bradifacoaum, diphacinone and bromadiolane.

Anticoagulant rodenticides are recommended because they are less toxic to pets and are the only type available with an antidote. Anticoagulants kill by depleting vitamin K reserves so meaningful blood clotting cannot occur. In cases of poisoning you would normally expect symptoms to be nearly immediate, but in anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning, it takes several days to deplete vitamin K. After that, even the smallest of jostles and traumas can lead to life-threatening bleeds.

The poison is mixed with attractants your dog will want to eat. If you use rodenticides, be sure your dog cannot access them. Do not put rodent bait in an open pan. Be aware that your dog will be attracted to the smell of the bait, or the smell of rodents that are attracted to the bait, and may try very hard to wriggle his way into areas he wouldn’t try to access normally.


What should you do if you suspect your dog/cat has ingested a rodenticide?

CALL YOURVETERINARIAN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!! If you know exactly what poison and when it was ingested, you may have options. If the active ingredient was NOT an anticoagulant, vomiting may cause even more damage. If it was an anticoagulant and it was ingested less than 30 – 60 minutes ago, vomiting may help. If the trip to the vet is long, you may be advised to administer hydrogen peroxide at home in an attempt to void the poisons. However, not every dog will vomit from hydrogen peroxide. It is far safer and usually quicker to bring the pet to the veterinarian where they can administer apomorphine, a drug that induces vomiting. This drug creates results in as soon as 3-5 minutes. After vomiting occurs, activated charcoal is administered to coat the stomach and intestine to stop any residual toxin from being absorbed. The veterinarian will likely prescribe a vitamin K regime based on your pet’s weight.

More likely, you won’t know your dog has found rat poison until several days have passed and he becomes symptomatic. You may find the empty carton but won’t be sure how much was left or when the pet ingested it. Your dog may appear weak and/or cold. His gums may be pale or show signs of petechial (pin point bruising). You may notice bloody urine or stool, or nose bleeds. Vomiting will be useless at this point to get rid of the poison.

The veterinarian can perform blood clotting tests called the PTT (partial thromboplastin time) and PT (prothrombin time). If both of these pathways show disruption, rat poisoning is the most common cause. In these cases hospitalization for a number of days and a whole blood transfusion may be necessary to stabilize the patient. If poisoning was by an anticoagulant, Vitamin K is generally started as an injection and when the patient is stable, tablets are prescribed. After a couple of weeks of therapy, medication is discontinued for a short period of time and the animal is then retested. It is important to return for the recheck test on schedule. Waiting an extra day or two may allow internal bleeding to recur. Do NOT self-treat with Vitamin K3 available over the counter; it is sometimes toxic and not nearly as effective as Vitamin K1 that your veterinarian will use. If your pet eats a rodent that has been poisoned with rodenticide, effects can vary.

If it is one of the older types of poison, the danger is very real. Since the first animal that ingests the poison will break it down, your pet is probably safe from anticoagulant poison unless he is very small, eats many rodents, or his health is already compromised.


Editor’s Note: It’s National Vet Tech Appreciation Week, so be sure and thank you local Vet Tech!

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