The ingestion of rat poison is a common occurrence in dogs. Many people do not realize that the taste of rodenticide is not only appealing to dogs but that it also has the potential to kill dogs. The ASPCA lists rodenticides as one of the top ten pet toxins. All dog owners should educate themselves about all potential toxins and take steps to prevent exposure to the hazards. Take the time now to learn about rat poison and how it can affect your dog.
Types of Rat Poison
There are several different types of rat poisons on the market. The effects of rodenticides vary depending upon the active ingredient. Be aware that different types of rat poisons have different toxic doses and poisoning can manifest itself in a variety of ways. There is no type of rat poison considered "dog safe." Most rodenticides have a grain and/or sugar base, making them palatable to rodents as well as dogs. They often come in pellets, blocks, granules or liquids. They may be any color but are commonly teal, blue, green or pink. The color and shape of the rat poison cannot help you determine the active ingredient (poison type) used. The only way to be certain which chemical a rat poison contains is to read it off the packaging. The following is a list of the types of rodenticides:
- Anticoagulants (active ingredient may be brodifacoum, bromadiolone, chlorophacinone, diphacinone, warfarin, or another chemical) These rodenticides are the most common type ingested by dogs. They kill by interfering with the body's ability to recycle vitamin K, an essential part of clotting. Internal bleeding occurs throughout the body, eventually killing the animal. It may take two to seven days for the effects of this poison to appear.
- Bromethalin increases the amount of sodium in the cells of the body followed by an influx of water to the cells. The cells swell and die. This toxin can affect any organ of the body, but most commonly affects the central nervous system (brain, spine, nerves). Signs of toxicity may progressively appear over one to two weeks if only a small amount is consumed. This poison is usually rapidly fatal if a large dose is consumed.
- Cholecalciferol ingestion causes there to be an increased amount of calcium in the body. This leads to acute renal failure, cardiac abnormalities and possibly death. The signs of this poison may not develop for 12-36 hours after ingestion.
- Zinc Phosphide and Strychnine rodenticides are only available to professionals and are less commonly ingested by dogs.
If Your Dog Eats Rat Poison
If you suspect that your dog has consumed rat poison, you must call a veterinary clinic IMMEDIATELY. The veterinarian or veterinary technician will advise you how to proceed. In most cases, you will need to get your dog to the vet clinic right away. If the poison was recently ingested, your vet may recommend that you induce vomiting (however, the vet might have you get your dog to them immediately so they can rapidly induce vomiting at the clinic). Do not induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by your vet!
Before heading to the vet, gather the following things:
- Rodenticide product packaging (if available)
- The remainder of the poison (if any remains)
- Information about the amount of poison you think your dog consumed and how long ago ingestion occurred
After inducing vomiting (if the poison was recently consumed), your vet will begin the appropriate treatment.
In some cases, a substance called activated charcoal is administered by mouth. Activated charcoal prevents toxins from being absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract. Depending on the time of poison ingestion and the amount ingested, your vet may need to run diagnostic tests and perform additional treatments. Your dog may need to be admitted to the hospital for advanced tests and treatments. The prognosis depends on the type of chemical in the rat poison, the amount eaten and the time that has passed since ingestion. Unfortunately, the prognosis is usually poor if the dog is already showing advanced signs of toxicity.
Remember, time is of the essence after a dog has eaten rat poison. Do not wait to contact a veterinarian.
Preventing Rat Poison Toxicity
The best way to prevent rodenticide toxicity is to avoid keeping rat poison on your property.
Supervise your dog at all times or keep him confined to your property to keep him from eating rat poison placed out by neighbors or businesses near your home. If you must use rat poison on your own property, never place it in any area where your dog can access it. In addition, always keep the packaging in case your dog finds the poison somehow.
Bear in mind that your dog may find a way to consume rat poison or another toxin without your knowledge. Be sure to contact your vet appropriately when your dog shows signs of illness. In addition, maintain a good relationship with your vet through communication. It's all part of keeping your dog healthy.