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Rodenticide Poisoning in Cats

By: Dr. Ann Marie Manning

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Rodenticide poisoning is the accidental ingestion of products used to kill "rodents" such as mice, rats and gophers. These products are common and accidental exposure is frequent. Poisoning is most commonly caused by ingestion of a product containing one of the following ingredients:

  • Bromethalin
  • Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3)
  • Strychnine
  • Zinc phosphide
  • Anticoagulant (warfarin, fumarin, chlorophacinone, diphacinone, difethialone, pindone, bromadiolone, brodaficoum)

    Younger and older pets tend to be more sensitive to the affects of toxicity and underlying liver disease can exacerbate toxicity.

    The impact on the poisoned animal varies depending on the type of poison ingested. An animal may develop a bleeding disorder, neurological problems, gastrointestinal distress or kidney failure. In some cases, rodenticide poisoning is fatal.

    What to Watch For

  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Bleeding
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst or urinations
  • Lameness
  • Incoordination
  • Difficulty walking
  • Collapse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme sensitivity to light
  • Noise or touch
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Sudden death is possible

    Diagnosis

    There is no single test that can be performed to make a definitive diagnosis of rodenticide poisoning. However, in addition to a thorough history and physical examination, your veterinarian may recommend one or more of the following tests to aid in the diagnosis.

    Tests may include:

  • A complete blood count (CBC)
  • A serum biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Examination of stomach contents
  • Platelet count
  • Reticulocyte count
  • PIVKA (for anticoagulant rodenticide ingestion)
  • Clotting tests, such as: an activated clotting time (ACT) test, a prothrombin time (PT) test and an activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) test

    Treatment

    Therapy for rodenticide poisoning varies based on the type of poison ingested, the amount ingested and the length of time elapsed since ingestion. Treatments may include one or more of the following:

  • Vomiting should be induced if ingestion was recent.
  • Activated charcoal can be administered to bind poison remaining in the stomach.
  • Gastric lavage (pumping the stomach)
  • Intravenous fluids

    Additional treatments may include:

  • Anticonvulsant drugs
  • Blood transfusion
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Drugs to treat kidney failure such as furosemide and dopamine
  • Drugs to reduce swelling of the brain such as mannitol and steroids
  • Vitamin K1
  • Oxygen
  • Heat support
  • Nutritional support
  • Cage rest
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed if a concurrent infection is identified or suspected.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Prevent exposure to poisons. If you normally use rodenticides, store them with special care. When poisons are used, place them in areas in which your pets do not have access. Take special care as rodents may drag poisons within reach of pets. Remember that cats can often crawl in unlikely areas, especially if they smell other animals such as rodents.

    Keep your cat indoors to minimize exposure to other people's poisons.

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