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Rodenticide Poisoning in Dogs

By: Dr. Ann Marie Manning

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Many diseases mimic rodenticide poisoning. The exact types of symptoms and problems your pet will exhibit depends on the type of poison. The general types of poisons include:

  • Anticoagulent rodenticides, which are poisons that interfere with blood clotting

  • Bromethalin-containing rodenticides

  • Poisons containing strychnine and metaldehyde

  • Cholecalciferol-containing rodenticides

  • Zinc phosphide-containing rodenticides

    Anticoagulant rodenticides

    These products may cause prolonged bleeding from cuts; bloody vomit or diarrhea; hematomas (swellings under the skin containing blood); lameness due to bleeding into joints; joint swelling; rapid or labored breathing due to bleeding into the chest or lungs; weakness; collapse; and sudden death. Diseases that cause similar symptoms include the following:

  • Hemophilia is a bleeding disorder that dogs may be born with and may cause hematomas, bleeding into joints, and prolonged bleeding following bites, cuts and surgical procedures.

  • Immune mediated hemolytic anemia (inappropriate red blood cell destruction by the pet's immune system) can cause anemia.

  • Immune mediated thrombocytopenia (inappropriate platelet destruction by the pet's immune system) can cause anemia, prolonged bleeding following bites, cuts and surgical procedures as well as spontaneous bleeding or bruising.

  • Severe liver disease may cause anemia and prolonged bleeding times.

    Bromethalin-containing rodenticides

    These products may cause severe muscle tremors, hyperexcitability, running fits, extreme sensitivity to being touched (hyperesthesia) and seizures that appear to be caused by light or noise. Less frequent symptoms include loss of ability to bark, loss of appetite, depression, lethargy and coma. Conditions that can look similar include:

  • Poisons containing strychnine and metaldehyde (slug bait) can cause muscle tremors and hyperexcitability. Strychnine is no longer commonly used for pest control and is rarely encountered. Slug bait toxicity is most common on the west coast of the United States.

  • Neurological diseases that cause seizures such as epilepsy and Granulomatous Meningo-encephalitis (GME).

  • Ingestion of compost or moldy garbage may cause severe muscle tremors, hyperexcitability and seizures and is easily confused with bromethalin poisoning.

  • Salt poisoning causes abnormally high sodium levels in the blood and can lead to muscle and head tremors and eventually coma and death if uncorrected.

    Cholecalciferol-containing rodenticides

    These products may cause increased thirst, increased urinations, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite and constipation. These signs are attributable to the effects of elevated calcium levels in the body and accompanying kidney failure.

  • Certain types of cancer: such as lymphosarcoma, anal sac carcinoma, mammary gland or nasal cavity carcinoma, thyroid carcinoma and testicular carcinoma are capable of causing elevations of calcium in the body with subsequent kidney failure.

    Strychnine

    This causes extreme muscle rigidity, extreme sensitivity to light, noise and touch, seizures and difficulty breathing. Symptoms similar to these may be caused by: the ingestion of compost material, moldy garbage, bromethalin containing rodenticides and slug bait can cause symptoms similar to those of strychnine poisoning.

    Zinc phosphide-containing rodenticides

    These can cause a loss of appetite; lethargy; difficulty breathing; vomiting (with or without blood); incoordination; weakness; inability to walk and death.

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