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Rodenticide Poisoning in Dogs

By: Dr. Ann Marie Manning

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Diagnosis In-depth

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize rodenticide poisoning and exclude other diseases. The tests necessary for diagnosis vary according to the type ingested. In some cases, there is no definitive test that can be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Often, the owner of a poisoned pet can produce evidence that a pet has chewed or consumed a box of rodenticide. Regardless of these circumstances, testing is often necessary to monitor a patient's progress as they are treated for poisoning. Tests vary with the toxin. Tests for the different toxins may include:

Anticoagulant rodenticide exposure

  • A history of exposure is the single most important diagnostic tool. If the owner of a poisoned pet witnesses the ingestion or can produce the remnants of containers or labels, this greatly limits the need to look for other causes.

  • Your veterinarian should complete a thorough physical examination to look for evidence of bleeding such as swollen joints, hematomas (swellings under the skin containing blood) or pale gums indicating anemia (low red blood cell count).

  • A complete blood count (CBC) is obtained to look at the characteristics of the red blood cells. The CBC helps determine whether the loss of red blood cells has been sudden (more consistent with poisoning) or chronic.

  • A serum chemistry profile is helpful to eliminate kidney or liver problems, both of which can cause anemia or bleeding problems.

  • A platelet count is important to rule out bleeding from low platelet levels, which can be caused by other diseases.

  • A reticulocyte count determines whether the animal's body is trying to regenerate red blood cells that have been lost.

  • A PIVKA (Proteins Induced by Vitamin K Absence or Antagonists) test is a blood test that can be collected by your veterinarian and sent to a lab to determine if bleeding is due to exposure to anticoagulant rodenticides. Because this test is performed in a lab outside of your veterinarian's hospital, the results may take several days.

  • Clotting tests such as an activated clotting time (ACT), prothrombin time (PT) and activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) are used to determine if anemia and/or bleeding are due to the inability of the animal to clot its blood. These values are greatly prolonged in anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning. As the pet is treated, your veterinarian will likely repeat these blood tests to confirm that they normalize.

    Bromethalin, cholecalciferol, strychnine and zinc phosphide-containing rodenticides

  • A history of exposure, observation of symptoms associated with these types of rodenticide poisoning and a thorough physical exam are the best diagnostic tools.

  • A CBC is usually done to evaluate for infection or inflammation as potential causes for the pet's symptoms.

  • A serum biochemistry profile helps to evaluate the kidneys and liver for evidence of failure. Abnormalities in electrolytes such as sodium will also be detected with this test.

  • Examination of stomach contents or vomit may raise the suspicion of poisoning or identify the remnants of the poison ingested and a pet owner can be sent home to look for evidence of a chewed package to confirm the diagnosis.

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