Rodenticide (Rat and Mouse Bait) Poisoning in Dogs

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Overview of Rodenticide Poisoning in Dogs

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 in dogs. 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

  • Signs of rodenticide poisoning in dogs may include: 

  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Bleeding
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst or urinations
  • Lameness, swollen joints
  • Incoordination
  • Difficulty walking
  • Collapse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Extreme sensitivity to light
  • Noise or touch
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Sudden death is possible
  • Diagnosis of Rodenticide Poisoning in Dogs

    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 of Rodenticide Poisoning in Dogs

    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 and/or plasma 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 dogs can often crawl in unlikely areas, especially if they smell other animals such as rodents.

    Keep your dog on a leash or in a fenced in yard to minimize exposure to other people’s poisons.

    In-depth Information on Rodenticide Poisoning in Dogs

    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 Toxicity in Dogs

    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 Toxicity in Dogs

    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.
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