Please Protect your Pets from Rodenticides

Since March is National Poison Prevention Month, I decided to raise awareness about a common poisoning I see, to hopefully keep precious furbabies from getting sick.

A rodenticide is a chemical designed to kill mice, rats and other pesky rodents. These poisons work by stopping normal body functions and are dangerous to all mammals (dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, pocket pets and children). Because rodenticides are frequently used in open areas pets can accidently ingest them.

If you think your pet has ingested a rodenticide or is showing any symptoms discussed below, you should consult your veterinarian or an emergency clinic immediately. The most important and helpful thing you can do is bring the packaging of the poison (if you have it) to show the doctor! Your pet will have a better chance of survival if we know which rodenticide we are treating and if treatment is started early. Removal of the rodenticide from the intestinal tract is the first step. Your veterinarian may recommend inducing vomiting, gastric lavage, active charcoal or giving enemas.

If your pet is already showing symptoms of rodenticide toxicity (indicating that the rodenticide has been absorbed into the blood stream and is affecting other organs), it is more difficult to treat and the risk of death increases.

There are three different types of rodenticides:

1) Anticoagulants: stop blood from clotting. It may take several days for bleeding to occur after ingestion. Symptoms depend on where the bleeding occurs in the body and may include difficulty breathing, nose bleeds, bruised skin, bloody eyes, blood in urine, feces or vomit, pale gums or profound weakness. Treatment includes Vitamin K1 which is given for weeks or months until the poison leaves the body, and blood transfusions to treat the blood loss anemia.

2) Bromethalin: causes fluid (edema) to accumulate in the brain and spinal cord. Clinical signs may develop within hours or days after ingestion. Symptoms include weakness, loss of balance, behavior changes, seizures, coma or death. There is no specific treatment for this toxicity, but your veterinarian will recommend hospitalization, supportive intensive care, sedatives, anti-seizure medication and muscle relaxants.

3) Vitamin D rodenticides: cause minerals and calcium to build up in muscles, kidneys, heart, spleen, liver and lungs leading to organ failure. Symptoms are seen within one to two days of ingestion. While there is no specific treatment for Vitamin D toxicity, your pet will need supportive care, hospitalization, IV fluids and medications that help decrease calcium levels in the body.

Fortunately, there are several alternatives to rodent control that DO NOT require the use of toxic chemicals:

– Keep your house (garage, shed, barn) clean, free of garbage and in good repair.
– Use live traps that work without any chemicals. Check traps regularly and release or dispose of the catch according to local regulations.
– If you see your pet in areas that contain rodenticides, immediately restrict access to these areas or move the rodenticides.
– Keep the package or take a photo of the active ingredients of all chemicals used in and around your house so that you can report them to your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has eaten them.
– Do not allow your pet to roam unsupervised in the neighborhood.

My job as your veterinarian is to keep your pets healthy for many years; therefore proper use of rodenticides is an important responsibility for all of us!

Have a Memorable March!

Bonnie S. Harris, D.V.M.

P.S. Share this valuable information with a friend, a neighbor or on Facebook!