Even if you’re the most watchful dog owner, you may find yourself scrambling over a dog who just ate rat poison. In fact, rodenticides are one of the top reasons people call into the Pet Poison Hotline.
And rat poison is especially tricky because there are so many different kinds … each with its own harmful effects and treatment. The one thing they do have in common is that acting quickly is essential!
That’s why learning how to prevent your dog from getting into rat poison and knowing what to do if it happens is a top priority.
What To Do If Your Dog Eats Rat Poison
When it comes to rat poison, acting fast saves lives and prevents unnecessary medical bills. Even if your dog looks fine, call your vet immediately. If it’s after hours, call the emergency vet … don’t wait until morning!
Because there are so many different types of rat poisons, it’s important not to act without asking your vet. Don’t induce vomiting unless they tell you to … otherwise, you could damage your dog’s esophagus or put dangerous toxins into the air.
Providing a description of the rat poison often isn’t enough to identify it. Many different rat poisons have a similar look. Some even have similar names. So if you can, bring a sample of the rat poison and the packaging with you. But be sure to do so safely. Some poisons can cause toxicity just from skin contact.
You may also be able to identify the poison based on your dog’s symptoms.
Symptoms Of Rat Poisoning
I mentioned earlier that there are many different types of rat poisons and rodenticides. And that each one works differently. So your dog’s symptoms will differ based on the type of poison he ate.
One symptom that may be the same across different types of rat poisons is brightly colored stools. Rat poisons are often colored bright blue, green, purple, pink or teal. If your dog’s poop is any of these colors, it’s likely that he ate rat poison or another rodenticide.
Here are some other symptoms you may see for different poisons …
Rat poisons and rodenticides that use anticoagulants stop blood from clotting. They interfere with the way the body uses vitamin K, which is one of the nutrients responsible for clotting. If an animal eats enough of the anticoagulant, he will bleed internally until he dies.
Symptoms can start within 2 to 7 days if your dog eats this type of rat poison. If he eats a large amount or gets exposed to an anticoagulant repeatedly, symptoms may start sooner. A fatal dose depends on the type of toxin and the amount used.Symptoms Of Anticoagulant Poisoning
Symptoms Of Anticoagulant Poisoning
- Exercise intolerance
- Breathing trouble because of bleeding in the lungs
- Pale gums
- Bloody urine or stool
- Nose bleeds
- Swollen joints
- Lack of appetite
The good news is that this type of rodenticide has a high survival rate when treated quickly. In one study, 98.7% of dogs survived. And it’s one of the only rat poisons with an antidote.
Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3)
Cholecalciferol is growing in popularity and is also one of the most dangerous rat poisons for dogs. It works by increasing the amount of calcium and phosphorus in animals that eat it. This causes acute renal failure and cardiac problems.
Symptoms usually appear within 12 to 36 hours. Signs of renal failure will begin in as little as 2 days. Symptoms Of Cholecalciferol Poisoning (And Renal Failure)
Symptoms Of Cholecalciferol Poisoning (And Renal Failure)
- Loss of appetite
- Increased thirst and urination
- Bad breath
- Pale gums
- Blood in urine
Even a small amount of cholecalciferol can be fatal in dogs.
Bromethalin increases sodium in the body causing the animal to swell and die. It most often affects the brain, which is why many of the symptoms are neurological.
In small doses, it can take weeks for symptoms to show. Large doses can be rapidly fatal, with symptoms appearing within 2 to 36 hours. Symptoms Of Bromethalin Poisoning
Symptoms Of Bromethalin Poisoning
- Pressing their head against furniture
- Loss of appetite
Bromethalin has a narrow margin of safety and can even cause moderate toxicity from skin exposure. You also want to be sure you don’t confuse it with common anticoagulants like brodifacoum or bromadiolone. Bromethalin can be much more dangerous.
Phosphide rat poison is much less common. It’s most often used by professionals to get rid of moles and gophers. Once in the stomach, this type of rat poison releases phosphide gas.
Feeding your dog can increase the amount of gas so DO NOT FEED your dog if you think he may have eaten this poison. You also DON’T want to force vomiting as this can put the gas in the environment. Make sure your dog is in a well-ventilated area or outside in case he vomits. If you’re in the car, roll down the window. Symptoms Of Phosphide Poisoning
Very small doses of bromethalin are toxic.
Strychnine is also less common as it’s used by professionals. There are many restrictions on the use of strychnine and it’s only allowed for underground application in many places, including the US.
Strychnine affects cells in the spinal cord. This leads to spasms that can cause breathing paralysis and death. Symptoms Of Strychnine Poisoning
Symptoms Of Strychnine Poisoning
- Rigid standing
- Asphyxiation (suffocation)
- Hyperthermia (overheating)
Strychnine is highly toxic to dogs with a lethal dose as low as 0.5 mg per kg. While strychnine poisoning is rare, it does happen.
Secondary Poisoning From Eating Rats
If your dog eats a poisoned rodent, he may experience secondary poisoning. In fact, studies show that up to 67% of birds in canada and 58% in the US have traces of rodenticide in their system. And it’s believed that the main source in the animals they eat.
Secondary poisoning is rare and depends on many factors. This includes the toxicity of the rodenticide, the amount of toxin, and when the rodent ate the poison. But if you think your dog ate a rodent that had or died from rat poison, you may want to contact your vet.
How Vets Determine Which Poison Your Dog Ate
I mentioned earlier that you should try and bring in a sample of the rat poison when you go to the vet. The problem is that you may not always know when or what your dog got into. Even the most watchful of pet owners can lose sight of their dogs for a few seconds.
If you think your dog was poisoned while you were in a public space, call your city. Many municipalities use rodenticides and rat poison to manage rodents. Even if your dog hasn’t been poisoned, knowing where your city uses traps can help you avoid accidents.
Your vet can also do a test. There’s no single test that will identify which rat poison your dog ate. Your vet will run tests based on their expertise, your dog’s symptoms and any information you can provide.
Anticoagulants – Usually blood clotting tests show how well your dog’s blood clots. If there are any clotting problems it may mean your dog has had an anticoagulant. Studies have also shown that fecal analysis may be effective.
Cholecalciferol – Your vet will use a series of blood tests to confirm cholecalciferol poisoning. This will let them know the calcium and phosphorus levels of your dog.
Bromethalin – An analysis of the kidney, liver, brain and fat will let your vet know if bromethalin is present.
Phosphide – Your vet will most likely do a venous blood gas analysis on your dog’s blood to confirm phosphide poisoning.
Strychnine – An examination of stomach contents, vomit, liver, kidneys or urine should show the presence of strychnine.
Once your vet knows which type of poison your dog had, they’ll begin treatment.
Treatment For Rat Poisoning In Dogs
Rat poisoning is one of the few times we advocate for visiting the vet. This is a serious problem that you shouldn’t try to manage at home. You’ll probably need to go to a conventional or emergency clinic but keep in touch with your holistic vet.
Poisoning from anticoagulants has a high survival rate and there’s a known antidote. If your dog ate an anticoagulant, your vet may induce vomiting and administer charcoal. (Charcoal should help absorb the rat poison so less gets absorbed into your dog’s body).
They will also prescribe vitamin K1 (usually for 30 days) then do a follow up blood clotting test. Regular vitamin K and K-rich foods aren’t good enough.
The bad news is that there’s no antidote for cholecalciferol. Cholecalciferol poisoning requires hospitalization, lab monitoring and expensive therapies. The good news is it usually responds well to
- IV treatment
- Bisphosphonates (which help decrease calcium)
- Other treatments
Your dog will also need frequent blood tests after poisoning.
Treatment for bromethalin may also need hospitalization. Treatment can include induced vomiting, IV and charcoal. Vets may also use medication to reduce brain swelling and seizures. If you reach out to your holistic vet, they may have recommendations for natural alternatives.
It can take several weeks to treat bromethalin poisoning.
If your dog has eaten phosphide based rodenticide, your vet will likely induce vomiting or pump your dog’s stomach. But remember … your vet should do these procedures. Otherwise other pets and people could get hurt.
You vet may also recommend antacids to help reduce the amount of gas produced. This may be something you want to ask your holistic vet about. They may have natural alternatives to recommend.
SOIL BASED PROBIOTICS + PREBIOTICS
How To Prevent Poisoning
Like anything, prevention the best way to protect your dog from rat poison. Here are some tips to help keep your dog safe.
- Keep rat poison off your property.
- Find out whether your city uses rat poison. If they do, find out which kind they use and where.
- Supervise your dog at all times when you’re off your property.
If you have to have rat poison at home or are somewhere where there’s rat poison …
- Store it in a safe place where your dog can’t find it.
- Keep your dog in a crate or in a safe room when he isn’t supervised.
- Keep the packaging just in case he eats some. This will make identification easier.
- Put poison and traps in a large enough cage so your dog can’t reach it.
- Contact a professional to find out about pet-safe options for rodent removal!
You may think that your dog will never get into rat poison. But dogs accidentally eat rat poison every day and this poison can be fast acting and deadly. So take these steps and help make sure your dog stays safe.
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Waddell LS, Poppenga RH, Drobatz KJ. Anticoagulant rodenticide screening in dogs: 123 cases (1996–2003). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2013;242(4):516-21.