On Baited Breath: Rodenticide Poisoning in Pets FAQs

According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, rodent poison (i.e., rodenticide) is included in the top 10 list of common pet poisonings each year. And, while the frequency of pet encounters with this poison has not changed, common ingredients in these products have become more deadly and difficult to treat. 

Pet owners can help safeguard their pet by understanding how pets are exposed, why exposure is dangerous, and the actions they must take when their pet ingests a rodenticide. Here, our Animal Hospital of Parkland team shares answers to your most commonly asked questions about rodenticide toxicity to help you avoid a tragedy.

Question: How are pets exposed to rodenticides?

Answer: Rodenticides are usually in the form of bait blocks with an appetizing smell and taste designed to attract rodents. People place the blocks where rats, mice, voles, moles, or other small pests are a problem, such as rural areas, parks, farms, outbuildings, basements, crawlspaces, or garages. Curious and hungry pets find and take the bait and are accidentally poisoned rather than their intended rodent targets.

Q: Are all rodenticides the same?

A: Rodenticides come in many different formulations and strengths with different active ingredients. Most baits have added bright-colored dyes, which are often visible in vomit or stool, although you cannot distinguish a bait’s formula by the color or texture. Different active ingredients have vastly different effects that fall into one of four categories:

  • Anticoagulants — These prevent blood clotting and cause internal bleeding.
  • Bromethalin — This ingredient causes brain swelling and neurologic dysfunction.
  • Cholecalciferol/vitamin D — This potent ingredient increases calcium to dangerous levels and damages the kidneys.
  • Zinc or aluminum phosphides — Phosphides combine with stomach acid to produce a deadly, toxic gas in the stomach.

Q: Will I know right away if my pet ingests rodenticide?

A: Unfortunately, unless you witness your pet eating a rodent bait or notice brightly colored dyes in their stool, you may not realize your pet has been poisoned for several days, when clinical signs first appear—except for phosphides, which cause signs in minutes to hours. If your pet is acting strangely and you use rodent poison on your property, you should assume they have eaten some and seek veterinary attention or advice.

Q: What are rodenticide toxicity clinical signs in pets?

A: Clinical signs vary depending on the active ingredient ingested. Possible signs include:

  • Anticoagulants — Unusual bleeding, pinpoint bruising, lethargy, difficulty breathing, pale gums
  • Bromethalin — Seizures, tremors, weakness, other neurologic signs
  • Cholecalciferol — Vomiting, weakness, lethargy, increased thirst, increased urine volume
  • Phosphides — Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, seizures, tremors, stomach pain, difficulty breathing

Q: Is rodenticide toxicity an emergency?

A: Rodenticide ingestion is always an emergency—the sooner your pet receives veterinary care, the better their survival chances. If you witness or suspect ingestion, note the product, the time and amount your pet ate, and keep the packaging, if you can. Call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center or the Pet Poison Helpline to open a case for your pet, and then head to our hospital or the nearest veterinary emergency facility. Calling one of the poison hotlines ensures a toxicologist is available to guide your pet’s veterinary team through treatment.

Q: How do veterinarians treat rodenticide toxicity in pets?

A: If you know the ingestion occurred a few hours before you arrived at the hospital, the veterinary team will first induce vomiting, and then administer activated charcoal to prevent as much poison absorption as possible. An important note—if your pet ate a phosphide poison and vomits prior to their arrival, ensure you vacate and ventilate the area, because the gas is poisonous to humans, too.

The next steps depend on the toxin, but options typically include supportive measures to counteract the poison’s effects, such as IV fluids, vitamin K1 supplements, anti-seizure medications, gastrointestinal and liver protectants, and treatment to reduce brain swelling.

Q: Will my pet recover from rodenticide toxicity?

A: Most pets will survive the incident with prompt treatment, but some suffer lasting liver, kidney, or neurologic damage that requires life-long treatment. Pets who do not receive treatment or who consume large poison amounts may die. 

Q: How can I prevent my pet from eating rodenticides?

A: Avoiding rodenticide use whenever possible is the best prevention. You may think your pet can’t reach the product, but accidents happen. Other strategies include keeping your pet on a leash in unfamiliar areas and asking friends and family about rodenticide use before visiting with your pet.

Acting quickly can save your pet’s life if you think they consumed rodenticide bait or another toxic substance. Contact our Animal Hospital of Parkland team for emergency assistance during our regular business hours, or call your nearest veterinary emergency facility for after-hours care.

By |2024-02-14T23:50:11+00:00September 1st, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

About the Author:

Leave A Comment

Go to Top