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The tragic case of Cruz, a 2018 Westminster Kennel show dog who died a few days after ingesting rat poison, illustrates how deadly this type of poison can be for dogs, as well as the scary fact that in many cases, the symptoms don’t appear until a few days after a dog ingests it.
There are various types of rat poison, each with different active chemical ingredients that kill rodents (and possibly your dog, should he ingest it).
These are the most common types:
- Anticoagulants: Also known as warafin, fumarin or bromadiolone, most brands of rat poison use these to deplete vitamin K in the body and interfere with blood clotting, which results in internal hemorrhaging. This type of rat poison is the deadliest to dogs.
- Bromethalin: Increases the pressure of cerebrospinal fluid – the liquid in the skull in which the brain floats – and, causes cerebral edema, which is excess water in the brain.
- Cholecalciferol: Drastically depletes calcium, causing the blood vessels, stomach, lungs and kidneys to mineralize.
“Accurate identification of the active ingredient is crucial, as this will determine the risk of poisoning and the need for treatment,” writes an expert. “If the active ingredient is not clearly visible on the packaging, another important identifier is the EPA registration number (EPA Reg. No.).”
Dogs can get sick from directly ingesting rat poison – it tastes good and looks a lot like kibble – or by eating or chewing on a rodent that has ingested the poison.
If you witness your dog eating rat poison, immediately take him and, if possible, the rat poison, to the vet or an emergency animal hospital. You can call the Animal Poison Control hotline at 888-426-4435 for further instructions.
What are the Symptoms of Rat Poison Ingestion?
Symptoms of rat poison ingestion usually don’t appear until two to seven days – and sometimes up to two weeks – after your dog ingests it.
The severity of the symptoms depends on the type and amount of rat poison ingested and the size of your dog.
These are some common symptoms of anticoagulants, bromethalin and cholecalciferol ingestion. If your dog is having seizures or losing consciousness, immediately take him to your vet or an emergency animal hospital.
- Pale gums
- Loss of appetite
- Bloody nose
- Blood in urine or stool
- Coughing up blood
- Excessive drooling
- Paralyzed hind legs
- Slight muscle tremors
- Loss of consciousness
How is Rat Poison Ingestion Diagnosed?
If you don’t know what type of rat poison your dog ingested, or if your dog’s symptoms are actually caused by rat poison, your vet will perform a series of tests. Your vet may perform a urinanalysis along with an MRI or CT scan to look for excess fluid in your dog’s brain.
“Other possible diagnoses that may cause symptoms similar to those of bromethalin toxicosis include neurological syndromes produced by traumatic events (such as a car accident), exposure to other infectious and toxic agents, or a tumor growth,”.
How is Rat Poison Ingestion Treated?
To decontaminate your dog’s digestive tract, your vet will induce vomiting by giving him hydrogen peroxide or table salt.
After your dog has vomited, your vet may give him activated charcoal to empty his bowels – but only if it has been less than 12 hours since your dog ate the rat poison. Activated charcoal absorbs the toxins in your dog’s stomach and intestines, reducing them by as much as 60 percent, notes a veterinarian. This will need to be repeated every four to eight hours for at least two to three days.
If your dog is having muscle tremors or seizures, your vet may prescribe medication to control them.
Your vet may give your dog vitamin K to help his blood start clotting normally again. “Vitamin K is usually given as an injection, but then may be continued orally to ensure full recovery,” writes Kim our veterinary expert. “Treatment can take anywhere from a week up to a month, depending on the poisoning.”
Supplementing your dog’s diet with i Love Dogs Multivitamin with Green Tea and Reishi, which contains vitamin K-1 as well as antioxidants, can help the healing process.
How Can I Prevent My Dog From Ingesting Rat Poison?
The best way to prevent your dog from ingesting rat poison is to use a safer (and more humane) alternative, such as traps, or ask your landlord to use them. You can also hire an exterminator to eliminate rodents more safely.
Don’t let your dog eat or bite rats or mice.
If you must use rat poison, we advise pet parents to place the pellets out of their dog’s reach (outside of the wireless perimeter zone if you use a wirelss dog fence – behind the refrigerator, stove or other major appliance; on the roof; in the attic, etc.
Be aware that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently taking action to ban d-Con brand rat and mouse poison because the manufacturer refuses to comply with EPA safety standards.
Sadly, many dogs have died after eating meatballs or other food items that were intentionally laced with rat poison. To prevent this from happening to your dog, see Protect Your Dog From Malicious Poisoning.