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Pet parents can do everything they can think of to keep their pets safe and healthy. Still, accidents happen and pets will find a way into situations that are detrimental to their health.
One serious yet common problem that dogs find themselves in is poisoning from rodenticides, the chemicals used to keep rats and other rodents away from homes and other locations with frequent human traffic. This article will review the most common rodenticides and the symptoms of toxicity along with how to treat a dog that is suffering from rodenticide toxicity.
Many rodenticides double as bait and poison, effectively luring in rats and other unwanted vermin. Unfortunately, these baits are also attractive to dogs, making rodenticide poisoning in dogs a common issue. Pet parents should be aware of some of the most toxic types of rodenticides so they may avoid bringing them into the home, and be aware of them when going out of the home without their dogs.
Anticoagulants: Anticoagulant rodenticide toxicity causes blood thinning, which can lead to uncontrolled internal bleeding.
Bromethalin: Bromethalin causes swelling of the nervous system, including the brain, leading to loss of control of bodily functions.
Zinc Phosphide: Zinc phosphide is often an ingredient in gopher bait but can also be included in rat poisoning. This chemical creates toxic gas inside an animal's digestive system. It's important to note that exposure to this kind of gas is toxic to humans as well. So, if pet parents become exposed to vomit that contains zinc phosphide, it is recommended to call human poison control as well.
Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3): Cholecalciferol leads to the calcification or hardening of a dog's internal soft tissues, including the muscular tissues of the heart and other major organs.
Some rodenticide toxicity dog symptoms may appear rapidly after ingestion, while others may take days to become outwardly apparent. Pet parents need to be familiar with these signs and symptoms to act fast and make the most informed decisions for their pets.
Anticoagulants prevent blood clotting leading to uncontrolled bleeding. Symptoms like bleeding from the gums, bloody urine, or a blood-producing cough may take days to appear after initial ingestion of the poison as the body works and then ultimately fails to stop the bleeding. Because bleeding happens internally, physical signs of blood may not always appear. Paleness or unexplained bruising around the gums, weakness, loss of appetite, and swelling in the abdomen may be other rodenticide toxicity dog signs.
Because cholecalciferol leads to the hardening of internal tissues and muscles, a dog who has ingested this kind of rodenticide may display signs of weakness and symptoms that mimic depression as the internal organs begin to fail. If a dog is collapsing, stumbling, or seems to be losing muscle control, it could be experiencing swelling of the nervous system, a side effect of direct ingestion of a bromethalin poison. The toxic gas that builds up in the body after zinc phosphide or a similar rodenticide will likely lead to vomiting and lethargy.
If a pet parent is noticing any rodenticide toxicity dog symptoms, it is best to stay calm and begin addressing the symptoms. Sometimes, toxicity can be addressed before any symptoms even occur. Other times, long-term treatment may be required to ensure that a dog's bodily functions have returned to being normal and healthy.
An important step in treating dog rodenticide toxicity is determining what type of rodenticide a dog consumed. A veterinarian can perform an anticoagulant rodenticide screening which measures thromboplastin time, or the length of time it takes for blood to clot. This screening will determine if a dog consumed an anticoagulant rodenticide and potentially the amount of rodenticide consumed based on the severity of the screening results.
Decontamination is possible within a 4-8 hour time frame from the time of initial ingestion, depending on what type of rodenticide was consumed. The smaller, and thus more digestible, the size of the bait and poison, the shorter the reaction time in the system. If a pet parent is certain a pet has ingested rodenticide, a veterinarian may induce emesis, or vomiting, as the primary form of decontamination before toxicity sets in. If applicable, other gentler forms of decontamination may be used such as activated charcoal.
The predominant antidote to anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning is vitamin K. Vitamin K can be administered orally or through injection and will help stop any internal bleeding. After the initial administration of vitamin K, pet parents may need a prescription to give vitamin K for a few weeks to ensure proper blood clotting function in the body.
As a pet parent, it is worth looking into forms of rodent deterrent that are not as toxic to dogs. If rodenticide must be used around the home, pet parents can use a box for the rodenticide that allows rodents to get in but keeps dogs or other animals from getting to the poison. Pet parents can keep a sort of log with the locations of the rodenticide around the home and the type of rodenticide being used to effectively narrow down the symptoms and action plans in case of ingestion.
It would also be helpful to familiarize oneself with the different types and appearances of rat poisons so that pet parents can be on the lookout for any of these poisons when away from the home. Pet parents can also feel more prepared by having a first aid kit available to help in any kind of emergency.
Fuzzy is always here to assist pet parents in making the right decision for their pets. A 24/7 live vet chat is available to get answers about any poisoning concerns and to help pet parents with the next steps for treating a poisoned dog.