Rat poison has always been
dangerous for pets.
Poisons of all kinds cause scary, dangerous emergencies for pets. Even if you never use actual poisons around your home, that doesn’t mean others in your community won’t.
Old Rodent Poisons
In the past, rodent poisons or rat “bait” came primarily in one form – blood thinners (anticoagulants). Essentially, old-school rodent poisons caused mice and rats to bleed to death internally.
If you know anyone with a heart condition or who has suffered blood clots, you’ve probably heard them joke about taking rat poison as medicine. And, they’re right. Too many blood thinners, though, are deadly.
Dangerous for pets? Absolutely. But, veterinarians can administer a variety of treatments, including doses of Vitamin K to thicken up a pet’s blood. In many cases, pets recover.
New Rodent Poisons
Not so with next generation rodent poisons. New rodent poisons have no antidote. If the poisoning symptoms pass a certain stage, pets do not recover.
New rodent poisons made from bromethalin (a fat-soluble neurotoxin) pose the greatest danger to pets.
Toxic doses of bromethalin:
Dogs: 4.7 mg per kg of pet’s body weight
- Cats: 1.8 mg per kg of pet’s body weight
Symptoms of bromethalin poisoning show up between a few hours and 48 hours from ingestion and stem from trouble caused to a pet’s central nervous system:
- Stumbling/wobbly walking
- Rigid limbs
Pets who progress past partial or complete paralysis typically do not recover. Treatment beyond this stage is generally ineffective.
Early and Aggressive Treatment Critical
Early and aggressive treatment is required in cases of suspected bromethalin poisoning in pets. If you know for sure a pet has eaten bromethalin rodent poison in the last 10-15 minutes, your veterinarian may have you induce vomiting at home before rushing your pet to the emergency room.
There, the veterinary emergency team will likely use various methods of toxin decontamination:
- Give doses of activated charcoal
- Administer enemas
Veterinarians may also provide some supportive care, including giving anti-seizure medications and perhaps providing life support for breathing.
Because bromethalin does not affect the kidneys, intravenous fluids typically do not help. However, veterinary emergency teams may put in an IV to aid in the delivery of medications quickly.
Why New Rodent Poisons
The rodent poison switch stems from a change in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules intended to improve safety by prohibiting anticoagulant poisons. Veterinary toxicology experts fear it created the opposite effect – making poisons much more dangerous to pets.
Currently, less than 5% of pet poisoning cases involve bromethalin rodent poisons, but its use is growing as companies move to meet the EPA mandate.
Share Your Thoughts
Do you use rodent poisons at home? Have any of your pets gotten sick from it? Please tell us about your experiences.
Amy Butler, DVM, MS, Diplomate American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care: “Toxicology: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” American Animal Hospital Association 2012 Conference, March 16, 2012.
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