Dangers of Rodent Bait
There are several general classifications of rodent poison (rodenticide) available over the counter. The most common poison is one that prevents blood clotting, and is called an anticoagulant. D-Con being the most easily recognized in light of the recent bans on second generation anticoagulant rodenticides. Anticoagulant rodenticides can come in many forms from liquids, to pellets, to blocks. They are made to be palatable, thus the increase in risk to pets. When they are ingested the active ingredient is absorbed and begins blocking Vitamin K. Vitamin K is not a vitamin in the traditional sense. Instead, it is a molecule used by the blood during the clotting process.
Unfortunately signs of sickness begin days after ingestion of these anticoagulant poisons. Usually signs start with weakness, tiredness, and then progress to coughing. Nearly 100% of cases of anticoagulant poisonings start with bleeding into the lungs.
Treatment of these anticoagulant poisonings often lags behind the initial poisoning, resulting in dramatically reduced survival rates. This is often because pets do not act sick after ingesting the poison; therefore, owners are either unaware it happened or believe the pet will be fine.
Treatment of these poisonings depends on how soon the pet is brought in for treatment as well as the severity of that pet's illness. The prognosis and survival rate is dependent on early recognition of signs and treatment.
If a pet owner is aware that their pet ate poison, vomiting can be induced to remove as much of the poison as possible and the pet can be started on Vitamin K supplement therapy until all of the poison leaves the body. This reduces the risk of bleeding and the pet has an excellent prognosis with appropriate monitoring.
If a pet is already suspected to be suffering from the signs of poisoning and is bleeding into his or her lungs or other tissues the treatment is very different. Diagnosis is usually through a blood test that determines how long it takes for the pet's blood to clot - these times are longer in poisoned pets. X-rays can show how severe the bleeding is into the lungs as well as providing more information for prognosis. The pet is started on Vitamin K and will often need a plasma or whole blood transfusion. The transfusion is important not only to replenish blood volume, but also provides the pet with the blood clotting factors the poison is blocking.
Since recent bans on anticoagulant rodenticides, other forms of rodent bait are becoming more popular. These types of baits contain neurologic type poisons. The most common neurologic poison is Bromethalin. Bromethalin ingestion causes severe brain swelling, seizures, and death in all mammals. All mammals from rodents, cats, dogs, and small children are at very high risk for death if ingestion occurs.
Treatment is only successful if the pet is known to have ingested these neurologic type poisons, like Bromethalin, and is treated appropriately within 1 - 2 hours. The only treatment known to be successful with these type of poisonings is induction of vomiting to reduce the amount of poison in the body below toxic levels. After 1 - 2 hours the likelihood of successful treatment reduces with every passing moment. As with every chemical or poison used in the home, be aware of risks to animals and humans. Speak to your veterinarian to learn tips for reducing risks in your home.
Owner awareness is critical to saving the life of the pet. Knowing what poisons are on the property and ensuring that pets do not have access is the first step in prevention of poisoning. Then, making sure to check those poisons regularly, so if it is ingested, early treatment can be started.
For more information on poisonous foods, plants and household substances, please visit this link to our Poisons page.
If you believe your pet has ingested poison,
Call us at 480-893-0533 (during regular business hours) immediately to let us know you are on your way so we can prepare for your arrival.
If it is outside of our regular business hours, call First Pet Animal Emergency Hospital at 480 732-0018
or click on our Emergencies link and call one of the emergency numbers listed there.