Written by Brooke Coutts, CVT
A common case we see coming into the Emergency Department are pets that have gotten into rat poison or mouse poison, also known as rodenticides. It ranks #7 for most common cat poisons according to the Pet Poison Helpline! Dogs often sniff out the bait or the packaging, and cats (indoor & outdoor) often end up eating a rodent that has ingested poison.
When a dog or cat accidentally eats rat bait, it is very important to be sure of what type of rat poison they have eaten. There are 3 common ingredients in rat poisons each requiring different treatment, so knowing which type your pet got into is critical.
What do you do if you suspect your pet may have eaten rodenticide
- Call your local veterinarian OR head straight to the nearest veterinary emergency hospital.
- You may be asked to call ASPCA Poison Control: here’s why.
- Gather all the information you can about the rat poison: take a picture of the packaging and ingredients list.
The dangerous ingredients found in rat and mouse poisons
Warfarin, Bromethalin, and Cholecalciferol are the 3 dangerous ingredients commonly seen in rat baits.
Warfarin is an anticoagulant compound that reduces the body’s ability to clot blood normally, leading to internal bleeding.
Symptoms: Immediate ingestion of anticoagulant rodenticides (Warfarin) typically does not cause symptoms. Occasionally, an animal may vomit. Since many of these rodenticides are green in color, the vomit may also be green. Exposure to anticoagulant rodenticides may lead to clinical signs of bleeding after 3-4 days. The symptoms depend on where bleeding occurs.
Common symptoms may include:
- Visible external bleeding
- Weakness or lethargy
- Pale gums
- Difficulty breathing
Bromethalin is a neurotoxin that can lead to irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system. Bromethalin ingestion can lead to 2 distinct syndromes – acute and chronic.
Acute symptoms: May develop within 4-36 hours of high-dose exposure:
- Weakness, with progression to paralysis
- Acute death
Chronic Symptoms: May develop up to 7 days after acute exposure. May also occur after chronic, low-dose exposures:
- Ataxia (wobbly gait)
- Seizures (less likely)
Cholecalciferol contains large amount of vitamin D. This vitamin can be found in diet supplements or in certain rat baits. This causes too much calcium and phosphorus to build up in the blood. Death can occur if severe electrolyte abnormalities develop, usually from mineral deposits in internal organs.
- Poor appetite
- Neurologic signs (seizures or muscle twitching)
- Increased thirst and urination
- Inability to concentrate urine
More severe signs including kidney failure and death due to severe electrolyte abnormalities developing from mineral deposits in internal organs.
Pet-safe alternatives to rat bait
If you have pets at home and a pest problem, please look into pet-safe alternatives to rodenticides. It’s just not worth the risk! Here are some safer alternatives:
- Peppermint oil
- Mechanical traps
- Eliminate the source that’s attracting the rodents into your home
- Seal any entryways that the rats/mice are using