The ingestion of rat poison is an unfortunately common occurrence in dogs. Many people do not realize that the taste of rodenticide is not only appealing to dogs, but that it also has the potential to kill dogs. All dog owners should educate themselves about all potential toxins and take steps to prevent exposure to the hazards.
There are several different types of rat poisons on the market. The effects of rodenticides vary depending upon the active ingredient. Be aware that different types of rat poisons have different toxic doses and poisoning can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Most rodenticides have a grain and/or sugar base, making them palatable to rodents as well as dogs. They often come in pellets, blocks, granules or liquids. They may be any color but are commonly teal, blue, green or pink.
The color and shape of the rat poison cannot help you determine the active ingredient used. The only way to be certain which chemical a rat poison contains is to read it off the packaging. The following is a list of the types of rodenticides:
• Anticoagulants (active ingredient may be brodifacoum, bromadiolone, chlorophacinone, diphacinone, warfarin, or other chemical) These rodenticides are the most common type ingested by dogs. They kill by interfering with the body’s ability to recycle vitamin K, an essential part of clotting. Internal bleeding occurs throughout the body, eventually killing the animal. It may take two to seven days for the effects of this poison to appear.
• Bromethalin increases the amount of sodium in the cells of the body followed by an influx of water to the cells. The cells swell and die. This toxin can affect any organ of the body, but most commonly affects the central nervous system (brain, spine, nerves). Signs of toxicity may progressively appear over one to two weeks if only a small amount is consumed. This poison is usually rapidly fatal if a large dose is consumed.
• Cholecalciferol ingestion causes there to be an increased amount of calcium in the body. This leads to acute renal failure, cardiac abnormalities and possibly death. The signs of this poison may not develop for 12-36 hours after ingestion.
If you suspect that your dog has consumed rat poison, you must get your dog to the vet clinic right away!!!
Before heading to the vet, gather the following things (if possible):
• Rodenticide product packaging
• The remainder of the poison
• Information about the amount of poison you think your dog consumed and how long ago ingestion occurred
After inducing vomiting (if the poison was recently consumed), your vet will begin the treatment. In some cases, a substance called activated charcoal is administered by mouth. Activated charcoal prevents toxins from being absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract. Depending on the time of poison ingestion and the amount ingested, your vet may need to run diagnostic tests and perform additional treatments (i.e. gastric lavage, blood transfusion, fluids administration). Your dog may need to be admitted to the hospital for advanced tests and treatments. The prognosis depends on the type of chemical in the rat poison, the amount eaten and the time that has passed since ingestion. Unfortunately, the prognosis is usually poor if the dog is already showing advanced signs of toxicity.
Remember, time is of the essence after a dog has eaten rat poison. Do not wait to contact a veterinarian!