What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Rat Poison?
What Should You Do?
Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH says, "Ingestion of rodenticide is a very common and very serious toxicity (even fatal) in pets. Immediate veterinary intervention is critical and treatment will be symptomatic. Should you suspect your pet has ingested rat poison contact your veterinarian immediately so that treatment can be instituted as quickly as possible." Go to the vet immediately with a box of the type of poison that's been ingested because treatment will depend on the type of poison.
How to Treat a Dog That Ate Rat Poison
- Your veterinarian will induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide if the ingestion took place within the last two hours. The vet may also give your dog activated charcoal to help absorb the poison and decrease the amount of toxin released into the bloodstream. If vomiting cannot be induced, the stomach may be pumped. Your vet will also run some blood tests, paying particular attention to clotting factors.
- If you cannot reach the hospital before two hours has passed, call your vet or the Pet Poison Hotline (see below). A vet may instruct you to induce vomiting at home over the phone.
- Depending on the type of poison, a number of treatments will be administered. The most common treatment is vitamin K, which your dog will receive every day for three to four weeks if she ingested an anticoagulant. Your dog will receive vitamin K injections if the situation is life-threatening. Otherwise, she will be given veterinary-strength vitamin K (25 mg tablets), which is actually five times the strength of the oral human prescription dose.
- There are no antidotes for bromethalin, cholecalciferol, or zinc phosphide poisoning, and inducing vomiting is the only way to help prevent the adverse effects of toxicity. If clinical signs (severe symptoms) appear, your dog may require IV fluids for two to three days, specific drugs (e.g., diuretics, steroids, calcitonin, and bisphosphonates), blood/plasma transfusion, and/or oxygen therapy.
Who to Call If Your Dog Gets Poisoned
- Your veterinarian
- A local animal emergency hospital
- The ASPCA offers a poison control line that responds to calls from owners of pets that have ingested some toxic substance. The ASPCA poison control line is open 24/7 365 days a year and can be reached at 888-426-4435. A 65 dollar consultation fee applies. Keep this number handy at all times!
- Another option is calling the Pet Poison Hotline. The number for this 24/7 Animal Poison Control Center is 800-213-6680.
- Alternatively, JustAnswer has veterinarians online all day for a nominal fee (generally less than $20). They may direct to you on what to do if your dog ate a poison.
However, time is of the essence, and your best bet is to contact your vet or head towards your closest animal emergency center immediately.
How to Induce Vomiting With Hydrogen Peroxide
If you cannot reach the vet before two hours has passed, you can try the following with a veterinary professional's approval.
- Measure 1ml of 3% hydrogen peroxide per pound of body weight. The rule of thumb is to give 1 teaspoon (5 ml) for every 10 pounds of body weight. Do not exceed 45 ml even if your dog weighs more.
- Lift the corner of your dog's lip and gently squirt the hydrogen peroxide into the corner of the dog's mouth using a syringe or a turkey baster.
Note: Never try to make your dog vomit without first consulting a veterinarian. Sometimes inducing vomiting in symptomatic dogs could do even more harm when the poison comes back up the esophagus.
Vet Demonstrates How to Make a Dog Throw Up
Dog Rat Poison Survival Rate
The survival rate of anticoagulant rat poisoning is roughly 98.7% according to a study published in The Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association that surveyed 123 cases of anticoagulant rat poisoning in dogs from 1996 to 2003. According to this study, your dog can survive after eating rat poisoning, and the chances of survival are higher if the dog ingested anticoagulant versus bromethalin, cholecalciferol, or zinc phosphide.
Types of Rodenticides and Their Effects on Dogs
Type of Rat Poison
What Is It?
How Long Until It Takes Affect?
Anticoagulant (brodifacoum, bromadiolone, chlorophacinone, diphacinone, or warfarin).
This is the most common type of rat poison ingested by dogs. It inhibits the body's ability to recycle vitamin K, which prevents blood clotting. Thus, internal bleeding occurs and eventually kills your dog.
It may take 2 to 7 days for symptoms to appear.
Bleeding from nose, eyes, ears. Pale or white gums, Blood in urine and/or feces. Bruising on the skin. Weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite.
This neurotoxin increases sodium accumulation in cells, so that when water is ingested, the cells swell up and die. The poison affects the central nervous system (brain, spine, and nerves).
If only a small amount is ingested, symptoms will show up over 1 to 2 weeks. If a large amount is ingested, symptoms will appear within 2 to 24 hours and is rapidly fatal.
Decreased appetite and thirst, pressing head against furniture, circling, impaired movement, hind limb paralysis, tremors, seizures.
Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3)
This poison increases calcium levels in the body to a life-threatening level. Ingestion of this poison may lead to acute renal failure (kidney failure) and cardiac problems.
Acute kidney failure will develop 3 to 4 days after ingestion. Signs may not be evident for 1 to 2 days.
Bad breath, bloody stool, diarrhea, dehydration, drooling, excessive or decreased thirst and urination, seizures, tremors, lethargy, and stomach pains.
Zinc Phosphide and Strychnine
This poison is only available to pest removal professionals. When ingested, it creates a toxic gas called phosphine inside your dog's stomach.
Signs appear in less than an hour if your dog has food in its stomach or up to 12 hours on an empty stomach.
Nausea, shortness of breath, diarrhea, loss of appetite, convulsions, incoordination, paralysis.
How Long Does It Take Rat Poison to Affect a Dog?
Symptoms for poison containing Zinc Phosphide will show between 1-12 hours. The symptoms of anticoagulants containing bromadiolone or warfarin may not show up for two days to a week, but if copious amounts are ingested, signs of poisoning will be apparent within the first 24 hours.
How Much Rat Poison Does It Take to Kill a Dog?
Dr. Aubrey Tauer, DVM MPH and Head Veterinarian of AnimalBiome stresses that "even a small amount can be very dangerous." One block of anticoagulant rat poison per 2lbs of your dog's weight is how much rat poison it would take to make your dog sick. Symptoms may not show up for three to four days in large dogs, but small dogs will react to the poison within a few hours. The more your dog eats, the more fatal the poison will be.
Brands of Rodenticide and Their Active Ingredients
Signs of trouble generally vary from one type of poison to another, so it's very important that the vet knows exactly what was ingested because treatment will depend on the type of poison that was ingested. The most common types of rat poison contain the following toxic substances listed below. Upon contacting the vet or poison control center, it is very important to provide the name and active ingredient listed.
Many dog owners help veterinarians a lot when they come into the clinic with a box of the rat poison their dog has ingested.
- Warfarin (dicoumarol)
- Sodium Fluoroacetate
- Zinc Phosphide
Common Brands of Anticoagulant Poisons:
Warfarin, fumarin, D-CON with brodifacoum, bromadiolone, pindone, diphacinone, chlorophacinone, difethialone, Havoc, Liqu-Tox II, Final Blox, D-con, Talon, Contrac Blox, Enforcer, and Tomcat.
In these cases, the antidote is vitamin K.
Quintox, Rat-B-Gone, Mouse-B-Gone, Bromethalin Fast Kill, Strychnine Gopher Bait 50, and Zinc Phosphide, Moletox.
There is unfortunately no antidote for the majority of these.
Rat Poisoning Treatment for Dogs
Treatment for Anticoagulants:
Anticoagulants prevent blood from clotting and leads to uncontrolled and spontaneous internal and external bleeding. Fortunately, the antidote is large quantities of vitamin K. Vitamin K pills from the drugstore are not adequate. Your dog will need repeated injections of vitamin K over the course of three to four weeks until clotting returns to normal. Your dog may also require whole blood or a frozen plasma transfusion and/or oxygen therapy depending on the severity of the blood clots.
Treatment for Bromethalin:
This type of poisoning causes swelling of the brain. Emesis (induced vomiting) and activated charcoal are the only treatments available for bromethalin, but action must be taken immediately because bromethalin is fast-acting. Cats are two to three times more sensitive than dogs, so if your dog ingested this type of poisoning, there may be a chance of survival.
Treatment for Cholecalciferol Poisoning:
Cholecalciferol increases calcium to a life-threatening level. Unfortunately, there is a very narrow margin of survival for this type of poison, and there is no antidote. For positive outcomes, your dog will need aggressive IV fluids for two to three days and specific drugs (e.g., diuretics, steroids, calcitonin, and bisphosphonates) to decrease calcium levels in the body. Even if your dog survives, she may show clinical signs (most likely kidney issues).
Treatment for Zinc Phosphide Poisoning:
There is no specific antidote for zinc phosphide poisoning. Your vet will try to induce vomiting or perform a lavage (an internal washing) of your dog's stomach with a 5% sodium bicarbonate solution, which neutralizes gastric pH levels and prevents the stomach from creating toxic gases.
How Most Rat Poison Works
The most common type of rat poison is anticoagulants, which prevent the rat's blood from clotting. Normally, blood contains special substances that aid the coagulation of blood. These special substances (often referred to as clotting factors) are responsible for converting fibrinogen into a mix of insoluble fibrin, which ultimately causes the platelets to stick and blood to coagulate. This is often known as the ''fibrin clot,'' and it plugs the vessel's tear, and thereby stops the bleeding.
Clotting normally begins within five minutes of an injury to the blood vessels. This is a very important defense mechanism that occurs automatically when a blood vessel is damaged. Without clotting factors, one would eventually bleed to death.
When an animal ingests rat poison, no more clotting factors are produced. While this may not create problems immediately, it certainly will in the near future.
Evaluating the Extent of the Problem
While rat poison may not create problems immediately, a cascading series of events will soon start to take place, and things will start deteriorating quickly. Don't underestimate the problem! If you know your dog ingested rat poison or you suspect it, take your dog to the vet immediately!
But My Dog Is Doing Fine!
It is common for dog owners to assume that just because their dog is doing fine after ingesting rat poison that they are basically out of the woods. Generally, anticoagulant rat poison takes some time to start creating problems (two days to a week). For this reason, it is imperative to act right away instead of waiting for signs of trouble.
Unfortunately, those who have waited long enough to witness serious health problems in their canines often lose their dog.
Why It Takes a While for Symptoms to Show
Dogs have a reserve of clotting factors in their blood. Depending on how much rodent poison a dog has ingested, signs of trouble may start days or weeks later once the reserve of clotting factors has been depleted. Deprived of any new clotting factors, the dog will soon start bruising easily and bleeding internally, which will makes things go downhill fairly quickly.
This delayed effect explains why most rats and mice die far away from the source of the poison. After eating rat bait, the mouse will most likely wander off, and when the poison takes effect a day or two later, it will die.
How Your Dog Might Be Poisoned
At times, dog owners are not aware their dogs have ingested rat poison. This often happens when dogs are not supervised. Exposures frequently happen accidentally, such as when moving to a new home without knowing a previous tenant has left poison around.
Secondary toxicosis is when your dog eats a rat that has been poisoned. Just because you don't have rat bait in your home doesn't mean your dog cannot get rat poison in his system! If your neighbor uses rat poison, and your dog catches and eats a mouse that is weak and dying or dead from poison, your dog can still ingest those dangerous toxins!
Some people sadly poison dogs deliberately by tossing a meatball full of rat poison to the unsuspecting dog. Unfortunately, rat poison is made to taste good, and since dogs are scavengers, they will eat it.
Potential Signs of Rodenticide Ingestion
If your dog appears sick and you are not sure what the cause may be, the following are likely signs that your dog ate rat poison:
Green or Blue Stools
Dogs that have ingested rat poison often produce a green or blue stool about one day later. This is often due to the bright green and blue colors used to dye the poison, such as is used in Warfarin or bromethalin-based poisons.
It's important to note that a lack of blue-green color in the feces does not necessarily mean a dog has not ingested rat poison.
There are many variables, such as the type of poison ingested and the quantity.
With no more clotting factors to rely on, dogs will start bruising and bleeding, often spontaneously. A dog may bleed from the nose, gums, or rectum. Bleeding from the lungs may cause dogs to cough.
Blood in the urine and feces may be also be visible, often in the last stages. Bleeding can also occur internally, causing the dog to become weak, lose his appetite, and have pale gums.
A swollen lump may indicate a hematoma (the accumulation of blood under the skin), and the abdomen may develop ascites (the accumulation of fluid giving a swollen appearance).
Bruising and small pin-point red areas (petechiae) may be indicative of under-the-skin bleeding.
Seizures, nervousness, anxiety, impaired movement, and paralysis may be other symptoms. Upon ingesting bromethalin, fluids accumulate in the brain, causing neurological signs that may lead to paralysis, muscle tremors, and seizures.
Within hours of ingesting strychnine, affected dogs may appear agitated, anxious, and apprehensive. Grand mal seizures may then soon follow, often accompanied by respiratory problems.
Dogs that ingest cholecalciferol-containing rodenticides will develop symptoms of the gastrointestinal tract, such as vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and/or constipation.
Thirst and increased urination may be present as well when the kidneys are involved.
Zinc phosphide rodenticides are also known to cause vomiting, lethargy, and weakness.
As mentioned, signs of rodenticide poisoning will vary depending on the type of rat poison ingested. If you know or suspect your dog ingested rat poison, don't wait for these signs to occur! Take your dog to the vet immediately!
If you do not suspect rodent poisoning, but your dog is exhibiting these signs, you should still take your dog to a vet immediately! There are rat poisons that cause symptoms right away and others, such as anticoagulants, which may cause problems later.
What If You're Not Sure If Your Dog Ate Rat Poison, but You're Still Worried?
In such case, ask your vet to run a clotting profile. This will determine if your dog's blood can clot properly or if there are issues. In the case of anticoagulant rat poison, there is fortunately an antidote if vet attention is sought on time. Because vitamin K1 is responsible for the production of blood clotting factors, it is the antidote of choice for anticoagulants.
Important Note: This is not the same vitamin K found at health stores! Affected dogs may require a vitamin K1 injection (especially when they cannot keep food down) and weeks or months of vitamin K1 pills.
In the case of non-anticoagulant rat poison, there is no antidote, and the treatment is mainly supportive. The dog may therefore be given drugs to reduce the swelling of the brain, prevent kidney failure, reduce seizures, muscle relaxants to prevent rigidity, and so forth. Prognosis will vary depending on a variety of factors.
Dr. Karen Becker: What If Your Pet Ingests Rat Poison?
- Kim Campbell Thornton, "Rat Poison Dangers: Keep Your Pets Safe," VetStreet. October 3, 2014. Accessed December 23, 2017.
- "Cholecalciferol," Pet Poison Helpline. Accessed December 23, 2017.
- "Rat Poison Toxicity in Dogs," PetMD. Accessed December 23, 2017.
- "Zinc Phosphide Fact Sheet," National Pesticide Information Center. September 2010. Accessed December 23, 2017.
- Liz Greenlee and Ahna Brutlag, "Mouse and Rat Poison: Rodenticides Poisonous to Dogs & Cats," Pet Poison Helpline. February 28, 2011. Accessed December 23, 2017.
- Dr. Justine A. Lee, "The Dangers of Rat Poison to Dogs and Cats," Pet Health Network. Accessed December 23, 2017.
- "Poisoning Due to Ingesting Rat Poison in Dogs," WagWalking. Accessed December 23, 2017.
- Dr. Anne Marie Manning, "Rodenticide (Rat and Mouse Bait) Poisoning in Dogs," PetPlace. September 22, 2015. Accessed December 23, 2017.
- Dr. Karen Becker, "May Cause No Symptoms for 3 to 5 Days, But Swift Action Could Be Life Saving," Healthy Pets. October 12, 2014. Accessed December 23, 2017.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2012 Adrienne Janet Farricelli