What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Rat Poison?
Go to the Vet!
If your dog ate rat poison, go to the vet immediately with a box of the kind of poison that's been ingested. Do not hesitate! If less than 2 hours have passed, your dog can be induced to vomit and given products to prevent absorption. This article explains the effect the poison has on your dog but it will not help you treat your pet.
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 suspect it, take your dog to the vet immediately!
How Most Rat Poison Works
There are many rat poisons on the market nowadays, but the most common are made to 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 basically it plugs the vessel's tear, stopping the bleeding.
Clotting normally begins within five minutes of an injury to the blood vessels. This is a very important defense mechanism occurring automatically when a blood vessel is damaged. This is ultimately a life-saving event, since 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.
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, and 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 away from the source of the poison. If you have rat bait, most likely the mice and rats will wander off and a day or two later, when the poison takes effect, they'll die.
Common Types of Rodent Poison
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.
- By eating a poisoned animal
Secondary toxicosis is possible. Just because you don't have rat poison 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!
- Deliberate poisoning
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 readily.
Signs of trouble generally vary from one type of poison to another. 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 in the clinic with the box of rat poison their dog has ingested.
- Warfarin (dicoumarol)
- Sodium Fluroacetate
- Zinc Phosphide
Common Brands of Anticoagulant Poisons Include: 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.
Non-Anticoagulant Poisons Include: 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.
Potential Signs of Rodenticide Ingestion
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, as well, 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.
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 in Warfarin or bromethalin-based poisons.
This should be a warning sign for dog owners who are not sure if their dogs have ingested rat poison. However, 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 seen, often in the last stages. Bleeding can also occur internally, causing the dog to become weak, lose 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 causing 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 gastro-intestinal tract such as vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, 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.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Upon suspecting the ingestion of rat poison, a vet will induce vomiting if the ingestion took place less than 1 to 2 hours ago. Activated charcoal will help bind any poison in the stomach.
The stomach may be pumped if vomiting cannot be induced. A physical examination may reveal potential signs of bleeding internally if the ingestion took place a few days ago. Blood work will be run, paying particular attention to clotting factors.
What if you're not sure if your dog ate rat poison, but you're still worried?
In such a 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 rat poisoning.
Please keep in mind: 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.
Pet Place: Rodenticide Poisoning in Dog
Other Resources for Information
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 at 24/7 Animal Poison Control Center 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.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended as a substitute for medical or veterinary advice. If you suspect your dog ate rat poison, please contact your veterinarian immediately. Also, keep the box with the active ingredients and the EPA-REG number listed on it handy.
Dr. Karen Becker: What If Your Pet Ingests Rat Poison?
More by this Author
Learn about the most common and some not-so common causes of limping in dogs. Find out how to palpate the injured leg and decide what to do.
Learn the warning symptoms of a potential intestinal blockage in dogs and when to see the vet. Ask questions and post comments about your dog's intestinal obstruction.
Learn effective vet-approved natural remedies to treat your dog's stomach problems at home. Find an easy-to-make bland diet recipe for your pup that you can make with food from your kitchen's pantry!