It’s the time of year when we start winterizing our home, which for many, includes setting out rodent bait (rodenticide) stations. Rodenticide poisoning is one of the more common toxicities we see in practice, and it’s not easy to know how to treat it. There are many different kinds of rodent poisons available in a wide variety of colors (green, blue, tan, red, etc.) and formulations (pellets, bait blocks, grain-based baits, etc). Unfortunately bait products are not all the same. Products which look similar and have similar names may contain very different types of poison.
Rodenticides are all potentially life-threatening for pets.
If your pet eats a poison, please call us immediately! Another great resource is the Pet Poison Helpline if ever you have a question about a poison.
If you must place mouse and rat poison around your home or farm, please use pet-safe bait boxes! These can be purchased at most locations that sell rodenticides. They keep the bait contained so that the rodents can access them, but keep your pets out. You can even fashion your own; check for online tutorials!
If you call us worried that your pet ate a rodenticide, we will likely recommend an exam, and request that you bring in the packaging of the product your pet ate. Accurate identification of the active ingredient is crucial in treatment, as each type of bait ingestion is treated differently. If the ingestion occurred recently, we will likely attempt to get your pet to vomit, getting the poison out of your pet’s body. We may also want to administer activated charcoal, which can be helpful to absorb poisons. Depending on the type of poison, we may want to do bloodwork, start IV fluids, or may recommend hospitalization.
There are four main rodenticide product categories:
Anticoagulant-Type: (D-Con, Bromadiolone,Ramik, Just One Bite, Jaguar, Brodifacoum)
These products used to be most commonly used, but due to new EPA regulations, are not as easily found. They work like “blood thinners” that people take, but in toxic levels. They inhibit the production of blood clotting factors, and when ingested in toxic amounts by pets, can result internal bleeding. Unfortunately, clinical signs can take 3-5 days to arise, and left untreated this can be fatal. Fortunately, supplementation with Vitamin K1 (a prescription medication) is often the only treatment needed if caught soon enough, but severe cases require may hospitalization, blood transfusions, and supportive care. Treatment with Vitamin K1 lasts at least 1 month, and a recheck of clotting times is absolutely necessary to ensure that it is safe for your pet to stop taking the medication.
Cholecalciferol: (Vitamin D3, Calcitriol, Calcipotriene)
This type of poison is unfortunately gaining in popularity and is very dangerous because only a small amount will cause a severe toxicosis in pets. It causes an increased amount of calcium and phosphorus in the body, leading to severe, acute kidney failure. Signs of poisoning may not arise for 1-2 days, allowing the poison time to potentially cause significant and sometimes permanent damage in the meantime. Unfortunately, there is no direct treatment (like Vitamin K, above), and aggressive fluids, specific medicines, and days of intense hospitalization are required in hopes of treating this poisoning. If a pet survives, it may have chronic kidney problems for the rest of its life.
Bromethalin: (Fastrac, Terminator, Tomcat)
This is another type of rodenticide that does not have a specific treatment besides hospitalization and supportive care; Vitamin K will not work, even though its name sounds like some of the anti-coagulant products. This is another poison where just a little bit ingested can cause major clinical effects. This poison works on the central nervous system, causing swelling of the brain. Clinical signs correlate with a neurotoxin, and even when treated, can cause permanent effects.
Phosphides: (Gopha-Rid, Poisoned Peanuts, Arrex, Kenkarin Grains, Phosvin, Pollux, Ridall)
Although this type of bait isn’t used as commonly on rats or mice, it is used on moles and gophers, which can still be a huge problem around here. When ingested, it causes a toxic gas in the stomach called phosphine gas. This becomes important because the phosphine gas is also toxic – to your pet, as well as to you and any veterinary staff. Should your pet vomit after eating this poison, make sure the area is well-ventilated. Also, food increases the amount of gas produced, increasing the toxicity. Production of the gas can cause your pet to bloat, which is also potentially life-threatening. Only a little bit of the poison can cause a toxicity, and again there is no antidote.
Obviously there are many types of rodenticides. Each, in its own way, is potentially life-threatening. Please seek medical attention for your pets if you know or suspect an ingestion of one these poisons. Also, please consider the use of pet-safe bait stations to keep your furry friends safe this winter!