Dealing with a rodent problem can be a real pain for any homeowner. Unfortunately, if you use poison to eradicate the issue, your curious dog may get into these toxic chemicals, which can lead to a whole other set of issues.
Even if you are vigilant in dog-proofing your home when you have a rodent problem and use poison to solve it, dogs may find a way to ingest some of these harmful chemicals. It could even happen elsewhere when you are unaware there is any rodenticides present. The point being is dogs will often find a way to get into things they shouldn’t, and when it comes to rat poisoning, you need to know what to look for so you can react quickly.
Rat poisoning in dogs can cause serious health issues in your pet and even lead to death if it goes untreated. Your dog will need immediate attention from a veterinarian when rat poison is suspected. To prevent that from happening, keep reading to learn the signs and symptoms of the different types of rat poison so you can act fast and get your dog the help he needs.
However, if you suspect your dog has ingested rat poison, you shouldn’t even wait for physical signs to be present, because they are often delayed. Symptoms of poisoning in dogs may take a while to appear — up to 36 hours after ingestion — but waiting this long to get your dog attention can be a fatal mistake, as your dog may have internal hemorrhaging.
What Are The Sources of Rat Poison?
There are three main types of rat poison that are used as active ingredients in rodenticides, including Anticoagulants, Cholecalciferol, and Bromethalin. Each type is extremely dangerous to dogs and can cause serious canine health issues, including some life-threatening conditions.
Anticoagulant rodenticides, or ACR, are long-acting poisons that can prevent the dog’s blood from clotting, which can cause severe and uncontrollable internal bleeding. The symptoms will be hard for an owner to notice until a few days after ingestion when problems have really manifested.
Cholecalciferol raises the amount of calcium and phosphorus in a dog’s bloodstream which can cause canine acute kidney failure. This can cause death if it is not addressed and given proper treatment fast.
The third poison, Bromethalin, causes an uncoupling of the oxidative phosphorylation in the mitochondria of the brain and liver, which can cause a dog’s brain to swell. This type of rat poisoning will also require immediate treatment.
Rat poisoning is actually fairly common in dogs. They are typically poisoned by ingesting the poison itself, but can also get secondary poisoning by eating a poisoned rat. Dogs that have ingested rat poison may exhibit different signs and symptoms at different stages, depending on the type of poison the dog has consumed and how much they ingested. It is critical to be able to correctly identify the correct type of rat poison as each one is treated differently, and treating the wrong kind can result in the death of your dog.
Before we discuss treatment options, here are some of the signs and symptoms of rat poisoning.
Rat Poisoning In Dogs Symptoms
Since each type of poisoning is treated differently, it’s easiest to categorize rat poisoning symptoms according to the three main types of rat poison: Anticoagulants, Cholecalciferol, and Bromethalin. While there will undoubtedly be some overlap between the signs of different rat poisons, some clinical signs will be more associated with certain poisons.
Anticoagulant Rodenticides (ACR)
Anticoagulant rodenticides inhibit the production of Vitamin-K dependent blood clotting factors, which are made in the liver. When ACRs are ingested by a dog in a toxic amount, it can result in internal bleeding.
The symptoms of ACR poisoning won’t show up for three to five days, although there is damage being done internally to your dog. If left untreated, ACR poisoning can be fatal. Some of the clinical signs of ACR poisoning include:
- Lack of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale gums
- Coughing (especially with blood)
- Vomiting (with blood)
- Diarrhea (with blood)
- Bloody nose
- Swelling or bumps on the skin (e.g., hematomas)
- Bleeding from the gums
There is actually an antidote available for this type of rat poison, Vitamin K1, which is a prescription medication that veterinarians should have readily available. This antidote will be given orally to the dog for 30 days. Other treatment options include decontamination, blood transfusions, supplemental oxygen, and supportive care.
Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3)
Just a small amount of cholecalciferol can cause severe poisoning in dogs. This type of poison will cause a rapid increase in the amount of calcium in a dog’s body, which can lead to kidney failure, and death. This can occur as quickly as two to three days following ingestion. Symptoms may be present within four hours after ingestion but may not show up until up to 36 hours.
The clinical signs of Cholecalciferol include:
- Loss of appetite/anorexia
- Lethargy and weakness
- Decreased or increased thirst/urination
- Kidney failure
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Weight loss
Unfortunately, Cholecalciferol poisoning is very expensive to treat and has no antidote currently available. Dogs typically will need to be hospitalized for three to seven days and given aggressive therapy, including IV fluids to flush the calcium and poison out of the kidneys, additional medications to help lower the calcium level in the dog’s body, including calcitonin, steroids, pamidronate, or diuretics, and also a frequent monitoring of bloodwork.
Bromethalin is entirely different from certain types of ACR poisons, although it has a similar name to bromadiolone and brodifacoum. Bromethalin does not prevent blood clotting like these other poisons and unfortunately cannot be treated with Vitamin K. Bromethalin is a poison that causes cerebral edema, or brain swelling, and can be equally serious.
Symptoms of Bromethalin poisoning should appear within 24 hours but may take up to a week, depending on the dosage.
The clinical signs of Bromethalin poisoning include:
- Lethargy or canine anxiety
- Ataxia – the loss of full control of body movements
- Cerebral edema – swelling of the brain
There is no antidote available for Bromethalin poisoning. Treatment will include an aggressive combination of induced vomiting, administering activated charcoal to help flush the dog’s system and absorb the poison, IV fluids, anti-seizure medication, muscle relaxants, and supportive care.
How is Rat Poisoning in Dogs Diagnosed?
If you think that your dog has ingested rat poison you will need to seek your veterinarian immediately.
To help with a diagnosis, bring in a sample of your dog’s vomit or stool for testing. Bring the actual poison itself if you can. This will significantly shorten the time needed to make a proper diagnosis, which can help jumpstart treatment for your dog. When it comes to rat poisoning — the sooner you can begin treatment, the better.
Each type of poison will be diagnosed differently.
Anticoagulant Rodenticide (ACR)
Anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning is diagnosed either by analyzing the dog’s stomach contents, plasma, or serum to confirm that the dog has ingested the ACR poison.
Symptoms for cholecalciferol poisoning should show up within 36 hours, at which time your dog will likely be dealing with some canine nausea and vomiting. If this type of poisoning is suspected, your veterinarian will conduct a baseline biochemistry profile, which will include an analysis of your dog’s blood plasma and other body fluids. This test will check your dog’s calcium and phosphorus levels to confirm cholecalciferol poisoning and help monitor your dog’s condition.
Symptoms of Bromethalin may appear anywhere from one to seven days after ingestion. To