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 diagnose Bromethalin poisoning, your veterinarian will analyze your dog’s liver, kidney, brain, and/or fat to determine if any of the poison is present in your dog’s system. They can also determine the severity of the poisoning through these tests.
If you suspect your dog has ingested rat poison, assume the worst and contact your veterinarian immediately. Your dog’s diagnosis and treatment options will depend on the type of poison your dog has ingested, which is why it is helpful to bring the poison along with you if you can, or a sample of the dog’s vomit or stool. Armed with these tools, your veterinarian can make a diagnosis quickly and begin aggressive treatment measures to save your dog’s life and return him to good health.
Treatment of Rat Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment measures will vary based on what type of poison your dog ingested. Treating your dog for the wrong type of rat poison can be a fatal mistake, making correct diagnosis imperative to your dog’s outlook.
Because ACRs cause internal bleeding, treatment for this type of poison will include administering blood or frozen plasma. Vitamin K is used as an antidote, as this particular vitamin encourages blood clotting, which helps to stop the bleeding. Do not induce vomiting unless you have been expressly told to do so by your veterinarian.
Since ACRs are most-often long-acting poisons, your dog will be treated with Vitamin K1 for 30 days to ensure proper blood clotting is fully restored. Your vet may also conduct a prothrombin test to check your dog’s clotting ability.
If you are absolutely sure your dog has ingested cholecalciferol poison, and ONLY if you are ABSOLUTELY sure your dog has consumed this type of poison, you can induce vomiting yourself. Do not induce vomiting if you aren’t 100 percent sure, or if your dog has already vomited. This will only dehydrate your dog further and make treatment more complicated.
Treatment will then include hospitalization and begin with administering fluids to keep your dog hydrated/restore hydration, and making sure that he is able to keep the fluid down. There is no antidote for cholecalciferol poisoning, so your veterinarian will mainly treat your dog with IV fluid and diuretics to flush out the poison. Steroids and other drugs will be administered to lower the calcium levels in the dog’s body. Immediate treatment is crucial to prevent kidney failure.
The first step in Bromethalin poisoning treatment is to decontaminate your dog’s digestive system. This will include induced vomiting followed by the administration of IV fluids and other medications to try and lower the risk of brain swelling. This treatment will require veterinary monitoring for 24 hours.
Activated charcoal may also be administered to help clean out the poison. Anti-inflammatories also can assist in reducing brain swelling.
Recovery from Rat Poisoning in Dogs
Full recovery from rat poisoning will take some time, but your dog can resume its normal life once the poison has been completely flushed from its system.
You will need to monitor your dog for the first month after an ACR poisoning and report any signs of further illness to your veterinarian. Depending on how much poison your dog consumed, he should recover anywhere from one week to one month.
The first two to three days are the most critical in cholecalciferol poisoning. If your dog makes it through those, your veterinarian will monitor his calcium and phosphorus levels for the next two to six weeks after ingestion. How long your pet is monitored for will depend on when they return to baseline levels. Your vet will also monitor renal function during this time.
Your veterinarian will likely prescribe dietary supplements to help your dog avoid anorexia during the recovery period from Bromethalin poisoning. Regular check-ups will be required, and depending on the dosage, it can take up to a few months for your dog to fully recover from Bromethalin poisoning.
No matter what type is encountered, rat poisoning is a very serious problem and your dog will need immediate veterinary attention. By following this guide, you will be able to help your veterinarian make an accurate diagnosis and begin treatment right away. Being prepared will give your dog the best chance for survival and recovery.
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- “Poisoning Due to Ingesting Rat Poison in Dogs – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost.” WagWalking, 19 Jan. 2016, Accessed 5 Nov. 2018. www.wagwalking.com/condition/ingesting-rat-poison.
- Ehlers, Joanna. “Signs of Rat Poison in Dogs.” Cuteness, 9 Feb. 2017, Accessed 5 Nov. 2018. www.cuteness.com/article/signs-rat-poison-dogs.