Most people know that rat poison is dangerous for dogs, but not everyone understands that even a small amount of rat poison can kill a dog. Unfortunately, dogs frequently ingest rat poison. The taste of rodenticides is appealing to dogs, so it's crucial to prevent your pet from coming into contact with it.
What Is Rat Poison?
There are several different types of rat poisons on the market. The effects of rodenticides vary depending upon the active ingredient. Be aware that different types of rat poisons have different toxic doses and poisoning can manifest itself in a variety of ways. There is no type of rat poison considered "dog safe."
Most rodenticides have a grain or sugar base, making them taste good to rodents as well as dogs. They often come in pellets, blocks, granules or liquids. They may be any color but are commonly teal, blue, green or pink.
The color and shape of the rat poison will nor help you determine the active ingredient (poison type) used. The only way to be certain which chemical rat poison contains is to read the packaging.
Symptoms of Rat Poisoning in Dogs
There are several types of rodenticides on the market. Each has different toxic effects and treatments.
- Anticoagulants include products with an active ingredient such as brodifacoum, bromadiolone, chlorophacinone, diphacinone, warfarin, or another chemical. These rodenticides are the most common type ingested by dogs. They kill by interfering with the body's ability to recycle vitamin K, an essential part of clotting. Internal bleeding occurs throughout the body, eventually killing the animal. It may take two to seven days for the effects of this poison to appear.
- Cholecalciferol ingestion causes calcium in the body to increase. This leads to acute renal failure, cardiac abnormalities, and possibly death. The signs of this poison may not develop for 12 to 36 hours after ingestion.
- Bromethalin increases the amount of sodium in the cells of the body followed by an influx of water to the cells. The cells swell and die. This toxin can affect any organ of the body, but most commonly affects the central nervous system. Signs of toxicity may progressively appear over one to two weeks if only a small amount is consumed. This poison is usually rapidly fatal if a large dose is consumed.
- Zinc phosphide and strychnine rodenticides are only available to professionals and are less commonly ingested by dogs. However, they are still toxic.
What to Do If Your Dog Eats Rat Poison
If you suspect that your dog has consumed rat poison, call a veterinary clinic immediately. In most cases, you will need to get your dog to the vet clinic right away. If the poison was recently ingested, your vet will likely induce vomiting. Do not induce vomiting at home unless instructed to do so by your vet.
Before heading to the vet's office, try to gather the following things:
- Rodenticide product packaging
- Any remaining poison
- Information about the amount of poison you think your dog consumed and how long ago ingestion occurred
After inducing vomiting, the vet may administer activated charcoal by mouth. Activated charcoal prevents toxins from being absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract. Depending on the time of poison ingestion and the amount ingested, your vet may need to run diagnostic tests and perform additional treatments.
Your dog may need to be admitted to the hospital for advanced tests and treatments. The prognosis depends on the type of chemical in the rat poison, the amount eaten and the time that has passed since ingestion. Unfortunately, the prognosis is usually poor if the dog has advanced signs of toxicity.
Remember, time is of the essence after a dog has eaten rat poison, so contact a veterinarian immediately. If your dog eats a rodent, there is a possibility the dog will be exposed to rat poison, so it's best to be cautious and contact your vet.
How to Prevent Rat Poison Toxicity
The best way to prevent rodenticide toxicity is to avoid keeping rat poison on your property. Supervise your dog at all times or keep it confined to your property to keep it from eating rat poison placed out by neighbors or businesses near your home. Never allow your dog to roam free and avoid letting it walk off-leash.
If you absolutely must use rat poison on your own property, never place it in an area where your dog can access it. In addition, always keep the packaging in case your dog finds the poison somehow. Consider the risk carefully, because dogs seem to have a way of finding the poison.
Bear in mind that your dog may find a way to consume rat poison or another toxin without your knowledge. Be sure to contact your vet appropriately if your dog shows any signs of illness.