A closer look: Rat Bait Poisoning (Rodenticide Toxicosis) in Dogs
Ingestion of a toxic dose of a rodenticide presents a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate attention.
When ingestion is witnessed, emergency treatment to induce vomiting is the best strategy for a good outcome. The safest way to get a dog to throw up is under the direction and care of a veterinarian. There is no safe way to induce vomiting in a dog at home. Bringing the packaging materials or the product itself to the vet may aid in identification of the specific active ingredient and help direct treatment. If symptoms are present but exposure is not confirmed, it is still important to seek medical attention.
The symptoms of rodenticide poisoning vary widely depending on the type of rodenticide and the dose. Some poisons produce symptoms immediately after exposure, while others may take as long as a week.
In the event of exposure to a high dose of a rodenticide, the only symptom may be sudden death in a previously healthy pet. A dog may not ingest a toxic dose all at once. Some poisons have a cumulative effect so repeated small exposures over time may eventually produce symptoms.
There are two main types of rodenticide: anticoagulant-based and bromethalin-based. Dogs have a higher chance of recovery from anticoagulant-based rodenticide toxicity since there is an antidote available. As with all cases of poisoning, early intervention creates the highest chance of a favorable outcome.
Rodenticide toxicosis is caused by ingestion of a toxic dose of rat poison either directly or from ingestion of poisoned rodents.
Testing and diagnosis
If the exposure is known and the pet is brought immediately to the vet, this is the most optimal scenario in favor of a positive outcome. When the quantity ingested and type of poison are known, the vet can determine how risky the exposure was and what kind of treatment is needed.
If the exposure is not known and rodenticide toxicosis is suspected, routine diagnostics like physical examination, blood work, urinalysis, and diagnostic imaging are indicated. Anticoagulant rodenticides show characteristic changes in blood work, but other rodenticides are more challenging to identify.
Steps to Recovery
When presented for treatment right after ingestion and before the onset of any symptoms, the goal of therapy is decontamination. Inducing vomiting, gastric lavage, and activated charcoal are helpful for getting the poison out of the dog’s system before it takes effect.
Treatment with vitamin K is not harmful for dogs even if they have not ingested an anticoagulant rodenticide, so it may be initiated for any dog with impaired clotting.
Rodenticide toxicosis symptoms occur with many other conditions, so treatment when there is no known ingestion is symptomatic. The duration of treatment varies widely depending on the type of rodenticide.
If exposure is directly observed and there is immediate intervention, the prognosis depends on how much of the poison is removed before it does any damage. If decontamination efforts were successful, the prognosis is excellent. When an antidote is available and is provided prior to the onset of clinical signs, the prognosis is good. Prognosis is always worse for dogs presenting with clinical signs of toxicosis regardless of the active ingredient.
Rodenticide poisoning is prevented by avoiding use of toxic pesticides. If this is not an option, toxicosis can be prevented by keeping pesticides in sealed containers out of reach of pets and only placing these products in areas where pets do not have access. It is more difficult to prevent poisoning in dogs who live off-leash lifestyles with less supervision, as these dogs may come into contact with different toxins outside of their home environment.
Is Rat Bait Poisoning (Rodenticide Toxicosis) in Dogs common?
Rodenticide poisoning is most commonly reported in areas where this type of pest control is in regular use.
- Inducing vomiting
- Activated charcoal
- Gastric lavage
- Supportive care
- Blood transfusions
- Vitamin K