There are many types of rat poisons that are toxic to dogs on the market nowadays. These products are readily available to home owners, but some may be only accessible to pest control companies. As more and more rats become resistant to earlier versions of rat poison, stronger and stronger products are being manufactured and these are cause for concern when dogs end up getting in contact with these powerful toxins. Following is a list of types of rat poisons that are dangerous to dogs.
Anticoagulant Rat Poison
Anticoagulant rat poisons work by interfering with the body's ability to cause blood to clot. Rats who ingest these poisons therefore perish from internal hemorrhages causing them to bleed to death.
The first generation anticoagulant rat poisons, as the name implies, were the first types of rat poisons that were on the market. These poisons developed prior to 1970 kill the rats slowly over the course of several days and require multiple feedings. Examples of anticoagulants requiring several feedings include warfarin, chlorophacinone and diphacinone.
While warfarin used to be the active ingredient in many rat poisons in the past, now it's being replaced by stronger types of poison considering that many rats have developed resistance to warfarin-based products.
These second generation anticoagulants are also known as"superwarfarins" and they are known for being fast acting and requiring just a single feeding. On top of working fast and requiring a single exposure, these poisons take time to be excreted from the body, being stored in the liver.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of their risks, second-generation anticoagulant rat poisons are now registered only for commercial pest control use and therefore no longer available as products for consumers to buy. They are therefore not found in consumer stores like hardware stores or garden centers. Second-generation anticoagulants include brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone.
What Happens to Dogs
When dogs ingest anticoagulant rat poison, symptoms do not show right away but generally take 3 to 5 days to manifest. Affected dogs become weak, lethargic and may refuse food. Symptoms suggesting internal bleeding may vary and may consist of coughing (from bleeding in the lungs), pale gums (from anemia), bruising (seen as purple blotches under the skin, often in the belly area), abdominal swelling (from blood leaking), pin-point red spots in the mouth and bleeding from gums, nose or rectum. Treatment consists of administering vitamin K1, which is only available by prescription. Vitamin K1 is generally given for 3 to 4 weeks.
Cholecalciferol Rat Poison
These brands of rat poison contain cholecalciferol which is simply a type of vitamin D. While vitamin D may seem like an innocuous ingredient to have in a product meant to kill rats, consider that rodents are more susceptible to high doses of this vitamin compared to other species; however, it is still a hazard to dogs exposed to it.
In order to die from ingestion of vitamin D3, rats need to eat several doses up to a point where their body is overwhelmed by the effects of too high calcium levels in their blood. A cascading chain of events follows, leading to kidney failure, heart abnormalities, high blood pressure, digestive upset depression of the central nervous system.
Examples of rat poisons that contain cholecalciferol include Quintox, True Grit, Rampage, Orth0 Rat-B-Gone, and Mouse-B-Gone.
What Happens to Dogs
All it takes is a small amount of this toxin to create problems. Consult with your vet immediately. Affected dogs become weak and lethargic, may refuse food and may develop vomiting and increased drinking and urination within 24 hours. About 2 to 4 days after ingestion, dogs may develop acute kidney failure.
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There is no specific antidote for this poison and treatment is therefore mostly supportive. This means affected dogs require extensive care and careful monitoring. Aggressive treatment may be needed for about two to four weeks post- ingestion.
Bromethalin Rat Poison
Bromethalin kills rodents by causing problems to the nervous system ultimately leading to swelling in the brain. To be more exact, bromethalin kills rats after a single ingestion of poison by causing accumulation of sodium in the cells which results in fluid buildup in the brain.
Examples of products containing bromethalin include Bromethalin Fast Kill, Assault, Vengeance,Tomcat with bromethalin and Trounce.
What Happens to Dogs
A small dose of this toxin is often enough to cause problems. Consult with your vet immediately. If your ingested the poison in the last hour or so, there are chances your dog can be induced to vomit.
Affected dogs develop swelling in the brain which triggers neurological signs such as tremors, seizures, a wobbly gait, abnormal pupil size, hyper-excitability and death. Generally symptoms are seen anywhere from 2 hours to 24 hours depending on how much was ingested. Sometimes symptoms develop only days later and affected dogs develop problems controlling their hind legs.
There is no antidote. Treatment is supportive and requires induction of vomiting/gastric lavage, activated charcoal, IV fluids, and careful monitoring. Drugs may be given to decrease brain swelling, and anti-convulsants may be given if there are seizures.
Zinc Phosphide Rat Poison
Zinc phosphide has been used to replace strychnine and is more frequently found in mole and gopher baits (Moletox) rather than rodenticides. This toxin works by releasing phosphine gas once it reaches the stomach and its acids.
The amount of gas produced increases considerably if there is food in the stomach. Rats die from ingestion of this toxin because it blocks the rat's cells from making energy, and the cells end up dying.
What Happens to Dogs
All it takes is a small dose of this poison to cause toxicity. Affected dogs develop bloating, vomiting, stomach pain, shock, and liver damage. There is no antidote for this poison. Symptoms may be seen within ½ hour to 4 hours after ingestion. Veterinarians may perform a gastric lavage but precautions are taken considering that the gas is a respiratory irritant. Because of this, dog owners should not induce vomiting on their own if their dogs ingest this toxin, the practice should be left to veterinarians. Prognosis is difficult to predict.
The Bottom Line
All rat poisons are toxic to dogs and therefore it is paramount to ensure that dogs cannot get in contact with them. It's therefore the dog owner's responsibility to place any rat bait out of reach of dogs. The general rule of thumb is to use tamper-proof bait stations that cannot be opened by dogs. There are several alternative options though before using rat poisons, consult with a pest control company for options.
If you suspect your dog ingested rat poison, consult with your vet at once and bring along a sample of the poison and the box if you still have it. Every second counts with the fast-acting products. Also consider that secondary toxicity from a dog eating a dead rat is also a possibility.
- DVM360: Rodenticides: Top 4 ingredients that kill pets
- Pet Poison Control: Mouse and Rat Poisons
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Restrictions on Rodenticide Products
- National Pesticide Information Center: Rodenticides
- Pet Education: Rat Poison Ingestion in Dogs and Cats: Bromethalin Types