Rat and Mouse Poison Ingestion
By Dana Dietrich, DVM
Emergency Veterinarian, Internal Medicine Specialist
Rat and mouse poison is not only poisonous to rodents but also to our family pets. There are several types of rat poison that can cause different types of clinical signs. The most commonly used rat poison causes bleeding. When you discover your pet has eaten the poison or even if you just suspect it, you should take them to a veterinarian immediately. If possible, you should bring the product and packaging so your veterinarian can provide the appropriate treatment. If ingestion occurred within 4 hours, vomiting will be induced. We recommend a veterinarian induce vomiting to help prevent any complications that can occur such as prolonged vomiting, severe stomach irritation, and aspiration. After vomiting has been induced, activated charcoal is usually given to help prevent absorption of any of the poison still in the stomach, as vomiting does not completely empty the stomach. You and your veterinarian will decide if treatment with Vitamin K1, the antidote, should be initiated immediately, or if blood works 48 hours after ingestion to check bleeding times should be performed. Treatment with Vitamin K1 is usually done for 3-4 weeks. Evaluating bleeding times 48 hours after finishing the last dose of Vitamin K1 is recommended as some animals need to be treated longer. Vitamin K1 is better absorbed if given with food.
Sometimes, owners are unaware their pet has ingested the poison and take them to the veterinarian once clinical signs develop. Clinical signs are usually caused by bleeding which may not be apparent to owners. Bleeding can occur anywhere inside or outside the body and can be life-threatening if not treated. Clinical signs of bleeding may include weakness, malaise, trouble breathing, coughing, bloody urine, lameness, bruising, and/or collapse. Once clinical signs develop, hospitalized care is usually required. Treatment includes starting vitamin K1 and a transfusion with plasma. Plasma is a blood product that contains components necessary for blood to clot. Animals with trouble breathing will require oxygen and possibly even a procedure to remove excess fluid from the chest. Some animals will require a blood transfusion if they have lost a significant amount of blood. Transfusion reactions can occur so please tell your veterinarian if your pet has had a previous transfusion or if you adopted your pet as an adult.
Bromethalin rat poisons cause neurologic signs rather than bleeding. The severity of clinical signs and when they develop depend on the amount ingested. If a large amount is ingested, muscle tremors, over excitement, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death can be seen within 24 hours. Clinical signs with lower doses may take a few days to develop. Clinical signs may include hind limb weakness, a wobbly gait, paralysis, and depression. If the ingestion occurred within 4 hours of presentation to the veterinarian, vomiting will be induced. Several doses of activated charcoal are usually administered over the next 48 hours to help prevent absorption. Once clinical signs develop, treatment is based on the animal’s symptoms because there is no antidote.
Other types rat poisons are less common and therefore, are not discussed in this article. Early recognition and treatment is the best way to try and prevent the development of clinical signs and possibly even death.
Reference: Silverstein DC, Hopper K. Small Animal Critical Care Medicine. Saunders, 2009; 346-349
AMVS is a 24-hour veterinary facility providing specialty internal medicine, surgery, emergency and critical care, physical rehabilitation, pain management, and blood bank services for pets. They are located in Longmont at 104 S. Main St. For more information, go to www.AspenMeadowVet.com.