Rodenticides, commonly referred to as rat bait or mouse bait, are commonly used in and around homes to control and eliminate unwanted rodents. These products are not specific in their targeted action and are poisonous to pets, other animals and people as well. The most common mode of action of these products is to interfere with the normal actions of Vitamin K in the body. This causes clotting factors in the body to not be able to function normally, thus leading to abnormal bleeding. Pets may be affected by ingesting the toxin directly or indirectly by ingesting a dead rodent that ingested the toxin.
Symptoms of accidental ingestion of anticoagulant rodenticides can include inactivity (lethargy), weakness, bruising on the skin surface, small red dots on the whites of the eyes or the gums, blood in the stool, nose bleeds, difficulty breathing or panting, coughing, collapsing and even death. It is extremely important that if you know or suspect your pet has ingested a rodenticide, to bring them in to us as quickly as possible so antidote treatment can begin.
There are many different rodenticide poisons available today. First generation anticoagulants (warfarin, pindone) are older products but are still commonly used. Second generation anticoagulants (brodifacoum, bromadiolone, diphacinone, chlorophacinone, and others) are newer, more potent anticoagulants that persist much longer in the body. If possible, bring the package or name of the rodenticide with you as this can help us with deciding on a treatment plan and the duration of treatment.
Diagnosing rodenticide poisoning is typically based on history (known or suspected exposure), physical exam findings and laboratory tests. Several diseases can cause symptoms similar to rodenticide poisoning so it is important to run the laboratory tests to help confirm the diagnosis. Usually the first laboratory tests performed are a Complete Blood Count (CBC), blood chemistries, and a clotting panel. The clotting panel consists of a partial thromboplastin time (PTT) and prothrombin time (PT). Elevations in these levels support the diagnosis of rodenticide poisoning. These tests are typically repeated during the course of treatment to evaluate response and also after treatment is completed to ensure the treatment was given for a long enough duration.
Treatment can vary somewhat depending upon on the type of anticoagulant (if known) and how long ago the product was eaten (ingested). If the product was consumed within the last few hours, we will most likely administer a drug to cause your pet to vomit in an attempt to decrease the amount of poison in your pets system. Occasionally, we will also give a product called activated charcoal orally that will bind to the poison and help to decrease the amount of the poison that is absorbed. For most rodenticides, vitamin K1 is the antidote of choice. This may be administered by injection initially, followed by oral tablets, or in milder cases, your pet may just be started on the oral tablets. Depending upon the type of anticoagulant rodenticide ingested, you may need to give vitamin K 1 at home for up to six weeks. In severe cases, blood or plasma transfusions may be necessary if the amount of bleeding is extensive. In these cases, your pet will be hospitalized to monitor their condition closely.
It is important that the pet rests during the entire length of oral medication treatment because even minor trauma (bumping into objects, chewing on anything that scratches the gums, and similar mild trauma) can cause bleeding.
•Give the medication exactly as directed and for the entire length of time directed. •Tell us of any other medication or supplements your pet is taking as some medications and supplements may interact or interfere with the antidote (vitamin K 1). •Restrict your pets activity during the entire length of treatment. •Be sure to avoid re-exposure: dispose of any remaining rodenticide in a safe manner (seal in a plastic container before putting in the trash) so the same pet, or other pets, cannot be poisoned by it.
•Do not stop giving medicine without instructions to do so from your veterinarian. When vitamin K 1 works, you should see no difference from your pet in a normal state. Stopping it just because “he/she looks normal now” is a potentially catastrophic mistake because anticoagulant rodenticides can become reactivated for up to 6 weeks after the day they were ingested, and 2-3 days after premature discontinuation, a bleeding crisis can occur again. •Do not leave rodenticides in places accessible to your pets.
When to Give Us a Call
•If you are unable to give medicine as directed. •If your pet may have eaten any type of poison, or if you are not sure if something is poisonous. •If your pet is not improving after starting the treatment or shows any of the signs noted below.
Signs to Watch For
•Weakness, difficulty or labored breathing, coughing, decreased appetite, bloody stool, vomiting, bruising on the skin, red dots on the whites of the eyes or on the gums, hives (bumps on the skin), excess salivation, or any other abnormality that causes you concern.
•Typically, a blood test is performed during treatment to assess the pet’s response to the treatment and also after treatment is completed to determine if additional treatment is needed.