Rodenticide toxicity in pets typically is more common during colder months because mice and rats seek shelter in homes and garages. However, pets still can run across rodenticides when they spend more time exploring outdoors or hanging out in the garage with their family. Keep in mind that if your pet eats an animal killed by a rodenticide, they are also at risk for toxicity, so keep a watchful eye on your furry pal when outdoors or in areas with poison.

Our Adamson Veterinary Services team wants to help you protect your pet from rodenticide toxicity by passing along information about the various types of rodenticides, how they work, and what you should do in case your four-legged friend gets into one.

Anticoagulant rodenticides and pets

Anticoagulant rodenticides are the most common type of bait, and they’re known for causing bleeding issues by preventing clotting. Different anticoagulants have varying levels of toxicity, which means some can result in poisoning with a single ingestion, while others take multiple feedings before problems occur.

Clinical signs: Signs are associated with blood loss and may include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Depression
  • Anemia
  • Abnormal bleeding into the eyes, nose, lungs, urine, and gastrointestinal tract
  • Weakness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Rapid breathing

Treatment: If your pet has been exposed to any sort of anticoagulant rodenticide, seek veterinary treatment 72 hours following ingestion, before internal bleeding begins. To counteract the anticoagulant effect, vitamin K1 is administered, and treatment may need to continue for two to four weeks. If bleeding is severe, blood transfusions may be necessary. 

Bromethalin rodenticides and pets

Bromethalin rodenticides are non-coagulant and can lead to short- or long-term disease, depending on the amount ingested. If your pet eats a bromethalin-containing rodenticide, brain swelling can occur, which can be evident through various clinical signs. 

Clinical signs: Higher doses of bromethalin can cause sudden, severe problems within 10 hours of ingestion, including:

  • Hyperexcitability
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Central nervous system depression
  • Death 

Lower doses may take one to four days after ingestion to result in signs, but the effects may be reversible. Clinical signs of low-dose bromethalin toxicity include:

  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Coordination loss
  • Tremors
  • Reluctance to stand

Treatment: Treatment for bromethalin toxicity focuses on blocking absorption from the gastrointestinal tract and reducing brain swelling. However, once clinical signs appear, prognosis is poor because there is no antidote to the toxin. Dogs who survive bromethalin toxicity may have permanent neurologic damage.

Cholecalciferol rodenticides and pets

Cholecalciferol baits are concentrated, so it doesn’t take much to lead to toxicity. These rodenticides cause excess calcium in the blood, which causes calcification, or hardening, of the soft tissues throughout the body. Cholecalciferol rodenticides cause severe damage to the kidneys, so clinical signs generally are indicative of that.

Clinical signs: Signs usually develop within 18 to 36 hours of ingestion and can include:

  • Depression
  • Appetite loss
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination

As blood calcium concentrations increase, bloody vomit and diarrhea can develop, in addition to progressive kidney damage. 

Treatment: Treatment involves rapid removal of stomach contents to prevent calcium absorption, followed by the administration of activated charcoal to bind the toxin. Increasing urination is helpful for excreting excess calcium, so medications to increase urination will be given. 

Zinc phosphide rodenticides and pets

Zinc phosphide rodenticides typically are used to kill moles and gophers. Intact zinc phosphide, when absorbed, can damage the liver and kidneys. When ingested, the zinc phosphide is converted to phosphine gas in the stomach, which is the cause of toxicity in pets and death in rodents. This gas is irritating to the gastrointestinal tract, and it also can affect the nervous system. If your pet vomits after ingesting zinc phosphide, be careful when cleaning it up because the phosphine gas is also toxic to people.

Clinical signs: Zinc phosphide toxicity in pets leads to gastrointestinal tract irritation and cardiovascular collapse, which can appear as:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Convulsions

Without prompt treatment, death occurs because of respiratory arrest.

Treatment: Treatment consists of supportive nursing care, along with the administration of sodium bicarbonate to neutralize stomach acidity.

What to do if your pet ingests rodenticide

Ideally, you should choose pet-safe rodent control methods to prevent toxicity. However, if you do use a rodenticide on your property, always plan for the worst and be prepared if your pet ingests it. Ideally, keep the original packaging of the rodenticide for identification purposes. When placing bait, make note of how much you put down, where you placed it, and what type you used. These notes will help ensure immediate, accurate treatment if your pet is poisoned. 

If you believe your pet has ingested any sort of poison, whether you saw them actually eat it or not, call an animal poison control hotline immediately. Then, head to Adamson Veterinary Services with the packaging information and your notes about the rodenticide.

Rodenticide toxicity can be fatal to pets. If you suspect your pet got into rodenticide, contact our team for immediate treatment.