This article is part two of an ongoing series of blogs on common household toxicities. The list of things that dogs and cats love to eat is endless, just like young children! If you see your pet eat something and are unsure if it may be toxic there is a number you can call. It is always better to ask first and get treatment immediately than to wait and start treatment after symptoms develop regardless of the actual toxin involved. The Pet Poison Helpline is available 24hrs a day, seven days a week to answer your questions. They are reachable at 1-800-213-6680 or on their website www.petpoisonhelpline.com
One of the most common toxicities seen on a regular basis is rodenticide poisoning, also known as rat poison. Even if you don’t keep rat bait in your house, there is no guarantee that your neighbor didn’t leave some in their garage because of their rodent problems. There are three common types of rodenticides used and among those there are different classes of poisons that can cause various symptoms and require different treatments. The first kind of rodenticide is anticoagulant toxins. These go under the scientific names warfarin, bromadialone, and indanedione. They are known by the common names D-Con, Warf, and Prolin. They come in two different forms first generation and second generation. The method of action of these toxins is to prevent your pet’s body from synthesizing vitamin K. Vitamin K is crucial in the body’s ability to clot blood properly. Simple put these toxins can cause your pet to bleed inside its body and often times can also cause bleeding to be seen outside of the body. Clinical signs of this can include bleeding from the nose, blood in vomit, bleeding from the rectum, coughing, easy bruising, pale mucous membranes, and even lameness as blood fills within joints. The bleeding seen is very hard to control by normal first-aid techniques. These signs can take a few days to weeks to develop after initial ingestion of the toxin. The treatment if caught early is much less expensive and simple, vitamin K1 supplementation, inducing vomiting, and activated charcoal to decrease absorption. If clinical signs are already occurring, your pet will likely need to be hospitalized for 24 to 48 hours incurring much more expense. Depending on which generation of toxin was in the rat bait, the vitamin K1 will need to be supplemented for two weeks to over one month. In severe cases blood and plasma transfusions can be indicated.
The second type of rodenticide poisons is known as Bromethalin. These go under the common names of Assault, Vengeance, and Trounce. They were developed because some rodents became resistant to the anticoagulant rodenticides. These toxins are slowly progressive neurotoxins which affect the brain and nerves. A high dose of the toxin produces signs of muscle tremors, seizures, ataxia, paddling, and stiff forelegs. A lower dose causes signs such as loss of balance, hind limb weakness, tremors and vomiting. Treatment consists of inducing vomiting, activated charcoal, and symptomatic treatments depending on clinical signs. The prognosis is bad if a higher dose was ingested and clinical signs have started. Caught early or with a lower dose, the prognosis is generally fair to good and signs resolve in two to four days.
The final common type of rodenticide poisoning is through a toxin known as cholecalciferol or vitamin D3. Common names include Quintox, Rampage, and Hyperkil. Upon ingestion this toxin causes a marked increase in the circulating level of calcium in the bloodstream. The effects are threefold. There is marked constriction of blood vessels which decreases the ability of the body to receive as much blood as it needs with a major concern of decrease blood flow to the kidney and a buildup of the calcium mineral throughout the bloodstream and body. Young animals are affected more than older animals. Common clinical signs are vomiting and diarrhea, depression, and increased drinking and urination. If the ingestion is caught early it should be treated by inducing vomiting, giving activated charcoal, and supportive care. Bloodwork is indicated to find out the level of the calcium and monitor how it progresses. If the patient does develop high calcium levels, then treatment consists of supportive care to lower calcium levels such as medications and aggressive fluids. Calcium and phosphorus levels should be monitored for up to four days post ingestion then twice weekly for two weeks thereafter.
Once again if you see your pet eating something and are concerned please call the poison helpline or your veterinarian immediately. If you decide to bring your pet to the veterinarian bring a sample of the toxin in question or a package of the same type. Early identification and treatment results in a much better prognosis for your pet. The time spent trying to identify the cause can result in time lost on treatment.