What To Do If Your Pet Accidentally Eats Rat Poison

Mar 8, 2017 | Emergency Situations

The list of things that dogs and cats love to eat is endless, just like young children! However, one thing even very young children learn to avoid early are the skull-and-bones warning labels on rat poison.

But dogs and cats can’t read, which means they end up mistaking these pest control toxins for some sort of secret treat. Even if you don’t keep rat bait in your house, your pet might encounter it while snooping around your neighbor’s fence line, or prowling about the neighborhood.

There are three common types of rat poisons, each causing different symptoms and requiring different treatments.


The first kind of rodenticide is anticoagulant toxins. These are known by the common names D-Con, Warf, and Prolin, but have the scientific names warfarin, bromadialone, and indanedione. These toxins prevent your pet’s body from synthesizing vitamin K—a crucial compound that allows the body to clot blood properly. Simple put, these toxins can cause your pet to bleed inside its body. Often, the bleeding can even 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.

This sort of bleeding is very hard to control by normal first-aid techniques. What’s worse, these signs might not manifest for days or weeks after the animal first eats the toxin. This can make it even more difficult to treat. If caught early, it’s much cheaper, too. The veterinarian or poison control center will prescribe vitamin K1 supplementation, induced vomiting, and activated charcoal to decrease absorption. If you don’t know your pet has been poisoned until it starts showing the symptoms like bleeding and bruises, your pet will likely need to be hospitalized for 24 to 48 hours. This isn’t just more difficult, it’s much more expensive. The vitamin K1 might 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 are neurotoxins 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 slowly 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.

Calcium bombs

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. Increased calcium causes a constriction of blood vessels. This decreases the ability of the body to receive as much blood as it needs. The major concern is the 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.

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. 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.

For more information, contact our team at VETSS, a Charlottesville VA urgent care animal hospital!

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