Cat and mouse: a look at rodenticide poisoning in pets

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Aug 15 2011

Most of the time, rats and mice are unwelcome in and around our houses, with the exception of those that are beloved pets. These pests are unwelcome for good reason. Not only can they infest our homes and eat our food, making nests in our walls, they can also eat our outdoor crops and spread disease, such as the plague. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), rat and mouse poisons (rodenticides) are particularly effective. This is good, because it helps keep the rodent population under control, but bad because these substances are equally toxic to all other mammals, including your pets and children.

In June, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is moving to ban the sale of the most toxic rat and mouse poisons as well as the pelleted type of products. Every year, there are thousands of accidental poisonings of children and pets, and the EPA aims to better protect them. Children and pets are particularly prone to accidental exposure because rodenticides are typically placed on the floor, where they provide easy access to ingestion.

The most dangerous rodenticides work as anticoagulants by decreasing the amount of vitamin K in the body. Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting, therefore these types of poisons do not allow blood to form clots. If your pet has been exposed (either by eating the poisons or eating a rodent who died from poisoning), you will likely not see signs for several days. Additionally, pets can have internal bleeding that is not readily apparent.

Symptoms of rodenticide poisoning are mostly due to blood loss (or anemia). You may see unexplained bleeding, like nose bleeds or bleeding gums. Typically pets seem very listless and lethargic, and will likely not feel like eating. Pale gums also signal blood loss.

If your veterinarian suspects rodenticide poisoning, he or she will do some blood tests to determine if your dog is able to form blood clots. Depending on how quickly poisoning has been found and how ill your dog or cat is, a blood transfusion may be needed. Fortunately, most pets can be saved if the poisoning is discovered.

Simply supplementing your pet’s vitamin K will allow her body to start forming blood clots again. Length of treatment depends on the type of rodenticide your pet was exposed to, but will typically last three or four weeks.

Avoid putting your pets and children at risk by banning rodenticides from your house. If you must use them, please use more humane trapping solutions, such as Havaheart® traps, in places where you are absolutely sure they cannot be reached by your two and four-legged children. And to help protect your pets even further from unexpected accidents, protect them with a pet insurance plan that covers all of life’s unforseen adventures.