Rodenticide (i.e., rat and mouse poison) ingestion is one of the most common and lethal pet toxicities, so as part of our commitment to pet owner education, the Premier Pet Hospital team has compiled the following rodenticide guide. We want to ensure you have all the information you need to prevent this unnecessary emergency, and that you can recognize common warning signs and know how to take prompt action should the unthinkable occur.

Rodenticide appeal and pets

Rodenticides are a popular method for eliminating rats and mice from our homes, garages, basements, and barns, largely because of their efficacy and design. Rodenticide is a baited poison (i.e., flavored or scented to mimic food), which sadly, makes the substance equally appealing and deadly for dogs and cats.

Rodenticide active ingredients and pets

The most popular rodenticides feature three equally dangerous active ingredients with three different mechanisms of action. Understanding these compounds and their effect on pets can help you recognize rodenticide hazards and toxicity warning signs.

Modern rodenticide products may contain:

  • Anticoagulants — Anticoagulant (i.e., blood thinner) poisons affect the blood’s ability to clot by decreasing vitamin K1 and causing excessive, uncontrollable bleeding. Common anticoagulants ingredients include brodifacoum, bromadiolone, chlorophacinone, difethialone, and warfarin.  
  • Vitamin D3 — Cholecalciferol (i.e., vitamin D3) causes excessive calcium and phosphorus in the blood, resulting in acute (i.e, sudden) kidney failure. Vitamin D3 is so lethal that pets need ingest only a small amount to experience severe signs. 
  • Bromethalin — Bromethalin is a neurotoxin with no known cure. Ingestion causes cerebral edema (i.e., brain swelling) and uncontrollable seizures.

If the unthinkable happens and your pet ingests rodenticide, your veterinarian will need as much information as possible, such as the brand, type, and active ingredient. Accurate, detailed information can minimize treatment delays and may improve your pet’s prognosis.

Common locations where pets may encounter rodenticide

Rodenticide is more common than many pet owners suspect. Often, these popular products are hiding in plain sight, in areas such as:

  • Parks
  • Picnic areas
  • Barns
  • Motels
  • Garages
  • Rental or summer homes 

Always inspect a new or unfamiliar area before allowing your pet to explore off-leash. Rat and mouse bait may be inconspicuous along baseboards, behind shrubs, or under stairs, but pets can easily follow its appealing aroma.

Recognizing rodenticide in your pet’s environment

Unfortunately for pet owners, rodenticide comes in various formulas and colors that can make correct identification difficult. For this reason, environment assessment and direct supervision are the best ways to avoid this preventable emergency.

Common formulations include:

  • Granules 
  • Grains
  • Powder
  • Soft bait
  • Blocks 

Colors can include:

  • Red
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Tan
  • Beige

Secondary or relay poisoning is an added risk to pets

In addition to ingesting the rodenticide, pets can experience secondary toxicity by consuming or playing with a poisoned rat or mouse, so discussing rodenticide use with your neighbors or nearby businesses is important.

Rodenticide toxicity warning signs in pets

Toxicity warning signs will vary based on the active ingredient. Unfortunately, many signs are delayed—sometimes as long as three to seven days after ingestion—and by the time they appear, the pet is irreversibly injured or ill.

  • Anticoagulant signs —  Lethargy, exercise intolerance, respiratory difficulty, coughing, unexplained bleeding or bruising, bloody urine, and bleeding from the gums
  • Vitamin D3 signs — Increased urination and thirst, weakness, lethargy, bad breath, and decreased appetite
  • Bromethalin signs — Ataxia (i.e., staggering, off-balance walking), tremors, seizures, paralysis, and sudden death 

If you know or suspect your pet has ingested rodenticide, immediately contact Premier Pet Hospital or the nearest veterinary emergency center. Be prepared, if possible, to provide product information, including brand or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration number, product name, and primary ingredient. 

Rodenticide toxicity treatment for pets

Your pet’s treatment will depend on the rodenticide ingested and how quickly they receive veterinary attention. If your pet’s ingestion was recent, decontamination (e.g., induced vomiting or activated charcoal administration) can expel or absorb the toxin before entering your pet’s blood stream. 

In most cases, hospitalization is required and may range from observation and monitoring to aggressive, life-saving treatment. Pets generally receive intravenous fluids and specific medications (e.g., vitamin K, diuretics, steroids, calcium and phosphate regulators) to minimize their clinical signs. Blood and plasma transfusions, oxygen therapy, serial blood and laboratory testing may also be necessary for pets in serious or critical condition. After discharge, many pets require ongoing monitoring and periodic rechecks and blood work to ensure their recovery.

Sadly, despite aggressive treatment, rodenticide toxicosis is fatal for many dogs and cats.

Preventing rodenticide toxicity in pets

Rodenticide poisoning is a heartbreaking emergency, but you can minimize your pet’s risk by taking these specific environmental precautions:

  • Replacing rodent bait with traditional or humane traps Pets and rodenticides shouldn’t coexist. Remove rat and mouse bait from your home, garage, basement, or yard and instead choose traditional or humane traps.
  • Scanning the area Thoroughly inspect new areas before allowing your pet to freely roam. Pay close attention in rental or summer homes and motels that may be unoccupied for large parts of the year.
  • Talking to your neighbors — Ask neighboring property owners if they use rodenticide products. Express your concerns about secondary toxicosis and recommend non-toxic alternatives.
  • Don’t let your pet eat or play with dead animals — Avoid relay poisoning by keeping your pet indoors or directly supervised outside.

Rodent control is an important human safety concern, but shouldn’t cost your pets’ life. If you have additional questions about rodenticide toxicity or suspect your pet has consumed a known toxin, contact Premier Pet Hospital.