Ask the Doctor - Rat Poison

Dear PenBay Veterinary Associates,


I suspect that my dog may have ingested rat poison in our basement yesterday.  Can you advise me on what to do?

Thank you,

Katina Rodent


Dear Katina Rodent,

Ingestion of rat poison can be a serious and life threatening emergency.  Unfortunately, this type of poisoning is not unusual. One of the most common forms of rodent control is rodenticides, or rat poison. These are designed to be palatable and are placed in locations that are can also be accessible to dogs and cats.  If your pet ingests a rodenticide like d-con, you may see the following symptoms.  Weakness, bloody saliva in the water bowl, bloody urine or stools, and bleeding in more than one body location.  If you suspect your pet has ingested a rodenticide, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Our main concern is that many rodenticides are anticoagulants, which slow the clotting of the blood. When ingested, these anticoagulants concentrate in the liver, where they interfere with the clotting factors.  If the patient has only just ingested the poison, he or she may be made to vomit it up.  Yet, it is prudent to use an antidote, usually an injection of Vitamin K followed by oral tablets.

There are different classes of anticoagulant rodenticides; depending on which one they may remain in the body for several weeks. It is hard to know when to discontinue therapy, especially if the particular rodenticide is not known. After a couple of weeks of therapy, medication is discontinued; 48 hours later a clotting test is run. If there is still rodenticide in the patient’s system, the clotting time will be abnormal but the patient will not yet have started to bleed. The results of the clotting profile will tell the veterinarian whether or not another couple of weeks of Vitamin K is needed.

It is very important to return for the recheck clotting profile on schedule. Waiting an extra day or two will allow internal bleeding to recur. There is no point to doing the clotting test while the patient is still taking Vitamin K. The test must be done 48 hours after discontinuing the medication. When the clotting time has returned to normal it is safe to discontinue therapy.

In closing, it is imperative that any pet exposed to rodenticides gets immediate treatment from their veterinarian.


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