“Help! My dog ate rat poison!” This is something that no dog owner ever wants to say. However, if this does happen to you, take the matter extremely seriously!
What You Should Do
First, you need to try to identify exactly what your dog might have eaten. If you can do this quickly, it might help your vet narrow down the best course of treatment. This will save time and reduce any possible long-term damage to your dog. If you or your vet are unable to identify the substance, broad-spectrum treatments do exist. Keep in mind that specific antidotes are more effective, though.
Clues as to what exactly your dog ate might include shredded remains of boxes, packaging, or wrapping paper. Specific symptoms to look for include:
- garlic or rotten fish breath (zinc phosphide),
- hind limb paralysis (bromethalin),
- nose bleeds (anticoagulants such as warfarin), and
- increased urination (cholecalciferol).
The next thing to do if your dog ate rat poison (or any substance that could endanger its health for that matter), is to call your veterinarian. If you were able to identify the toxic substance, let the vet know what it was (or what you suspect it might be) as well as how much you think they’ve eaten, if possible. If you can, bring a sample of the poison to the vet with you. Also, be prepared to let them know any symptoms you have noticed or that your dog is currently experiencing. Make sure you include the severity of the symptoms and how long you have observed them.
But Wait… Isn’t Rat Poison Safe for Dogs?
Isn’t it meant to kill rodents? They’re an entirely different species and much smaller than a dog! Yes, of course. While it’s true that rodenticides are meant for smaller rodents, it doesn’t mean they’re harmless.
When your pup has ingested poison or any other substance that’s toxic to them, you may find resources telling you not to give your dog anything to eat or drink, so as not to activate the poison. This is not true. In most cases, ingestion is all it takes to expose your dog to a harmful dose of poison.
Another misconception is to give your dog food or milk so that this will absorb the poison or at least slow down its absorption. This is also a myth. If the rodenticide contains zinc phosphide, food or drink will actually encourage the body to produce phosphine gas. This gas is toxic if inhaled and can severely damage internal organs.
How Much Rat Poison Will Kill a Dog?
Rat poison in dogs is a serious matter. There’s no simple, calculable answer as to how much rat poison will kill your dog. There are several factors to consider, including:
- the size, weight, and age of the dog,
- their health history,
- how much was ingested and how long ago,
- the type of poison, and
- if this was the first time the poison was eaten.
Some rodenticides require ingesting larger amounts over a longer period of time. Some can start causing damage from the very first time they’re eaten. It’s possible that your dog didn’t eat much – just a mild dose of one of the less toxic brands – so they may eventually be fine. But this is definitely not something not you want to leave to chance.
Left untreated, the strongest rat poison can cause long-term damage that may present itself right away. In the worst cases, this can even cause a very painful death.
What Does Rat Poison Look Like?
The boxes and packaging containing rat poison are generally easy to spot. This product comes in many forms, ranging from boxes and pails to bags and traps. The labels are not universal in appearance, but usually have one or more of these identifiers:
However, once out of the container, rat poisons (rodenticides) can be very difficult to identify. There will be very few clues if the poison was ingested in an unknown location. Unfortunately, there is no universal color for rat poison, so they can be any color: green, yellow, blue, teal, tan, or pink.
If you’re lucky enough to find a few pieces intact, it can still be difficult to identify them, even if you look them up online by description. Rat poison can come in blocks, pellets, granules, or can even look like a pet treat. Some forms of bait are even made with peanut butter, making them particularly attractive to dogs and very easy to sniff out.
If you’re able to find the culprit, make sure to take a sample for the veterinarian.
Common Ingredients in Rodenticides
The most common ingredients used in mouse and rat poisons that are toxic to mammals are:
- warfarin (less toxic than others in this list),
- zinc phosphide, and
Rodenticides work in many different ways. Warfarin, chlorophacinone, diphacinone, bromadiolone, brodifacoum, and difethalione are anticoagulants. They can cause internal bleeding since they stop the liver from producing the enzyme that recycles vitamin K, which is an essential vitamin that creates blood clotting agents. The remainder can cause a multitude of symptoms, including brain swelling, high blood calcium levels that can cause the kidneys to shut down, or severe muscle spasms. You’ll need the expertise of a veterinarian to treat all of these symptoms.
Symptoms of Rat Poisoning in Dogs
Signs that your dog might have ingested rat poison include:
- muscle tremors,
- decreased motor function in their limbs, and/or
- a loss of appetite.
However, keep in mind that it can take as few as two days or as long as two weeks for symptoms to manifest.
The best defence against the worst-case scenario is a good offense. So, keep everything that might pose a danger to your pets up high, out of reach, and behind locked doors. If possible, you should use alternatives to poisons.
The substance that your pet ignored yesterday could very well be interesting to them today. When it comes to the health of your pet, it’s better to play it safe than to regret it later.