By Stacy D. Meola, DVM Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital

Rodenticide (mouse and rat bait) toxicity is frequently seen in dogs. Pets often get into the bait in spite of our efforts to hide it in places thought inaccessible. Once ingested by your dog, it is considered a medical emergency.

There are several types of rodenticides that are commonly sold. The majority of rodenticides are vitamin K antagonists such as bromadiolone and brodifacoum, which means they inactivate vitamin K in the body. Vitamin K is essential to stop bleeding in most species, including rodents and dogs. Without vitamin K, even normal activities or small injuries that would not normally cause significant bleeding may cause life-threatening bleeding. Bleeding due to rodenticides can be either external, where it is openly visible, or internal, where it would be less noticeable to the owner.

The treatment for vitamin K antagonist rodenticides is relatively simple if caught early (less than 24-48 hours) from ingestion. Treatment may include inducing vomiting, administering activated charcoal, and treatment with vitamin K. If the dog is already bleeding, the treatment should be more aggressive. The dog will need to be hospitalized and may potentially need to receive a blood transfusion.

Another common rodenticide called bromethalin is not related to the vitamin K antagonists despite its similar name. This type of rodenticide causes neurologic signs including stumbling, weakness, paralysis, and seizures. Treatment for this type of rodenticide is similar if it is caught early and may include inducing vomiting and repeated doses of activated charcoal. If the dog is already showing signs of toxicity, hospitalization and supportive therapy is advised.

There are many types of rodenticides on the market. Therefore, if you suspect that your pet may have ingested its contents, it is very important for you to bring in the packaging to your veterinarian so that he or she may evaluate the active ingredients. Simply knowing the brand name (for example, d-CON®) is not helpful and may delay proper diagnostics and treatment.

If you must use a rodenticide bait in your house, garage, or barn, I recommend using one of the vitamin K antagonist baits, because they are easier to diagnose and treat if your pet ingests the bait. Saving the box (with the active ingredients listed) in a place you can get to it quickly in an emergency will aid in your pets treatment. Pets are amazing at getting into seemingly unattainable things, so be very diligent about the location where you choose to place the bait. In addition, check the bait regularly to ensure that it is still there, and remove the bait when it is no longer necessary.

If your pet is ever exposed to a rodenticide and you suspect he or she may have ingested some of the bait, it is important to take your pet to your veterinarian immediately for proper treatment. Early intervention may eliminate the need for aggressive treatment and hospitalization and may also minimize life-threatening complications. With early detection, and sometimes aggressive treatment, most dogs will recover from rodenticide ingestion and go on to lead healthy lives with no long term complications.

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