Signs of Rat Poison in Dogs

By Joanna Ehlers

While savvy dog owners are vigilant in dog-proofing their homes, a beloved pet can encounter potentially deadly poisons in a backyard, stable, park or wildlife area. Immediate attention from a licensed veterinary professional is warranted when you suspect that your dog has been in contact with rodenticide. Symptoms of rat poisoning may not appear until up to 36 hours following ingestion -- but left untreated this long, rat poisoning may cause fatal hemorrhaging.

Sources of Rat Poison

Four main types of poison are used as active ingredients in rodenticides. Long-acting anticoagulants cause internal bleeding, symptoms of which may not appear until three days following ingestion. Cholecalciferol causes acute kidney failure by raising the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood stream. Bromethalin causes swelling of the brain by uncoupling the oxidative phosphorylation in the mitochondria of the brain and liver. Zinc and aluminum phosphides create phosphine gas in the dog's stomach. Vomiting causes toxic gas to be released into the surrounding environment, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. A dog who has ingested rat poison may exhibit different signs and symptoms of poisoning, depending upon the type of poison he has consumed.

Signs and Symptoms of Poisoning

A dog who has ingested long-acting anticoagulants will exhibit exercise intolerance, lethargy, coughing and difficulty breathing. He may vomit or be prone to diarrhea, with or without blood in the stool. Cholecalciferol, otherwise known as Vitamin D3, will cause halitosis and kidney failure two to three days following consumption, according to the Pet Health Network. Bromethalin causes swelling of the brain, resulting in ataxia or lack of coordination, seizures and tremors as well as paralysis. Zinc and aluminum phosphides, commonly found in gopher or mole baits, are problematic for dogs and their owners, as fumes from the dog's vomit will harm both parties. Phosphides are known to cause collapse, shock and liver damage along with bloating.

Contacting the Veterinarian

If your dog has ingested rodent poison, assume that he is in danger and contact the veterinarian immediately. Treatment will depend upon the type of poison that the dog has consumed -- so, if possible, have the package information or EPA registration number handy when you call the veterinarian. With that information, the veterinarian can begin the appropriate treatment measures necessary for preserving the dog's life and health.

Treatment Measures for Poisoned Dogs

If the poison in question is a long-acting anticoagulant, dogs are treated with Vitamin K1 for 30 days. A prothrombin test to check the dog's clotting ability is then administered. Dogs poisoned with cholecalciferol are often hospitalized and placed on IV fluids to flush their kidneys. Dogs who have ingested bromethalin require veterinary monitoring for 24 hours. Activated charcoal and IV fluids may be administered every four to eight hours, according to Pet MD, to ensure that the dog's system is cleansed of the poison. Anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce brain swelling may be recommended. Phosphide poisoning is treated by inducing vomiting in a well-ventilated area to encourage the dissipation of harmful fumes. The vet may also recommend antacids.