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Veterinarian warns dog owners about highly toxic rat poisons

Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014



MANHATTAN — As temperatures start to cool, your home may find some extra company of the unwanted, long-tailed, furry kind. But when seeking to get rid of rodents, make sure you aren't putting your pets at risk too, says a Kansas State University veterinarian.

"Every year the university's Veterinary Health Center has several dogs that come in with poisoning," said Susan Nelson, clinical associate professor of clinical sciences. "Sometimes they have directly ingested the rat poison product, and other times they've consumed the dead mice or rats that have ingested the poison and the toxins then accumulate in the dog's body. It's a very common problem, so it's important for pet owners to be aware of the products they are buying."

Following numerous cases of children and pets being poisoned, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently ordered the discontinuation of 12 products manufactured by the company d-CON because they did not meet safety standards. The company is phasing out production of its second-generation anticoagulant rat poisons, but the products will still be available at retail stores until March 31, 2015.

"Basically the anticoagulant is a blood thinner and can cause severe internal bleeding in pets," Nelson said. "Unlike other anticoagulant rat poisons, the second-generation poisons that were introduced several years ago take a smaller amount of poison and a quicker onset of action if ingested, so there is not much time to treat the animals and the poison stays in the system longer."

Treatment for these second-generation rodenticides takes a minimum of 21 days. While these products will eventually be off the shelves, there are other types of rat poisons available that are dangerous to pets.

"First-generation rat poisons also are anticoagulants, but it takes a larger amount of poison and typically a longer onset of action to sicken the dog," Nelson said. "They don't take as long to treat — only about five to seven days."

Also beware of bromethalin, which unlike anticoagulants, attacks the central nervous system of the animal. Bromethalin differs from first-generation and second-generation anticoagulants in that it causes swelling of the brain rather than bleeding.

"Bromethalin is a product considered by many to be safer for kids and pets because it takes larger amounts to cause toxicity," Nelson said. "However, it's still dangerous because it can take only a matter of hours for the onset of action, which leaves a smaller window of time to treat the poisoned animal."

Symptoms of bromethalin poisoning include tremors, neurological changes and seizures, which can result in death. No effective treatment or antidotes are available. The best course of action is to get your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Nelson said it's important to check the labels before buying products designed to get kill rats. The label will designate if the product container is childproof, pet-proof or both. If you suspect your pet has ingested any type of rat poison, contact your veterinarian immediately and know what kind of poison has been ingested, if possible.

"There are some products that actually produce phosphine gas," Nelson said. "So if you induce vomiting in the pet in an enclosed room, the fumes emitted can be toxic to people in the immediate area. Because of the different effects these rat poisons have on the animal's body systems, it's important for veterinarians to know which poison they are dealing with so they know which course of treatment to take."

If you already have these particular rat poisons and wish to dispose of them, avoid putting them down the toilet, which can cause secondary poisoning in the water. And don't scatter the pellets outside as they could poison wildlife. It is best to call your local or state waste disposal agency.


Susan Nelson


Susan Nelson online bio


Download the following photo.

Rat poison

A Kansas State University veterinarian says beware of the use of rat poisons around pets.

Written by

Lindsey Elliott

At a glance

A Kansas State University veterinarian cautions that some rat removal products can be dangerous to dogs.