Change in Rat Poison Makes it Even More Dangerous to Pets

We recently learned that D-Con changed the active ingredient in their commonly used rodent bait products, which will make treatment of these poisonings more complicated.

Most commercially available rodenticide (rat poison) products contain an ingredient that interferes with the blood’s ability to clot, called an anticoagulant. It takes a couple of days for signs of toxicity to develop. The signs include bleeding from the mouth, nose, gastrointestinal tract or urine, pale gums, labored breathing, and weakness. Anticoagulant rodenticides can definitely be dangerous, since extreme bleeding can occur before we can make a diagnosis. Fortunately, if caught in time, the toxicity can be treated with Vitamin K, and supportive care including blood transfusion or fluid therapy if needed.

D-Con has changed their baits from an anticoagulant to a product called cholecalciferol. This product, which is also known as Vitamin D3, causes disruption of the normal levels of calcium by increasing the amount of calcium absorbed from the intestines and decreasing the amount excreted by the kidneys. This high level of calcium is deposited in the kidneys, intestines, blood vessels and other tissues causing irreversible damage. Unfortunately, there is no antidote, and it can take a few days before symptoms develop. A 50 pound dog only has to eat ½ ounce of cholecalciferol rat bait to develop significant tissue damage. D-Con advertises pet-proof bait stations, but a motivated dog can get into just about anything.

If a pet has eaten any rodenticide, quick action is a must. First, always save the wrapper if you or exterminators have put out any baits, since treatment depends upon which ingredient was present. If you know that it has been less than 6 hours since exposure, decontamination by inducing vomiting is the first step. Even if the pet vomits up the bait, treatment and monitoring is recommended since we can’t determine how much of the toxic material was absorbed. Anticoagulant poisoning should be treated with Vitamin K. Cholecalciferol poisoning is more complicated, requiring daily monitoring of blood calcium levels for 4 days, and aggressive IV fluid and drug therapy if the calcium becomes too high. If you suspect your pet has eaten rat poison, have the name of the product and active ingredient ready, and call Animal Hospital of North Asheville during our normal business hours, and REACH (665-4399) or WCRAH (697-7767) when we are closed.

Of course, the best treatment for rodenticide poisoning is to avoid using them in the first place. There are many techniques for safely controlling rat and mouse populations without using poison. Safe Rodent Control’s website is an excellent and comprehensive resource for ways to prevent and manage rodent invasion.