Rodenticide toxicity is one of the most common forms of pet poisoning. Several products are commercially available to help control rodents, and all are toxic to pets. Our LaGrange Veterinary Hospital team doesn’t want your pet to fall victim to a rodenticide poisoning, and we offer information about how these products affect pets and provide tips to help decrease their exposure risk.

Cholecalciferol toxicity in pets

Cholecalciferol (i.e., vitamin D3) is one of the most potent rodenticides on the market. When ingested, cholecalciferol produces life-threatening increases in blood calcium levels, resulting in soft tissue hardening throughout the body, specifically involving the heart, kidneys, gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and muscle. This can cause multiple organ failure, leading to death. Important information includes:

  • Signs — Signs typically occur about one to three days after ingestion when significant damage to the organs has already occurred. Potential signs include increased thirst and urination, weakness, lethargy, decreased appetite, and vomiting.
  • Diagnosis — Most cases are diagnosed in pets who have known or suspected exposure to cholecalciferol rodenticide. Blood work showing elevated calcium, phosphorus, and kidney values increases the suspicion for cholecalciferol toxicity. A urinalysis may be performed to help assess kidney function.
  • Treatment — No antidote is available to treat cholecalciferol poisoning. If ingestion was recent, treatment involves inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal to help reduce absorption. Other treatment includes intravenous fluids (IV) and medications to help reduce calcium levels.

Anticoagulant toxicity in pets

Anticoagulants, such as brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, difethialone, and warfarin, interfere with blood’s ability to clot, resulting in internal bleeding. These products were once the main active ingredient in most rodenticides, but in 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made regulatory changes, which made these ingredients much less common. However, they are still deadly. Important information includes:

  • Signs — After ingestion, the body takes one to two days to use up clotting factors, and signs don’t occur until about three to seven days after ingestion. Signs are associated with internal bleeding, and include lethargy, pale gums, increased respiration rate, bloody diarrhea, nose bleeds, bruising, bloody urine, weakness, and seizures.
  • Diagnosis — Blood work to assess clotting times and red blood cell and platelet counts are helpful to diagnose anticoagulant poisoning. X-rays and ultrasound also may be used to check for blood accumulation in the chest or abdomen.
  • Treatment — If ingestion occurred recently, our team may induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal to help prevent absorption. Vitamin K1 is an antidote to anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning. Other treatments may include IV fluids, blood or plasma transfusions, and oxygen therapy.

Bromethalin toxicity in pets

Bromethalin is a neurotoxin that attacks the coating around the nerves, resulting in brain swelling and neurological issues. These products can be toxic, including when small amounts are ingested. Important information includes:

  • Signs — Signs can take one to five days to manifest, and include GI upset, lack of coordination, tremors, seizures, paralysis, and death. Cats are more sensitive to bromethalin than dogs.
  • Diagnosis — Most cases are diagnosed in pets who have known or suspected exposure to bromethalin, especially if they develop neurologic signs.
  • Treatment — No antidote is available. If ingestion occurred recently, our team may induce vomiting and administer charcoal to help prevent absorption. Other treatments include IV fluids and medications to reduce brain swelling.

Zinc and aluminum phosphide toxicity in pets

These products are most commonly found in mole and gopher baits, but can be found in mouse or rat baits. Phosphides work by releasing deadly phosphine gas when the poison mixes with stomach acid. Food in the stomach increases gas production, increasing the toxicity, so do not feed your pet if they ingest a phosphide rodenticide. Important information includes:

  • Signs — Signs typically occur within minutes, and death can occur in as little as five hours after exposure. Signs include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, lack of coordination, tremors, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain and bloating. Phosphine gas is also highly toxic to humans, so if your pet vomits, keep the area well-ventilated, remain above the vomit, and wash the area thoroughly.
  • Diagnosis — Most cases are diagnosed in pets who have known or suspected exposure to zinc or aluminum phosphide.
  • Treatment — No antidote is available. If ingestion occurred recently, our team may induce vomiting and administer charcoal to prevent absorption. Other treatments include IV fluids, and medications to decrease the production and effects of the phosphine gas.

Preventing rodenticide toxicity in pets

Keep rodenticides in a secure place that your pet can’t access, and consider using an alternative form of pest control, such as live traps that don’t involve poisons. If you must use a rodenticide, follow these tips:

  • Ensure your pet can’t access the area where you distribute the poison
  • Record exactly how much poison you used 
  • Record where you dispensed the poison
  • Know the active ingredient in the product
  • Take a picture of the product label in case your pet needs veterinary care
  • When visiting, ask if a rodenticide is in use and keep your pet away from these areas

Rodenticide toxicity is a concerning issue, but you can take steps to reduce your pet’s exposure risk. If you know or suspect your pet ingested a rodenticide, contact our LaGrange Veterinary Hospital team so we can determine what treatment is most appropriate for the situation.