Q: Our dog ate rat poison the neighbor had used near the fence-line between our properties. She was unaware how toxic some of these poisons can be (and how far our dog’s snout could reach through the chain-link fence). Tippy survived, but only after intensive care for kidney failure. Could you let readers know how deadly these poisons are?
A: The Pet Poison Helpline reports that it receives dozens of calls daily about these common toxins. Rodenticides also make the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center’s list of 10 most toxic substances to pets. Pets can ingest the bait directly or eat the already-poisoned rodents.
Many compounds in all sorts of packaging are marketed as rodenticides, and pet owners are often misled into believing some are safe for use around pets. Here are the most common:
Zinc, calcium and aluminum phosphides: These kill by releasing phosphide gasses inside the animal, leading to painful abdominal distension and liver damage.
Bromethalin: This extra-lethal toxin causes deadly swelling of the brain (cerebral edema). The toxic dose is very low –– especially for cats who might consume the carcasses of poisoned rodents.
Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3): This highly toxic compound is gaining traction in the rodenticide marketplace. It works by increasing calcium and phosphorus levels, which results in acute kidney failure.
Anticoagulants: This toxin, which prevents the blood from clotting, has killed more dogs and cats than any other rodenticide –– partly because it affects pets after days or weeks with few advance symptoms. Luckily, there is an antidote, prescription-strength Vitamin K1.
Clearly, rodenticides are among the most dangerous pet toxins. Consider yourself lucky that Tippy pulled through.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.