During the summer a lot of people in this part of Vermont go to their camp houses for vacation. Often these camps are used for only a few weeks out of the year and can have mice move in when they are not occupied. People will use mouse and rat poisons (known as rodenticides) in these homes not realizing it can be harmful to pets. We have seen a few cases of rodenticide poisoning in dogs recently when they have been at camp. The most commonly used rodenticides work by preventing blood from clotting.  These compounds are called anticoagulant rodenticides.  Examples of anticoagulant rodenticides include d-CON® and Talon®. They are often consumed by dogs straight out of the package or wherever they were left out because they taste good. Cats can ingest the poison by eating a mouse that has died from the active ingredient. Animals that consume anticoagulant rodenticides lose blood into the environment or internal body spaces such as the lungs.  If they do not receive veterinary attention, they will become sick and can die from the consequences of continuous bleeding. Usually pets do not show symptoms for the first 72 - 96 hours after they consume anticoagulant rodenticides. If it suspected that they have eaten them even without showing symptoms they should start treatment at their veterinarian immediately. Symptoms include:
  • Unusual bleeding.  Pets may bleed from their skin, gums, ears, nose, eyes, or other locations.  Blood may be noted in urine, feces, or saliva.  Blood can be sometimes be seen on carpet or furniture in areas where the pet spends time.
  • Bruising of the skin.
  • Weakness, lethargy, and decreased appetite from blood loss. Bleeding into the lungs may cause coughing or trouble breathing.
  • Pale or white gums in animals that have lost significant amounts of blood.
  • Signs of shock, including collapse, loss of consciousness, decreased respiratory rate and decreased heart rate occur when blood loss is severe.
If caught early treatment is usually successful. Diagnosis is confirmed with a blood test. The antidote to anticoagulant rodenticides is vitamin K1.  All pets that are diagnosed with anticoagulant rodenticide toxicity must receive treatment once or twice daily for a period of 4 - 8 weeks. Vitamin K1 can be administered orally or by injection. Any pet that shows severe symptoms of blood loss may require hospitalization and supportive care until its condition stabilizes. During treatment owners should limit their pet’s activity to minimize chances of bruising and bleeding. It is important to finish the full course of vitamin K1 and have your vet perform a follow-up blood test to ensure the efficacy of the treatment. Here are some photos of dogs with symptoms of rodenticide poisoning: Bleeding from gums   Bleeding from nose   Bruising    Pale gums