Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Dangers of Rat Poison to Dogs and Cats

As March is Poison Prevention Awareness Month, another article discussing a commonly seen toxicosis in pets.

The dangers of rat poison to dogs and cats

When purging your home of pests, keep your pets in mind

Posted May 04, 2012 in Pet Health
Most of us will agree: rats are the most repugnant of pests, especially when they rival the size of our cats. However, if you find yourself scrambling to stifle a rat infestation by using poison, you’ll need to be extra careful with your pets.
 
There are a number of chemicals commonly found in rat and mouse poisons that are very toxic to dogs and cats. One of those chemicals is bromethalin, which kills animals by poisoning the central nervous system. Brodifacoum is another and, as an anti-coagulant, falls in with a group of chemicals that keep blood from clotting, leading to spontaneous and uncontrollable bleeding.

These chemicals can be deadly for dogs and cats, and poisoning can take place directly or indirectly, such as when your pet nibbles on a rodent killed by the poison.

Signs and Symptoms
If your pet is unlucky enough to ingest rat poison containing either of these chemicals, the consequences can be dire, especially if not diagnosed in time.

In particular, bromethalin causes neurological problems because it spurs an increase in the pressure of cerebrospinal fluid (the liquid in the skull that surrounds the brain) and cerebral edema, or excess water in the brain. As a result, there are several neurological symptoms of bromethalin ingestion:
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Impaired movement
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia (loss of appetite)
While these clinical signs may develop within 2-7 days, ingestion of extremely high doses can cause sudden onset of symptoms, usually muscle tremors but sometimes seizures as well.

As for brodifacoum, symptoms generally involve internal or external bleeding and include:
  • Blood in urine, vomit, or feces
  • Bleeding from rectum, nose, eyes, ears, or even gums
  • Weakness and instability
  • Bruises
  • Difficulty breathing due to blood in the lungs
  • Swollen belly due to blood accumulation in the abdomen
Symptoms of brodifacoum typically take 2-5 days to appear. But while pets that have mild poisoning will not show signs for several days, it is important to get your pet to a veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested rat poison. Internal bleeding can be fatal if not diagnosed in time.

Diagnosis
If bromethalin toxicosis is suspected, your veterinarian will recommend:
  • A urinalysis to determine whether the chemical is in the system
  • Brain imaging, particularly an MRI or CT scan to look for excess fluid in the brain
These tests will also allow your veterinarian to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as similar neurological syndromes, contact with other toxic chemicals or infections agents, or tumor growth.

If brodifacoum toxicosis is suspected, your veterinarian will recommend:
  • A complete blood profile to determine presence of the chemical
  • An analysis of your pet’s vomit or stool. It is especially helpful if you are able to bring samples along for your veterinary visit.
Treatment
Treatment for poisoning for these two chemicals is very different. With bromethalin, your vet will want to purge your pet’s digestive tract as soon as possible and might also find it necessary to prescribe medications to control muscle spasms and seizures. In addition, because there are some prolonged effects of bromethalin poisoning, most notably anorexia and loss of appetite. Your pet may be given nutritional supplements and monitored by your vet. Your vet will prescribe the best treatment plan he/she can, and because it can take several weeks to recover, your vet will want to monitor any continuing symptoms.

On the other hand, treatment for brodifacoum poisoning involves administering Vitamin K, which is necessary for normal blood clotting. Usually, this is done by repeated injections under the skin of your pet, and is sometimes given orally, until blood clotting returns to normal. Depending on the severity of poison, recovery can take anywhere between a week to a month.

Prevention
Prevention is simple: while it’s understandable to want to rid your home of rats and mice, it’s important to make sure your pet does not have access to rat poison. If you choose to use products containing dangerous chemicals like bromethalin or brodifacoum, you will want to be diligent about discarding dead rodents and keeping your pets away from the poison.

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