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Rodenticides and your pets: What you need to know.

Updated on March 12, 2012

There's a reason why mice and rats are commonly called pests. While the domestic verities may make good pets, nobody enjoys having wild mice and/or rats living inside their home. They steal our food, can spread fleas and disease, and leave their droppings all over the place. There are several common techniques used for successfully eradicating pest species from our homes, one of which includes the use of rodenticides. A rodenticide by definition is a poison or chemical substance used to kill rodents. Although they are designed to kill things like mice and rats, rodenticides can be very dangerous to other living things. Pet owners with pest problems who intend to use poisons should be aware of the potential dangers these substances pose to their pets. Also, pet owners in general should be aware of the signs and symptoms of rodenticide ingestion because it is not uncommon for pets to come into contact with these poisons accidentally, even when they are not used in the pet owner's own home. Even a small amount of rat or mouse poison, if not treated in time, can cause serious illness and death in pets. Luckily, however, if caught in time there is a successful treatment for rodenticide poisoning.

Rodent poison kills more than just rats and mice, it is very dangerous to pets.
Rodent poison kills more than just rats and mice, it is very dangerous to pets.

How rodenticides work and signs of rodenticide poisoning in domestic pets:

To put things simply, most rodenticides work by acting as an anti-coagulant (warfarin, bromadiolone, and brodifacoum are examples of anti-coagulant rodenticides). When an animal ingests them, they work at depleting the body's stores of Vitamin K. Vitamin K is an essential ingredient in the formation of blood clots. As well as depleting the body's store of Vitamin K, rodent poisons also contain chemicals that increase the chance of damage to blood vessels. What happens when an animal dies as a result of a rodenticide, is that they basically bleed to death internally. Blood vessels become damaged, and because the body no longer has a store of Vitamin K, blood clots cannot form to stop the damaged vessels from bleeding. In rodents, death after consuming a rodenticide usually takes only a couple of days.

Rat and mouse poisons does the same thing to domestic pets such as cats and dogs as it does to rodents. The most common symptoms of rodenticide toxicity in domestic pets includes:

  • Blood in urine and/or stool
  • Bleeding under the skin (bruising)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nosebleeds
  • Vomiting blood
  • Shock
  • Pale skin and gums
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion or altered mental state
  • Trouble breathing
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Seizures

If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, or have any reason to believe that your pet may have been exposed to poison, it's important to get them to the vet as soon as possible. There is a very simple and effective cure that can be given if your pet ingested an anti-coagulant rodenticide, which is Vitamin K supplements. The Vitamin K is normally given as a combination of injections and oral medications, and is normally given for a number of weeks until the dangers of the rodenticide exposure have passed.

A quick note about other types of rodenticides:

It's important to note that while anti-coagulant rodenticides are normally the most commonly used (because there is an antidote), there are in fact other types of rodenticides that are sometimes used. Some types of poisoning can be treated easier than others. It's important to take your pet to a vet if you notice any unusual symptoms, or if you know or think your pet was exposed to any type of poison. This hub focuses mainly on anti-coagulant rodenticides, but it's important to be aware that there are other types out there.

Steps to take to avoid rodenticide poisoning:

Pets ingesting rodent poison is an emergency situation. Even anti-coagulant rodenticides, the easiest type of rodenticide to treat for if an ingestion occurs, can cause death if not treated promptly. If you must use rat or mice poisons in your home, make sure poisons are placed in areas well away from any domestic pets or children. Consider using alternative methods to eradicating pests form your home, such as humane traps or kill traps that do not use poisons. When you move into a new home or apartment, ask the former tenants/owners or landlord if poison was used in the home. Make sure you check for and remove any rodenticide that may have been left behind by former tenants/owners. Be sure to check everywhere in the home, such as under counters and stoves and inside cabinets. You'd be surprised at the places some pets will get into to get to what they think is a treat.

Try to have an idea of what rodenticide looks like so that you can avoid it if you see it outside. Some people will place rodenticide in locations outside their homes. Keep your pet from wondering through private property and keep informed about any reports of rodenticide poisonings in your area. It's theorized that even stepping on rat/mouse poison and than licking their paws can expose pets to enough poison to be deadly. Most importantly, stay aware of your pets condition and discuss any health changes with your vet. Know the most common symptoms of poisoning so that you can recognize the signs in your pet and get him/her treatment ASAP. Be an informed owner and you will be more likely to be able to save your pets life.


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    • Dragonrain profile image

      Dragonrain 5 years ago

      cherylone I'm glad you found nontoxic means to control ants! Thank you for reading :)

      angela_michelle, my dog coming into contact with poisons outside frightens me too! Especially so now that we've had problems with this in our area. But what can you do? You can't really stop walking your dog. I make sure to keep my dog off of private property, and learned the symptoms of poisoning just in case. I really really hope it's never an issue, but I hope that if my dog ever did get poisoned that I would recognize that something was wrong and be able to get him into the vet fast enough that he'd be able to be successfully treated. It's a scarey thing, and sad that pet owners have to worry about things like this. I hope you and your pets stay safe! Thanks for reading :)

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 5 years ago from United States

      This is actually something that really frightens me. I have two cats and a dog. Although I am not too afraid of my cats ingesting poisons, they are indoors, and we do not use rodenticides. But I am afraid my dog will come across some in the neighborhood.

    • cherylone profile image

      Cheryl Simonds 5 years ago from Connecticut

      Informative. I don't use pesticides because I have cats and small grandchildren. I have tried different things such as baking soda for ants. Mostly they work, and they are definately not toxic the for pets. :)

    • Dragonrain profile image

      Dragonrain 5 years ago

      Thanks for reading :)

      I would never use poisons around my pets either, but still feel it's important to be aware of the symptoms of poisoning. Especially people with dogs or outdoor cats, since you never know what your pet could come into contact with outside. We had a few dogs and cats in my town die when they came into contact with rat poison that someone had put out on their lawn.

    • SandyMcCollum profile image

      SandyMcCollum 5 years ago

      I would never use a poison in a place my pet may get it, but I know some ppl have to be told not to do it. Interesting work, thanks for writing it!