Dr. Chip Cooney
Rat poison is one of the most common types of poisoning we see. It is primarily a problem in dogs, as cats tend to be more discriminating eaters. Up until about a decade ago, the primary type of rat poison was the anticoagulant type. More recently, a highly toxic form of rat poison was introduced, known as Bromethalin.
Anticoagulant rat poisons work by preventing the formation of factor seven in the clotting cascade. How quickly we see signs depends largely on the dose ingested but can take several days to exert its influence. Once factor seven reaches a critically low point, bleeding can occur anywhere in the body. We have seen pets bleeding in their stomach where blood will show up in their vomit, from the nose, in the lungs, bladder or brain. The good thing about the anticoagulant poisons is that there is an antidote in Vitamin K. If we are able to identify the disease early, we attempt to get the pet to vomit the poison and then start on Vitamin K. If we discover the disease once bleeding has started, treatment is much more difficult and the outlook much bleaker. Pets may require multiple blood transfusions to control hemorrhage until the antidote has an opportunity to work. In some cases, the hemorrhage is so severe that fatalities can occur.
While both types of rat poisoning are highly lethal, the newer Bromethalin version is much quicker acting, more toxic and much more lethal. It is important, in any case of poisoning, to get your pet to the veterinarian ASAP. It is frequently helpful if you can bring the packaging so we are able to accurately identify the product and tailor our treatment. If you much have rat poison available, be sure it is out of reach of your pets at ALL times.