Precautions in the Event of Pet Poisoning

Photo | Jack Toomey Tomcat rat poison is bright green. This piece was found in a flower bed.

Photo | Jack Toomey
Tomcat rat poison is bright green. This piece was found in a flower bed.

By Jack Toomey

Residents of Kentlands and adjoining neighborhoods are still on edge after the recent rat poisoning scare. It is very possible that small remnants of the blocks of poison are still around and available to both wild and domestic animals.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says that there is no antidote or truly effective treatment for bromethalin, which is the active ingredient in many rodent poisons. In fact, some veterinarians are reluctant to treat cases involving this poison.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) recommends starting decontamination procedures for dogs exposed to 0.1 mg/kg and 0.05 mg/kg in cats. It is not likely that central nervous system signs will be seen at these doses, but since there is no antidote for bromethalin, and sometimes pets ingest more bait than owners realize, it is better to err on the side of caution.

To give you an idea of what a 0.1 mg/kg dose in a dog might look like, a 30-pound dog would have to ingest a half-ounce, or a 60-pound dog one ounce. Most bait blocks tend to weigh one half to one ounce, but there are blocks that weigh up to four ounces.

Most owners know that rat and mouse bait should not be ingested by their pets, so they rush them to the veterinarian. Also, fortunately, most baits have a delay in onset of symptoms. This means that may pets ingesting the poison have a good chance of survival. Even if your pet develops signs of bromethalin exposure, remember that not all cases are fatal. Some lower doses of bromethalin can cause symptoms like ataxia, lethargy and hind limb weakness that may eventually resolve.

So, when do you worry about the signs potentially being lethal? High doses, rapid onset of signs, signs that are progressive, or initial signs that are severe (tremors, seizures) are all poor prognostic factors. That’s why it’s important to get your pet to a veterinarian right away. Make a list of vets now, especially those who will accept emergency cases after hours.