Rodenticides are often used to help control pests, such as mice and rats, but these products can tempt your pet and potentially lead to a life-threatening toxicity. Our Providence Vet team wants to make a difference in your pet’s life, and we explain how rodenticides affect pets and provide tips to protect your four-legged friend.

Rodenticide types

Numerous rodenticide products are available in different forms with different mechanisms of action—all toxic to pets. Common rodenticides available for over-the-counter (OTC) purchase include:

  • Anticoagulants — Anticoagulants were once the most commonly used rodenticides, but became less available after the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory changes in 2018. However, these products are still used and remain highly toxic to pets. Active ingredients in anticoagulants include brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, difethialone, and warfarin. They work by affecting vitamin K, inhibiting clotting factor production, and leading to coagulation abnormalities. First-generation anticoagulants last for approximately seven days, while second-generation products remain problematic for about four weeks. 
  • Bromethalin — Bromethalin is a neurotoxic agent that causes cellular swelling in the central nervous system and leads to brain swelling and increased intracranial pressure. 
  • Cholecalciferol (vitamin D) — Cholecalciferol rodenticides increase calcium absorption from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and decrease the kidney calcium excretions, causing increased calcium blood levels. When calcium levels remain elevated for a prolonged period, soft tissue mineralization, involving the kidneys, GI tract, liver, and heart, can occur. 
  • Zinc phosphide — In acidic environments, such as the stomach, zinc phosphide releases phosphine gas and causes massive cellular death.

Rodenticide toxicity signs in pets

Signs depend on the product your pet ingested. Product-specific signs include:

  • Anticoagulant toxicity signs — Healthy pets who have adequate clotting factor stores don’t exhibit signs until three to seven days after ingestion. Signs, which are caused by internal bleeding, include lethargy, difficulty breathing, nose bleeds, abnormal bruising, bloody diarrhea, and seizures from brain hemorrhage.
  • Bromethalin toxicity signs — Depending on the dose, signs can occur hours to days after exposure. With a high dose, signs that include hyperexcitability, hyperthermia, muscle tremors, and seizures occur after 2 to 12 hours. With a lower dose, signs are usually delayed one to four days and include incoordination, decreased mentation, muscle tremors, GI upset, and abnormal eye movements. Signs can progress to paralysis, seizures, coma, and death.
  • Cholecalciferol toxicity signs — Signs that include lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, diarrhea, hyperthermia, and decreased motor function typically occur 12 to 72 hours after ingestion. 
  • Zinc phosphide toxicity signs — Signs usually occur minutes to hours after ingestion. Signs include lethargy, vomiting, difficulty breathing, gastric distention, decreased mental awareness, seizures, and death in three to five hours if large doses are ingested. 

Rodenticide toxicity treatment in pets

Treatment for rodenticide toxicity typically involves inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal to minimize toxin absorption. Specific treatment protocols depend on the product ingested and include:

  • Anticoagulant toxicity treatment — Vitamin K is an antidote for anticoagulant toxicity, and affected pets are typically treated for about four weeks. Other potential treatments include intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, oxygen therapy, and GI support. 
  • Bromethalin toxicity treatment — No antidote is available for bromethalin toxicity, and treatment focuses on decreasing intracranial swelling and supportive care.
  • Cholecalciferol toxicity treatment — Cholecalciferol toxicity has no antidote. Treatment involves aggressive fluid therapy and diuretic medications to increase calcium excretion and may include calcium binders to help decrease calcium blood levels. 
  • Zinc phosphide toxicity treatment — No antidote is available for zinc phosphide toxicity, so treatment involves supportive care and medications to decrease gastric acidity. 

Rodenticide toxicity protection for pets

Tips to protect your pet from rodenticide toxicity include:

  • Consider alternatives — If you have a rodent problem, consider pest control alternatives, such as live traps, that don’t contain poisons.
  • Keep your pet leashed — On outings, keep your pet leashed to prevent them from eating toxic substances, such as rodenticides.
  • Secure the area — If you use a rodenticide, ensure your pet cannot access the area. 
  • Record the amount and location — Record the location and amount of rodenticide you placed in each area. 
  • Take pictures — Photograph the product label so you know the active ingredient and concentration if your pet is exposed.
  • Reduce exposure — If you find your pet ingesting a rodenticide, remove the product from their mouth and do not allow them to eat more.
  • Call for expert help — If you know or suspect that your pet ate a rodenticide, call our Providence Vet team or Animal Poison Control for expert advice on how to proceed.
  • Do not induce vomiting — While rodenticide toxicity treatments sometimes involve inducing vomiting, you must only induce vomiting in your pet when advised by a veterinary professional. This procedure should be performed by a veterinarian to prevent complications.
  • Seek veterinary care — Any pet exposed to a rodenticide should be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Being aware of rodenticide toxicity dangers is important to help decrease your pet’s exposure risk. If you know or suspect your pet ingested a rodenticide, immediately contact our Providence Vet team, so we can start decontamination and treatment as soon as possible.