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Deadly New Rat Poisons

We recently had our first case of a patient, ‘Buddy’, ingesting one of the “new improved” rat baits. Fortunately due to the quick action of his owner to bring ‘Buddy’ into Scottsdale Veterinary Hospital for treatment, a potential fatality was avoided.

Thankfully in Canada the most common class of rat baits which are still available are termed long acting anticoagulants (LAA). These types of poisons will kill a rat, dog, cat, child or any other animal that ingests sufficient poison to result in fatal internal bleeding. However this class of poison has a specific antidote, if it was not possible to induce vomiting and or bind the poison in the stomach prior to its absorption into the blood stream/body. Although not ideal, at least it is possible to medically treat and successfully save most animals/children who show bleeding problems from this poison.

The rat bait that ‘Buddy’ ate was purchased in the United States (Costco). The US has gone away from these more successfully treatable LAA, to three different dangerous classes of rodenticides. The specific rat bait ingested was called “Tomcat Mole Killer”, which contains a neurotoxic rodenticide bromethalin. Clinical signs of this poison include a multitude of brain related symptoms: abnormal behaviour, staggering/ataxia, tremors, seizures, depression, hind limb paralysis, coma and even death. Success of treatment of this poison depends on early intervention prior to the development of clinical signs. Once persistent seizures or paralytic syndrome is seen the prognosis of recovery is poor.

A second rodenticide now available contains the toxic ingredient zinc phosphide, which results in the production of phosphine gas in the stomach once mixed with food and stomach acid. This gas is corrosive to the gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestines) and clinical signs can develop as quickly as 15 minutes, with death occurring within 3 to 48 hours. This phosphine gas poses a human health risk if vomiting occurs, as this can potentially expose the pet owner and or veterinary staff to this toxic gas.

The third type of rodenticide contains toxic levels of cholecalciferol or Vitamin D3. This toxin causes mineralization of the kidneys resulting in acute kidney failure within 12 to 36 hours of ingestion.

There is no such thing as a safe rodenticide (or any other poison). Every year we see several cases of our family members (primarily dogs) who accidently get access to these tasty baits. PLEASE take extra precautions, so these accidents do not occur. If you must use a rodenticide it is still better to purchase a LAA than one of these other more dangerous products from the US.

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