If you're going to use rat poison in or around your home, it's important to use extreme care — especially if you have pets or young children. Wondering is rat poison bad for dogs? The answer is definitely! Some pest control products are only harmful to specific species like insects but dogs and humans are both susceptible to the poison in rodenticides.
Here's what you should know about whether rat poison can kill dogs, what to do if your pet ingests rodenticide, and how to protect your dog when treating your home with rat poison.
Ingesting rat poison can be fatal for a dog
Unfortunately, ingestion of rat poison or rodenticide is very common and very harmful to dogs. If your dog ingests rat poison, immediate vet care is crucial. With fast action, treatment is often possible to help your pet recover. Without treatment, ingesting rat poison can be fatal to a dog.
There are three primary types of rat poisons that are dangerous to dogs:
- Bromethalin. This rat poison causes brain swelling.
- Cholecalciferol. This poison increases phosphorus and calcium levels in your dog's blood which causes kidney failure and death without fast treatment.
- Anticoagulant rodenticides. This form of rat poison keeps your dog's blood from clotting and it causes uncontrollable, severe bleeding.
Symptoms of Rodenticide Poisoning in Dogs
If you suspect your dog has ingested rat poison or a poisoned rat, it's better to be safe than sorry. Depending on the poison, symptoms may manifest in as few as 4 hours or it may take up to one week to see symptoms. The side effects will depend on the type of rat poison your dog ingested.
Bromethalin Poisoning Symptoms
With a large dose of bromethalin, your dog may show symptoms within 1 day that include:
- Extreme hyperactivity
- Extreme muscle tremors
- Decreased consciousness
With a lower dose, symptoms may take 1 to 3 days to manifest and may include paralysis, loss of control of the hind legs, and central nervous system depression.
Cholecalciferol Poisoning Symptoms
Symptoms usually appear within 4 to 36 hours of ingestion and may include:
- Halitosis or bad breath
- Increased thirst and urination
- Heart arrhythmia
- Organ failure
Anticoagulant Poisoning Symptoms
Depending on the dose, your dog may show symptoms in 3 to 7 days that include:
- Loss of appetite
- Blood in stool
- Bleeding gums
- Nose bleeds
- Difficulty breathing
- Swollen belly
Unfortunately, many dogs have just mild anticoagulant poisoning and do not show symptoms for days. During this time, the poison affects the dog's system and the dog will get weaker and paler due to blood loss. Much of this blood loss is internal and won't be visible.
Rat Poison in Dogs Treatment Options
If you suspect your dog has ingested rat poison, contact a veterinarian immediately for treatment. Fast treatment can reduce the effects of the toxicity and potentially save your dog's life or reduce the long-term effects of the poison. The treatment necessary will depend on the type of rat poison your dog ingested.
There is no antidote for bromethalin. Inducing vomiting is the best and only way to reduce the effects of the toxicity on the body but vomiting should only be induced if the dog has ingested the rat poison recently. You can use two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting although it's best if it's done at the vet's office. If your dog experiences severe symptoms, IV fluids may be necessary for several days. Do not try to treat bromethalin poisoning with vitamin K; this only works for anticoagulants.
Bromethalin is very hard to treat when ingested, highly toxic, and often fatal. That's why I prefer to never use it due to its risks to pets and children.
Recommended reading: Are rat poisons harmful to children and adults?
Cholecalciferol has no antidote and it's one of the most difficult types of poisoning cases to treat. If you know your dog has consumed cholecalciferol rat poisoning in the last 2 hours, attempt to induce vomiting yourself. This should only be done soon after poisoning and only when you know it was cholecalciferol as poisoning makes your dog dehydrated.
Treating cholecalciferol poisoning usually requires hospitalization. Your dog will likely need to be treated aggressively with IV fluids, steroids, diuretics, and drugs that help reduce calcium levels.
Anticoagulant interferes with your dog's blood clotting ability and causes bleeding into different body cavities. The first step in treating anti-coagulant poisoning is inducing vomiting if the poisoning occurred within the last two hours. If it has been longer than two hours but less than 12 hours, your vet will give your dog activated charcoal to reduce the absorption of the rat poison.
A vet will need to treat your dog with vitamin K for three weeks or longer. When an anticoagulant is ingested, it blocks the body's synthesis of vitamin K which is necessary for blood clotting. A plasma transfusion is often needed in addition to vitamin K, especially if it has been more than two days since ingestion. In critical cases, your dog may need IV fluids and a blood transfusion.
Can Rat Poison Kill Dogs?
Rat poison may be useful but it definitely comes with risks. Not only can it be harmful; it's often fatal to dogs. When a pet is exposed to rat poison, the prognosis is usually guarded at best. In fact, rodenticides are considered one of the top 10 pet toxins by the ASPCA. Because rat poison often comes in a sugar – or grain-based form that tastes good to rats, it also tastes good to dogs and may attract them, too.
Recommended reading: Best Rat Poisons – Reviews and Buyer's Guide
Rat Poison in Dogs Survival Rate
According to one study, the survival rate for dogs poisoned by an anticoagulant is more than 98%. The prognosis is lower for dogs poisoned with other types of rat poison, unfortunately, as well as the dose, the size of the dog, and how quickly you seek treatment.
How to Protect Your Pets from Rodenticide Poisoning
I always recommend asking your pest control specialist for nontoxic alternatives when it comes to using chemicals outside. It's not just better for the environment; it also protects your pets.
At the very least, I recommend using anticoagulant rat poisons over cholecalciferol and bromethalin because they're easier to treat — even at home — with vitamin K with a better prognosis in case of accidental ingestion. These bait traps by Tomcat are the ones I recommend and use.
There's another solution: tamper-resistant bait boxes. Many homeowners wonder, are rat bait boxes safe for dogs? While nothing is fool-proof, they are an effective way to prevent most dogs from directly ingesting bait — just not the poisoned rats. Be sure to ask your immediate neighbors if they use rodenticides around their home and ask if they could use tamper-resistant boxes to prevent the accidental poisoning of pets in the area.
Using rat poison around your home should always be taken seriously. Even if you don't have pets, you can be putting neighborhood animals at risk of poisoning if you aren't careful. There's nothing more frightening than finding your dog bleeding from its mouth and nose, unresponsive, or suffering from seizures because it ate something it shouldn't have.
Before turning to rodenticides, ask a pest control expert about less toxic methods to control rodents, and always use tamper-resistant bait stations if you're going to use poison bait.