RAT POISON IS TOXIC
What is it?
Rat poison (rodenticide) is, in general, highly toxic to dogs and cats. Three main types are used. Anticoagulants, which cause blood loss by haemorrhage, are usually Coumarin derivatives (e.g. Warfarin) or new-generation anticoagulants. Phosphides (e.g. Zinc phosphide) are converted by the acid in the stomach to Phosphine gas, which is directly lethal. Vitamin D or its analogues, which cause fatal hypercalcaemia in high doses, work by damaging blood vessels and intestines.
While it is often said that modern coumarin-type poisons are now very ‘species specific' and are therefore safe to dogs and cats, that has not been our experience. Do not be reassured or lulled into a false sense of security by such advice into delay or inactivity, which could cost your pet his or her life.
The other categories of rat poison are also very dangerous to dogs and cats.
Is there an antidote?
In the case of coumarin-type anticoagulant poisons, injections of Vitamin K can counteract the effects. However, it is important to know that ingestion has occurred. Sometimes, dogs or cats can gain ‘trickle' access and one may not be aware of it. However, most brands of poison are conspicuously dyed, which may colour the faeces (see image). Also, dark brown or black faeces may betray a slow haemorrhage into the bowel.
If a dog or cat has anaemia (demonstrable by pale membranes and by blood test) and might have access to rat poison, precautionary treatment with Vitamin K is advised.
Homeopathic treatment may also help counteract the toxic effects and may be useful in helping to save a life in a serious case.
Whenever poison is laid down, there is risk of accidental access by non-target species. Special containers are available and expert advice should be sought on how to avoid access by children and pets.