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After hearing about hantavirus, plague, and other nasty things that rodents can carry along with them you may have decided that it is about time to do something about the little visitors who keep leaving their black rice grain sized calling cards in your cabinets.   After strategically placing several packs of D-Con where it will be absolutely impossible for anyone but mice to get to them,  you walk away feeling satisfied that you have protected your family and are on the way to eliminating the unwanted vermin.  When you get home you are greeted by the dog who is standing over the remnants of a D-Con box with it’s bright blue contents scattered artfully hither and yon around the kitchen.  He gives you the look that says “Boy, someone sure made a mess in here which I just discovered myself while walking through the kitchen minding my own business.  I wonder who it was? Perhaps it was that sneaky goldfish.”  He is wagging his tail and looks perfectly fine. He would look sick if he had eaten any of the rat poison wouldn’t he?

 

One of the reasons some dogs die from rat poison even if the ingestion is witnessed  is that not everyone understands how it works.  In the bad old days strychnine was the standby for vermin control.   Any rodent that consumes strychnine quickly goes into convulsions and dies.  One of the main problems with strychnine is that it has exactly the same effect on pets and kids.   From a rodent exterminator’s point of view it has the second drawback that  when Bob the mouse sees his buddy George take a bite of tempting bait  and then shortly lapse into seizures and expire, Bob and all his friends figure out that tasty morsel might be better off left alone. So exterminators came up with a different kind of poison.  The  ingredient in the most  common types of  rodenticides now works by blocking the action of vitamin K in the body.  Vitamin K is an essential link in the chain of reactions needed to allow blood to clot.  When the chain is broken the little micro tears that  happen continually in blood vessels can no longer be patched up and  internal bleeding eventually happens on a large scale.  It takes about two weeks for the vitamin K to be depleted to the point that life-threatening bleeding will occur, so when Bob the mouse finally keels over there will be absolutely no association with the bait for any of his mouse buddies.  That  also means that  your dog will  feel perfectly normal for the same period of time.

 

As you survey the mess in the kitchen it is difficult to know exactly how much of the rat poison has been ingested.  Don’t confuse your hope that the dog didn’t consume any with the  fact that you really don’t know  what has gone down the gullet.  As with any poisoning  the critical time to deal with it is immediately after it happens.  If we can get a foraging canine to vomit up the toxin before it is absorbed we can  prevent problems instead of having to treat them.  Although  there are ways to get a dog to vomit at home, for instance giving lots of table salt or a some hydrogen peroxide, these methods are not tremendously reliable, and the peroxide in particular can be extremely caustic to the stomach.  Your veterinarian will have a substance called apomorphine that will do the job quickly and reliably and will not require a WWF match between  the uncooperative dog and the salt-wielding owner.   Bring the rat poison label in with you.  Most rodenticides work as anticoagulants, but there are a few oddballs that use different ingredients.   We often get  copious amounts of rat poison (along with the occasional baby sock , superball, or wedding ring) produced from a dog whom the owners were absolutely positive did not eat any of the D-Con.  After the clean out the dog is given some activated charcoal to absorb any lingering poison and usually about three weeks worth of vitamin K supplementation to counteract anything that has already been absorbed.  With prompt treatment there is little chance for serious complications.  Waiting until the dog feels sick is much more likely to result in an unsalvageable situation.  Now about that sneaky goldfish…

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