- Rat poison is one of the most common household poisons, accounting for a high percentage of accidental poisonings in dogs. Commercially available rat poisons contain a number of chemicals including warfarin, a powerful anticoagulant that is toxic to both rodents and dogs. Once the animal ingests the poison, the chemicals begin to attack the blood system and prevent clotting. Small tears develop in the vessels and capillaries and the animal dies of internal bleeding.
- Symptoms of accidental rat poisoning are not immediately visible and often do not show up for several days after ingestion. Dogs that have consumed rat poison will appear weak and will have difficulty standing and walking. The dog may bleed from the nose and gums, as well as have bloody vomit or diarrhea. The abdomen will fill with blood and become distended, and the dog may have difficulty breathing due to blood in the lungs.
- The majority of rat poisons are made into small, green pellets that rats will consume and carry back to their nests. The pellets are often sweetened to make them more palatable to rats, which also makes them appealing to other animals. Dogs have poor color vision and will often mistake the pellets for their normal food, consuming them without hesitation.
- The simplest solution to accidental poisoning is to keep the poison away from the dog. Place the pellets on a high shelf or inside a cabinet inaccessible to pets. Do not let the dog eat any rats it catches to prevent your dog from a secondary poisoning by ingesting a rat that has eaten the pellets. If it is necessary to spread the rat poison over a large area such as a barn or garden, keep the dog behind a fence or in a kennel to prevent accidental ingestion.
- Rat poison can kill dogs of any breed and size. Smaller dogs are at a higher risk for death as they need to consume a much smaller amount to become ill than larger dogs. Any dog suspected of ingesting rat poison should be taken to the vet immediately, where a course of activated charcoal and vitamin K will be administered to counteract the effects of the poison.