Poison Alert: Beware of Bromethalin

May 30, 2019

a puppy getting an exam

There are many different types of rat bait out there that you or someone you know may be using in their home, but there is only one that affects the central nervous system in your pets—bromethalin. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center wants to give you all that you need to know about this dangerous pet toxin and common household poison. 

What Is Bromethalin?

Bromethalin is a neurotoxin that can be very harmful to your pet. Rat poisons often contain peanut butter and/or sugar to attract rodents, and that means cats, and especially dogs, love to get into them.  If there is a whole bag available or just a few blocks or pellets of bait out, there is a good chance your dog or cat will sniff it out.  

APCC recommends keeping rat bait locked up and out of reach of your pets, and if you do have rat bait out, keep it in an area inaccessible to your pet. You may want to periodically check to make sure all bait blocks you have placed out are accounted for. Even if it says on the container that the bait is pet-safe or “dog resistant,” dogs can often still get into them. So taking proper precautions is important when dealing with this poison. 

How Does Bromethalin Affect My Pets?

Bromethalin affects the coating around nerves in the body which leads to neurologic signs. Smaller ingestions of bromethalin may just lead to mild stomach upset. Mid-range ingestions can cause your pet to become unsteady on their feet, mildly depressed and even have mild muscle tremors.  In these situations, your pet may have these signs permanently, or they may improve over weeks to months.  

Large ingestions are life threatening and can include all of those symptoms plus severe muscle tremors, seizures, the inability to walk and even death.  It can take anywhere from one to five days to see signs.  Normally, the quicker the onset of the signs, the greater the severity of the signs. So taking fast action is critical. 

What Do I Do If My Pet Ingests Bromethalin?  

Unfortunately, our best defense against bromethalin is decontamination—there is no specific antidote.  Therefore, if signs have already developed in your pet, it is usually too late to treat them. Often times, inducing vomit is a necessary part of treatment.  

If your pet gets into bromethalin, contact your vet or APCC immediately to determine if it is an exposure that requires inducing vomit, and to gather further instruction from a veterinary professional. There are a lot of suggestions for how to induce vomit in pets online, and these recommendations may not be correct or safe for your pet, so be sure to consult your veterinarian or APCC first.  

Depending on how much bait your pet got into, further care may be required at a veterinary hospital.  Your pet may need care at a veterinarian for one to two days, depending on how much bait they ingested. Cats, ferrets and potbellied pigs are much more sensitive to bromethalin than dogs, and puppies are much more sensitive to bromethalin than adult dogs. Rabbits and guinea pigs are not nearly as sensitive as cats or dogs.

Because there is no treatment for signs once they have started, if your pet gets into rat poison, contact your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 right away for assistance.