Rodenticide and Your Pet: What You Need to Know

November 8, 2023

a black dog laying on a tile floor

Every year, our experts at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) compile a list of the top 10 pet toxins, and without fail, rodenticides always make the list. The ingredients in rodenticide that make it so appealing to rodents unfortunately create the same effect on cats and dogs, making it appealing for curious pets when snooping around the house. Rodenticide, often used during the winter months, is incredibly toxic in all forms and can cause bleeding, kidney failure, seizures or even death when ingested by pets. So, as the weather continues to cool off, the APCC wants to make sure you have all the information you need regarding your pet’s safety around rodenticide.

Types of Rodenticides

  • Anticoagulants: If ingested, this type of rodenticide causes internal bleeding within three to five days. If your pet is exposed to an anticoagulant rodenticide, immediate veterinary care is critical. They should be taken to a veterinary clinic within 60 to 72 hours following ingestion.
  • Bromethalin: When ingested, this commonly found rodenticide can lead to swelling within the nerves in the brain. This leads to signs of weakness, tremors and seizures depending on the amount ingested. If this bait is ingested by your pet, it is important to find out exactly how much was ingested (if possible) and to take your pet to your veterinarian immediately.
  • Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3): As the third most common rodenticide, these baits are very highly concentrated, so it does not take much to lead to toxicity. This rodenticide will cause damage to the kidneys and calcification of the soft tissues (blood vessels, heart, kidneys, etc.). If your pet ingests this form of rodenticide, they will need to be taken to the veterinarian immediately for treatment.
  • Corn gluten: This type of rodent bait is usually found in disc and pellet forms. Because these discs and pellets look very similar to more toxic baits, do not assume that all brown discs or pellets are corn gluten. This rodenticide causes dehydration and obstruction of the GI tract in rats and mice. In dogs and cats, this usually only causes GI upset, however if a large amount is ingested, the pet can become dehydrated or develop a blockage of the intestine.
  • Zinc phosphide: This type of rodenticide is usually used on gophers and moles. When ingested, the zinc phosphide is converted to phosphine gas in the stomach. This gas is very irritating to the GI tract, so vomiting is usually the first sign. This can be followed by nervous system signs such as ataxia (stumbling and balance issues), tremors and seizures. The intact zinc phosphide that is absorbed can also lead to damage to the liver and to the kidneys. In addition to being harmful to your pets, phosphine gas is also toxic to humans, so if a person is exposed to the pet’s vomitus, a human poison control center should be contacted as well.

What to Do if Your Pet Gets into Rodenticide

  1. Keep the original packaging or receipt so that the type of rodenticide can be identified. Because many of the different rodenticides look exactly alike, the appearance of the rodenticide cannot be used to identify it. If you no longer have the packaging information and do not know what type of rodenticide was ingested, don’t panic, treatment is still possible.
  2. Call APCC at (888) 426-4435 or take your pet and the packaging information to your veterinarian immediately. 
  3. When placing any sort of poison, we recommend writing down how much rodenticide you placed and where you placed it. Make sure to check these areas regularly to confirm that the bait hasn’t been moved. When placing bait, ALWAYS consider if your pet will ever have access to the location and keep them away from affected areas. You should also keep any poisons securely locked away from paws’ reach. 

If you suspect your pet may have ingested any form of rodenticide, please contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately.