Risks for Pets
Pets and Rodenticides
Dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals are all too commonly exposed to toxic rodenticide baits. Sadly, these chemicals make the top-ten list of toxins responsible for pet poisonings, according to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The US EPA states that more than 100 pet deaths are reported each year from exposure to rodenticides.
Rodenticides are not only poisonous for rodents. Rodent baits can be lethal to any mammal or bird that ingests them or feeds on a poisoned rodent. That’s why controlling rodents with rodenticide baits puts pets at high risk of becoming ill or dying – either through direct ingestion (primary poisoning) or by eating poisoned rodents (secondary poisoning).
Safeguarding your home from rats, mice, and other rodents doesn’t require the use of potentially hazardous poisons. Safe, effective, and affordable solutions can help you rodent-proof your home while ensuring the health of your pets.
Rodenticides can often be lethal to dogs, cats, and other domestic animals. Depending on the product’s active ingredient, some baits can pose a higher risk to specific animals.
Rodenticides vary by type and potency and are grouped by how they work. For example, anticoagulant rodenticides work by preventing the blood from clotting. Therefore, poisoned mammals (or birds) die by bleeding out. Find out more on different types of rodenticides from the National Pesticide Information Center’s (NPIC) fact sheet. It’s important to understand the risks of different rodent baits since some may be more lethal to your pet than others.
There is a further distinction between the first type of anticoagulants developed and newer types. First-generation anticoagulants are metabolized more rapidly and are less acutely toxic than the newer, more potent second-generation rodenticides (SGARs), which are largely responsible for pet poisonings. Treating pets poisoned by SGARs is also more difficult and expensive, and pets must be under veterinary supervision for a longer period of time. So, while all baits pose a high risk of poisoning, SGARs are more toxic and have a higher risk of poisoning for pets and other non-target animals that feed on poisoned rodents.
Your Pet’s Exposure to Rat and Mouse Poison
Don’t underestimate your dog or cat’s ability to access rodenticides baits that are placed in seemingly secure, out-of-reach locations. The misconception that your pet will not be able to find or chew through a secure bait station results in thousands of pets being poisoned every year, averaging over 100 pet deaths annually. Additionally, many rat and mouse poisons are formulated with food grade ingredients meant to attract rodents that can also end up attracting curious dogs, cats, or other animals.
For pets that spend unsupervised time outdoors, it’s important to be aware that they can be exposed to rodenticides if neighbors or others use rodenticides to control rodents. Additionally, dogs and cats are sometimes intentionally fed rat poisons by people intent on harming a particular animal.
If you suspect that your pet has ingested a rodenticide, the ASPCA recommends first calling your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at (888) 426-4435.
ASPCA also recommends the following:
- If you see or know that your pet has ingested rodenticide or has consumed a poisoned animal, take your pet to local veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic.
- If your pet is exhibiting severe symptoms such as seizures, unconsciousness, or breathing difficulties, call ahead and take your pet immediately to an emergency veterinary clinic.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center may apply a $65 consultation fee to your credit card.
- Have the rodenticide package or name of the active ingredient handy to relay this information to the vet or animal poison control operator.
- If you suspect that a pet has swallowed a rodenticide, check their mouth for bright colors as these poisons sometimes have indicator dyes that leave a stain around the mouth or in stool or vomit.
- Also pay attention to changes such as loss of appetite or lethargy.
University of Illinois’s College of Veterinary Medicine identifies a range of symptoms that can appear in your pet. These symptoms may include lethargy, depression, weakness, trembling, drunken walk (ataxia), abnormal eye movement, paralysis, increased water intake, increased urination, bloody urine or a bloody nose, and gastrointestinal problems.
The best way to prevent an accidental rodenticide poisoning is to eliminate the risk of exposure in the first place. Many safe and cost-effective solutions can ensure that your home remains rodent-free and that your pets stay safe. For a detailed overview on traps and solutions, visit our Rodent Control page.
Tips on Protecting Pets that Spend Time Outdoors
- Ask immediate neighbors if they use rodenticides and offer alternative solutions. If they do use rodenticides, ask them if they use tamper-resistant bait boxes. However, tamper-resistant bait boxes will not protect pets from secondary poisoning.
- For dogs, make sure your fencing does not have gaps that make bait stations in neighboring yards accessible.
- For cats, consider installing a fence that is specific for cats to decrease odds of your cat consuming poisoned rodents from neighboring yards. However, be aware that a poisoned rodent may enter your yard and poses a threat to any animal that consumes it.
- If you have had issues with neighbors complaining about your pet, stay alert and try to maintain an open dialogue. If you observe strange behavior from someone or find suspicious food products, contact your vet or ASPCA at (888) 426-4435. Also preserve a sample of any suspicious-looking material for authorities to test.
- The Animal Control Poison Center: Animal-specific poison center serving North America and is a member of the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
- The National Pesticide Information Center: An organization that provides information on pesticides.
- EPA Intent to Cancel Registration of Certain Rodenticide Products: Notice Document from EPA on cancellation of certain rodenticide products.
- The Humane Society of the United States: The nation’s largest animal protection organization.
- The American Humane Association: An organization committed to protecting the welfare of children and animals.
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign, College of Veterinary Medicine: An educational institution committed to improving human, animal, and environmental health.
* The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center may apply a $65 consultation fee to your credit card.