We’re approaching a time of year where we see a lot of animals with potentially fatal toxicities. Their natural curiosity makes them vulnerable to substances about the home that are harmful to their health. Most pet owners go to great lengths to care for their pets, but there are several hazards which are commonly overlooked, yet easily avoided.
Most rat baits available to the public contain anticoagulants. These work by preventing clotting of the blood. Symptoms often do not appear until several days after eating as it takes some time for the clotting factors to be depleted. Unfortunately, rat bait is often ingested without the owner’s knowledge and an untreated animal can potentially die from blood loss.
Signs of rat bait poisoning are variable and are caused by internal bleeding. These include:
- Lethargy, depression
- Loss of appetite
- Pale gums
- Coughing or difficulty breathing
- Blood in stool or urine
- Bleeding from nose or gums
Most contain a toxin called metaldehyde that affects the central nervous system causing seizures. Initial signs of poisoning occur in as little as half an hour after ingestion. Death can occur within a couple of hours.
Signs of poisoning are usually progressive:
- Anxious behaviour
- Mild twitching
- Uncoordinated walk
- Salivating or excessive drooling
Most antifreeze formulations contain ethylene glycol. The sweet smell attracts animals, but it is deadly if ingested even in small amounts. As little as half a teaspoon can kill an average-sized cat. Unless you catch it early, the damage to pets’ kidneys is irreversible. Signs can be seen from 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion.
Signs of antifreeze poisoning include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mild to severe depression
- Wobbly, uncoordinated or drunken-appearing gait (ataxia) or movement and knuckling of the feet
- Twitching muscles
- Short, rapid movements of the eyeball
- Head tremors
- Decreased or no appetite
- Ulcers in mouth
- Little or no urination
Think about your pets as you would your children when considering the dangers of using these products. There may be alternatives that pose less of a risk. Keep all products stored safely, well out of reach of your pets and any spills or leaks cleaned up immediately.
If you suspect your pet has been exposed to any of these poisons it is important to contact your vet clinic immediately. If you know the brand, inform the vet and if possible, bring the container with you. As with all emergencies, the sooner they get to the vet the better the chance of a positive outcome.