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Fur-Tunately: Stories of Animal Survival | Episode XI: Robbie’s Rodenticide Rules

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My name is Robbie. I may only be two years old, but I’m a Border Collie, the world’s smartest dog breed, and oh boy, do I have knowledge to share with my fellow doggie friends! You see, I recently ate rodenticide and survived! So, I’m sharing my rodenticide rules to help other dogs find this rare, tasty snack and live to tell the tale.

Rule One: Master the “sneak.” 

Often, the yummiest snacks are kept in the garage or shed. When you smell something sweet that your humans don’t offer you, you must always wait until they are not looking. Then you must quietly find the source of the smell. Then eat it.  

Rule Two: Be strong. 

When mystery snacks make you feel ruff the next few days, don’t let your humans know. Fight through it because they love you and need you.   

Rule Three: Know When to Let Your Humans Know 

Okay, okay, when you feel so sick and you can’t hide it anymore, let your humans know. I was really tired and could barely muster the energy to eat (I know, right?!?) Plus, it felt hard to breathe and I was even throwing up bloody, foamy stuff! It was not as good coming up as it was going down, let me tell you! I did start to feel better for a few hours, but then I felt way worse. So, I did the only thing a dog could do. I let my humans know it was time to go to the V-E-T.  

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Rule Four: Just let the V-E-T help. 

I know, some of you don’t like to go to the V-E-T. But I’m telling ya, if you want to eat rodenticide, you’re going to have to go to the V-E-T after. Trust me. Unfortunately, though, they will rat you out! Pun intended. My humans soon realized what I ate last weekend – they called my snack “anticoagulant rodenticide blocks.” (Monkey-brained show-offs…) The emergency V-E-T in Wisconsin did x-rays and said I had “pleural effusion” – a fancy human way of saying there’s a lot of fluid in my chest. It’s blood. The fluid is blood.  The V-E-T began treating me for “poisoning”, but then decided I needed to go to a different emergency V-E-T so they sent me to Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota’s ER for a transfusion.   

Rule Five: Understand the Risks.  

At this point, it’s time to understand the potential dangers of eating rodenticide. It may smell yummy, but it seriously messes with your health! Anticoagulant rodenticide (the V-E-T also used more fancy words like brodifacoum, bromadiolone, diphacinone, warfarin) is a type of poison meant to kill those warm, furry squeaker toys – err – I mean, mice and rats. This poison works by making them unable to clot their blood which leads to lots of blood in their chests, too – to the point that they die. But guess what, it doesn’t only hurt mice and rats. When sneaky dogs like me or curious cats eat this type of rodenticide, we experience the same life-threatening bleeding inside! Believe me, I’d know!  

Anyway, the V-E-T says it takes 36-48 hours after eating for bad stuff to show up on bloodwork and then 3-5 days for symptoms to appear. That explains why it took a few days for me to feel sick.   

Rule Six: Only eat the rodenticide with an antidote.  

But there’s good news! If you want to eat rodenticide, make sure your humans use anticoagulant rodenticide. Why? It’s the only type of rat bait that has a specific antidote: K1 – which is given every day for several weeks after eating the poison. However; if a pet is already sick from bleeding (like I was,) a blood transfusion is often needed.   

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Rule Seven: Accept the consequences. 

Doggos, I was bleeding in my lungs and chest cavity when I got to AERC’s ER. Their V-E-T said my bloodwork indicated that my blood clotting times were really “prolonged,” meaning, I was unable to clot my blood normally which led to the bleeding inside me. More bloodwork also showed that my red blood cell count was low due to the bleeding into my chest cavity.  

So, the new V-E-T team at AERC did a plasma transfusion. Plasma has clotting factors – which I required to stop more bleeding inside me. I also received two autotransfusions – that’s a type of blood transfusion in which I’m given my own blood! How neat is that!? The blood that had pooled in my chest was removed and given back to me via an IV line. By doing this, the V-E-T team was able to increase my red blood cell count without having to do a blood transfusion with pre-collected (bagged) blood. Plus, by removing the blood from my chest, the V-E-T team was able to help me breathe better – as the large amount of blood was squishing my lungs – leading to the labored breathing. Can we just say yuck? After each transfusion, the V-E-T rechecked my bloodwork and each time, they said my blood clotting times and red blood cell count were looking better! Rock star! 

While in the hospital, I also received oxygen therapy in a special kennel – which is pretty neat! It’s a specially-designed kennel that provides oxygen for patients like me to breathe without requiring terrifying tubes in the snoot or masks on my face. I also received medication to help increase my blood clotting factors to lower the risk of more internal bleeding. Whew! 

 Step Seven: Relax 

After several days of hospitalization with lots of hard work from AERC’s Emergency & Critical Care Team, and a lot of positive thoughts from my humans, I was able to go home! Thanks to both V-E-T teams, I made a full recovery! You can too if you follow my rulebook!     

Good luck, my pawsome pals! 

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There you have it, those are Robbie’s Rodenticide Rules! Of course, we absolutely DO NOT recommend rodenticides for snacks, but Robbie’s story serves as an important reminder as to why rodenticides can be life-threatening when eaten by dogs or cats. While anticoagulant types (like the kind Robbie ate) are no longer manufactured, they are still found on many properties, both indoors and outdoors. 

Other types of rodenticides work by causing neurologic dysfunction or renal failure, which are more difficult to treat as there is no specific antidote. Oftentimes, pet parents aren’t aware that their pet has eaten these products until the pet shows signs of illness. If you have rodenticides on your property, please remember that even if you think they are placed in areas that are not accessible by pets, pets are still at risk of potential exposure. Always securely store these products safely out of your pet’s reach and monitor your pets closely in areas like sheds or garages where these products may be used. To prevent the suffering rodenticides cause to rodents, as well as the potential exposure to pets and wildlife, we recommend using more humane methods to rid your property of rodents. Consider alternatives or consult with a local pest control company for their recommendations.  

If you have any questions about rodenticide products in regards to your pet’s safety, contact ASPCA Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435, your family veterinarian, or your local animal emergency hospital. You should also contact these resources if you witness your pet or strongly suspect your pet of eating any type of rodenticide. Learn more about rodenticide toxicity in pets here. 

Our “Fur-tunately: Stories of Animal Survival” series features real pets treated by our team at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota. All images and information have been shared with the owner’s permission.   

 Case content provided by Stephanie Krco, DVM.  

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