Last night an old friend contacted me online because her new puppy had just eaten some rat poison. She was beside herself because she didn’t know what to do to help her dog. It was 1 a.m. and the veterninary emergency clinic wanted $350.00 to treat the puppy. My friend didn’t have $350.00 lying around for an emergency vet visit. In this economy, how many of us do? The clinic told her to induce vomiting, so she dosed the puppy with peroxide and the little dog vomited up the poison pellets. But what next?
I realized just how little I knew about poisoning in dogs. I have lists of substances that are poisonous to canines, but I had no clue what to do to help the dog, and I certainly didn’t have $350. to loan her. So I did some fast research:
The prognosis for a dog who has eaten rat poison depends on the amount of rat poison that’s been ingested, along with the amount of time that’s elapsed since the bait was eaten.
My friend’s puppy is a Chihuahua, and the odds are against such a tiny breed. Fortunately, the puppy had been caught in the act and my friend had reacted immediately. Within fifteen minutes she had induced vomiting. I gave her contact info for a local humane group that I knew had emergency funds available to help pet owners in need. But that help was still hours away. In the meantime, I found that there were definite steps that a dog owner can take in such an emergency.
1. Induce vomiting within two hours (ideally at a veterinary hospital, but you can do it at home with several teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide).
2. If later than two hours, but less than 12 hours, give activated charcoal to help prevent absorption of the rat poison. (activated charcoal is NOT the charcoal you use for the grill. Activated charcoal can be purchased at your local pharmacy.)
3. Start treatment with vitamin K, 5 mg per kg of body weight, twice a day for three weeks or longer. (to determine kg, Divide the dog’s weight in lbs by 2.2 =kg. Or use the online converter. So a 20 lb dog weighs 9.07 kg.)
4. Get to a vet. Rat poison is a rodenticide containing the toxin warfarin, which causes symptoms like hemorrhaging and internal bleeding in dogs. A vet can check clotting times and give a plasma transfusion which contains clotting factors in addition to starting on vitamin K.
5. In some critical cases, intravenous fluids and other supportive care including blood transfusions may be required.
Rat poison with or without Warfarin is among the most deadly substances that a dog or other pet can ingest, but if you act quickly, it doesn’t have to be fatal.
My friend’s quick actions helped save her dog’s life. In the morning, I hooked her up with a local humane group to help with emergency funding and she followed up with a vet, who says the pup is going to be OK.
For more information on poisoning, including symptoms and lists of potentially dangerous substances, see the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center website. ; or call (888) 426-4435.