Adverse effects in pets are causing people, especially veterinarians, to reconsider the 2008 EPA regulation, which allows for the well-intentioned use of a new rodenticide ingredient, bromethalin.
Most people are aware of the danger of rat poisons to dogs and cats, but there are new products on the market that are of even greater concern. The traditional poisons used to control rodents are anticoagulents; they prevent blood from clotting. While dangerous, pets can be treated successfully in most cases. In 2008 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed regulation prohibiting the use of these agents in residential settings. The goal of this was to protect pets and children from accidental intoxication.
In 2011, manufacturers started changing from the anticoagulents to a neurotoxin called bromethalin to be compliant with the regulation. This chemical is much more dangerous than the anticoagulents because there is no test, treatment, or antidote veterinarians can use. The drug causes swelling of the brain within 2 – 24 hours of ingestion.
Symptoms include abnormal behavior, confusion, loss of balance and coordination, increased sensitivity to touch, seizures, and death. Once symptoms are present, the only thing that can be done is to provide supportive care.
There are other newer rodenticides that contain a chemical called zinc phosphide.These are toxic to pets that consume them, but are especially dangerous to people if the pet vomits. The stomach fluids convert the chemical to toxic phosphine gas, which causes severe respiratory distress in anyone who breathes it.
What can you do? Do not use these products around your home. If you suspect that your pet may have ingested rat poison, get the container it came in so that the toxic agent can be identified, then call the veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center ((888) 426-4435) as soon as possible.
If the pet vomits and it is possible that it ingested zinc phosphide, move to a well-ventilated area immediately. In any case of rodenticide ingestion, inducing vomiting as soon as possible is a vital portion of treatment, but please call the veterinarian for instructions if you cannot get in immediately.
Julie Keene, MS, DVM, PhD