I get this question a lot. This time, Alicia writes: My 13 week old puppy, Tank, ingested rat poison at my in-laws’ house last week. My mother-in-law did not tell me he did because she wasn’t sure. A few days ago he started getting really sick so I took him to the veterinarian and that is where we found out it was rat poison. He almost died. After a blood transfusion and IV fluids he is doing better and was sent home. We were instructed to give a Vitamin K1 pill twice daily for 7 days. The veterinarian didn’t say anything about taking him back for further testing. Is this something that should be done?
Veterinarians treat rodenticide poisoning cases based on medical recommendations. Sometimes, however, treatment protocols are modified based on the specific history in a given case, as well as the practitioner’s experiences. Of course, sometimes monetary concerns enter in, too.
My recommendation for rat poison victims routinely starts with emesis (inducing vomiting), followed by an injection of Vitamin K1, then a minimum of thirty days of oral Vitamin K1 therapy. Blood transfusion is often necessary in those patients already symptomatic and unable to clot on their own even with appropriate therapy.
Long-term therapy is indicated because modern anticoagulant rodenticides’ effect may persist in the body for a month or even longer.
Other approaches are also valid, however. For example, a blood test can be taken to determine whether clotting mechanisms have been affected. If positive, therapy is begun. If negative, a retest may be performed later (bleeding doesn’t begin immediately upon ingestion).
If symptomatic therapy is chosen over testing, a doctor may elect to treat for less than thirty days if he believes strongly there was no ingestion at all. Also, older (less-modern) rat poison ingredients don’t have the duration of effect that newer baits have, and thus require only a shorter term of treatment. However, keep in mind that much less of the older ingredient is sold compared to the newer, more effective (and much more dangerous) ingredients.
So, if you are faced with the situation Alicia is in, you have three options:
- Go with the treatment your local doctor has recommended, probably based on his assessment of your pet’s individual case and his own experience.
- Ask for an additional two weeks of Vitamin K.
- Ask for blood tests to be performed soon after the 14 days of medicine is finished.
See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.