Poisoned! Yes or No?
By Eleanor Blazer
Has your dog been poisoned?
Some friends are building a house and riding facility, and invited us to see the progress.
"Bring Tex and Tina; they can play with Sesi and Kaila. The property is all fenced." The dogs are friends and have a great time playing.
While we walked the property, the dogs romped.
Thirty hours later Kaila was fighting for her life.
Kaila had been poisoned.
The veterinarian thought it was rat poison.
The active ingredient in many rat poison products causes internal bleeding. These products are called "anticoagulant rodenticides".
Samples of active ingredients listed on the label are brodificoum, bromadiolone, diphacinone and warfarin.
The poison prevents vitamin K from being produced within the body, and vitamin K is needed to form blood clots. Once the vitamin K reserves within the body are depleted, the poison prevents more from being produced and the victim begins to bleed internally.
It can take several days, and in some instances weeks for vitamin K reserves to be depleted. For this reason symptoms will not appear immediately after the poison is consumed.
The normal symptoms may be pale gums, lethargic demeanor and the victim may be cold. There may also be blood in the stool, urine, vomit, and nose bleeds may occur.
Kaila did not present any of these symptoms. During the day after we saw Kaila, she had been normal - playing with Sesi and following her regular routine. But that evening she was violently sick and collapsed.
On the way to the emergency clinic her owners thought she had died; only a reaction to having her eye touched showed she still lived.
At first the attending veterinarian was not sure what was happening to Kaila. Luckily he ran a prothrombin time test.
The PT test showed a problem with the blood and its clotting ability. Kaila was put on life support IVs and vitamin K1. She stabilized and started a slow recovery.
Kaila's vet recommended all the dogs be started on oral vitamin K1. If the dogs had been exposed to an anticoagulant poison, the K1 supplement would replace the vitamin K being depleted while the poison was weakening and being expelled by the body.
There are two types of oral vitamin K available. Vitamin K1 is the one needed to combat poisoning by an anticoagulant. Vitamin K3 is a synthetic formula and will not work. You must have a prescription to get vitamin K1.
We called our veterinarian and explained what happened. He didn't have any oral vitamin K1 in stock. He placed an order and had it overnighted to us.
I asked our vet about having the dogs tested. He told me because of the delay in the depletion of vitamin K a test today could come back normal. But a test in a day or even a week could come back showing a positive result for poisoning. It was best to start the vitamin K1 treatment. It was relatively safe, with few side affects reported.
Once the vitamin K1 is started the PT test can not be conducted, as it would not be accurate with the oral K supplement in the body. When we finish the three-week treatment we would wait 48 hours and then do the PT test.
If you think your pet has eaten rat poison, call your veterinarian immediately. The sooner you start treatment the better chance your pet will have of recovering. Once the dog starts presenting symptoms it is often to late. System failure and death will occur quickly. Do not take a "wait and see" attitude.
There are other ingredients used in rat poisons that do not respond to vitamin K treatment. Take the package or product information to the vet.
Rodents can be a problem around horses and livestock. Keeping the facility clean and storing feed properly can prevent the arrival of these unwanted guests.
If a rodent problem does occur the use of rodenticides is not recommended. The use of bait boxes is not a safe alternative. The rodent can carry out pieces of the poison and drop them where a pet (or child) can find them.
Cleaning up the area is safer. Eliminate any sources of feed. This includes bird feeders, outside pet food containers or stored feed bags. The use of live box traps or glue boards is an alternative to poisons.
Kaila continues to recover. Sesi, Tex and Tina are all taking their vitamin K1 twice a day.
The source of Kaila's poisoning is unknown.
Kaila, Tina, Sesi and Tex - Two weeks after the poisoning
Proper nutrition and management practices can prevent many problems associated with caring for horses. You can learn how to provide your horse with a better life-style by taking the online course "How to Feed for Maximum Performance" taught by Eleanor Richards Blazer.