Pet Poison Alert!

by Jim Marks

According to an article in DVM NEWSMAGAZINE, bromethalin has become the new toxin of choice for rodenticide manufacturers. But bromethalin has no known antidote, unlike the anticoagulants previously used. And bromethalin can only be detected post-mortem.

The magazine advises pet owners to be extra careful when traveling with their pets. Hotels and motels may be using bromethalin rodenticides in places pets could get into. A Samoyed in New York for the recent Westminster Kennel Club dog show might have died because it ate the rodenticide at its motel.

At home, pet owners should be careful when buying or using a rodenticide to be sure it doesn’t have bromethalin, and/or is totally inaccessible to their pets. Baits should be placed where rats and mice can get at them, but dogs and cats can’t. Look for places in basements and garages that are too high or too small for pets to get into.

Anticoagulants have long been the active ingredient in rodenticides. But in 2008, the EPA issued a regulation prohibiting the use of second-generation anticoagulants in residential settings. That prompted many manufacturers to switch to bromethalin, a neurotoxin. (The makers of d-Con brand rodenticide have refused to comply with the EPA regulations. They continue to use an anticoagulant as their active ingredient.)

Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, is a diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology and assistant director of veterinary services for Pet Poison Hotline (800 213-6680).  She believes the EPA rule may make rodenticide poisoning more difficult to diagnose and treat. “We feel like it was well-intentioned, but we’ve ended up with some really frightening consequences,” Brutlag says. “With anitcoagulants at least we know there is a very effective test and there’s an antidote.”  Vitamin K is the recognized, established antidote to poisoning with anticoagulant rodenticides.

With anticoagulant poisoning, veterinarians had three to five days before bleeding began – maybe a week before death. Bromethalin poisoning can be fatal in just a couple of days.

Now that the bromethalin products are in the marketplace, Brutlag concedes it could be difficult to return to pre-regulation standards. She thinks the best solution may be to simply educate pet owners and veterinarians, so she travels the country giving lectures on the dangers of rodenticide poisoning.

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