Spring Cleaning for Pet Poisons

The Details

Toxicology Experts Recommend Checking for Deadly Rodenticides This Season


When Geoff Pender and his family decided to get away for a holiday on the lake, they took their curious cockapoo named Soho with them. While relaxing in their rental cabin, they noticed that Soho had pulled something out from inside a crack where the stone fireplace had pulled away from the wall. It turned out to be a deadly rat poison called Vacor that was taken off the market in the U.S. in the late 1970s.

“When you rent a vacation property, especially one that is advertised as pet friendly, you don’t expect to have your dog poisoned by something hidden in the house,” said Dr. Renee Schmid, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline. “While Soho’s poisoning occurred away from home, we would like to remind all pet lovers to check their surroundings for dangerous materials regardless of where they are at.”

“It was certainly a very dramatic situation,” Pender explained. “We were sitting around the cabin when my son noticed that Soho had gotten into something tucked behind the fireplace. She ripped open the packaging and powder went everywhere. After we realized that it was rat poison, we knew we needed to urgently get this dog to the hospital. We also called Pet Poison Helpline, who gave us initial guidance and started collaborating with the veterinarian on a treatment plan.”

Vacor is a rodenticide with a very narrow margin of safety.  Pets can develop symptoms including stomach upset, heart rate and rhythm abnormalities, low blood pressure, and neurologic signs including significant depression, body tremors and seizures.  Damage to the pancreas may also occur.

“We don’t know how much she ingested,” Pender added, “but whatever it was, even the smallest amount can cause serious problems or be fatal. What if it had been a small child that had found the package?”

The closest emergency hospital to the cabin was a 45-minute drive away in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. When Pender arrived, the medical team at Kingston Regional Pet Hospital induced vomiting and administered medical grade activated charcoal. The toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline advised the treating medical team to provide IV fluid therapy to help with cardiovascular perfusion, monitor Soho’s heart rate, rhythm, and blood pressure closely, watch for any neurologic signs to develop, and monitor blood glucose levels. It was also recommended to continue monitoring Soho’s blood glucose levels for one week after the ingestion due to the potential for pancreatic damage. With the diligent care provided by the veterinary staff at Kingston Regional Pet Hospital, Soho did well and was able to return home the following day after the initial concerns with poisoning had resolved. Once back in Ottawa, a mobile veterinarian fitted her for a blood glucose monitor.

The experience left the family shaken, but better educated about what to do the next time they rent a property.

“It was very traumatizing on the dog, and very traumatizing on us,” Pender said. “We would strongly recommend that people with pets inspect everything in reach very carefully. Really scope it out and get in there. Don’t rely on your pet to find something.”

Soho was successfully treated and released, but has developed an issue with her liver. The family is monitoring her to see if her liver issues are related to the rodenticide ingestion.

“We would also like to strongly encourage all property owners, particularly those who rent or share their homes with other guests, to thoroughly inspect your property, both inside and out,” Pender suggested. “Not only check for harmful poisons that can be accessed by pets, but any other potentially dangerous situations. You know your property better than a visitor.”

“Rodenticide poisoning is unfortunately a very common occurrence,” Dr. Schmid added. “In fact, rodenticides appear twice on our list of Top 10 Toxins in 2023.” Signs of rodenticide poisoning vary depending on the product’s active ingredient but may include vomiting, anorexia, lethargy, incoordination, tremors, seizures, paralysis, increased drinking and urination, kidney failure, bruising, new swellings due to bleeding, and difficulty breathing.

One particular hospital, Animal Emergency and Specialty Center of Northwest Arkansas, has seen a number of recent rodenticide pet poisoning cases, including one situation where twin Maltese puppies named Love and Joy were rushed to the hospital after coming in contact with a bait station. In another case, a mixed breed dog named Evie was transferred from a local clinic to the emergency hospital after ingesting 20-30 zinc phosphide mole and gopher poison pellets.

“When it comes time to do your spring cleaning, keep your pets and children in mind,“ said Dr. Schmid. “Make sure dangerous items like rodenticides, cleaning supplies and other toxic materials are safely stored and kept out of accidental reach. If your pet does come into contact with something you fear is dangerous, call your veterinarian immediately or contact Pet Poison Helpline. We’re here to help you and your veterinarian care for your pet with the best outcome possible.”

Pet Poison Helpline created Toxin Tails to educate the veterinary community and pet lovers on the many types of poisoning dangers facing pets, both in and out of the home. All the pets highlighted in Toxin Tails have been successfully treated for the poisoning and fully recovered.


About Pet Poison Helpline

Pet Poison Helpline®, your trusted source for toxicology and pet health advice in times of potential emergency, is available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. We are an independent, nationally recognized animal poison control center triple licensed by the Boards of Veterinary Medicine, Medicine and Pharmacy providing unmatched professional leadership and expertise. Our veterinarians and board-certified toxicologists provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline’s fee of $85 per incident includes follow-up consultations for the duration of the case. Based in Minneapolis, Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at www.petpoisonhelpline.com.