Potentially dangerous to all mammals and birds, anticoagulant rodenticides are the most frequent cause of poisoning in pets.
Mabel presented at our surgery having coughed up a black piece of plastic of unknown origin. She was still coughing badly when she was examined at the surgery. As she was very bright and bouncy and didn't have a temperature, she was given some cough medicine and sent home for observation.
She initially responded well to treatment, but the following day, a Sunday morning, her cough worsened again. She was admitted at the surgery and blood tests and chest x-rays were taken. An endoscopic examination was performed and ruled out the presence of inhaled foreign material.
Samples were taken to investigate the cause of the cough.
She responded to treatment again, and was send home that evening.
The next morning her owner found her collapsed in her bed. The site where her intravenous catheter was laid the day before had started bleeding and her jaw was swollen.
She was rushed back to the surgery.
Her gums were white, she was unable to lift her head.
Acute blood loss was diagnosed and thanks to Gail and Malcolm and their greyhound Milligan, Mabel received a life saving blood transfusion within 30 minutes of her arrival at the surgery.
Mabel showed all the signs of having ingested rat poison.
When this was mentionned to the owners, they remembered that, as they lived in a rural area, poison had been put down, but access to it was very unlikely as it was kept in black plastic boxes hidden away from nosy little dogs.
However, they remembered that Mable had been passing blue-ish coloured motions intermittently for the past 6 weeks, and there was this coughed up piece of black plastic....
What most pet owners are unaware of, is that modern rodenticides (rat poisons) work by slowly building up in the body, until they reach a critical level and interfere with the animal's ability to form blood clots.
Like in Mabel's case, dogs with chronic ingestion of small amounts of rat poison often show no symptoms, until this critical level is reached.
Mabel's cough was caused by a small bleed into her lungs. Because blood is a good medium for bacteria to grow on, she developed broncho-pneumonia, which caused her clinical signs to deteriorate.
When she was rushed into the surgery that morning, she had lost her ability to form blood clots, and was haemorrhaging into the tissue under her skin (swollen jaw) and from the injection site on her leg.
Had she not received the blood transfusion as promptly as she did thanks to Gail, Malcolm and - not to forget - most importantly - greyhound Milligan, she would have died within the hour.
But thanks to all the help, she is doing well.
She will be taking the antidote for rat poisoning, Vitamin K, for at least 6 to 8 weeks, possibly longer, and will have to endure a few more blood tests to monitor her progress.