It’s a common question and we’ve heard it time and again, sale both with professional bait placements but more often with over the counter baits that are placed by homeowners. Another question in a very similar vein is “What do I do if my dog (or cat) eats a poisoned mouse?” Lets take a look at the different ways our pets and other non-target animals come in contact with rodenticide.
The first and most common way in which a pet or other non-target animal will ingest pesticide is accidental bait consumption, or more accurately phrased, accidental bait placement. Despite flavoring agents (like Bitrex) that manufacturers put into rodent baits to repel non-target animals and children, occasionally one of our pets will come into contact with and consume rodent bait. A common approach to avoid this issue is with proper placement into areas that pets cannot access, like wall voids or areas of the structure that are off limits to pets. It’s a good first start but cannot be relied upon as a standalone measure. All too often a locked door is left open, allowing pets to move into an area they are not allowed into normally. Rodents have also been known to take bait from one place and move it to another, less secure location, an activity known as “translocation”.
A more secure bait placement would be to place the bait in a tamperproof bait station that is secured with a special key. It is important to note that the bait is secured within the station, so that even if the station is moved or shaken about, the bait will remain inside the station. Different stations will be different sizes and construction styles but are usually made of a hard plastic and a locking lid. While using secure stations is the first step in safety, it is not a fail safe method. For instance, some dogs can chew through very hard plastic if given enough time, leading to bait exposure, as well as possible ingestion of plastic fragments.
Even if all of your baits are placed securely in stations or well away from pets, exposure is still a hazard, but this secondary exposure usually requires a pest rodent to act as a carrier or intermediary. If a rodent consumes bait and is either killed by the bait or has undigested bait in its system, any animal that feeds upon the rodent will expose itself to the bait. This is known in the industry as Secondary Poisoning.
It is very important to note that for the overwhelming majority of cases that a single exposure to rodenticide by a pet or other non-target will have very limited if any negative side effects. The real secret to poison is in the dose, and very different doses are required to kill a 2 lb. rat and a 25lb dog, a bit of quick math will show us that the dog should need to eat about ten times as much bait as the rat to receive a lethal dose.
To enter the real danger zone, our pet needs to feed on an abundance of bait or bait stations, or consume multiple poisoned rodents over a relatively short amount of time. The majority of rodenticides used in modern pest control are designed to limit the effects of accidental exposure and secondary poisoning. One method is to use slow acting poisons that have a ready antidote to limit both initial exposure and offer a rescue option for any animal that over consumes. Between the difference in animal sizes (rodent vs. pet), the multiple feeding requirements, proper placement and station use, the overwhelming majority of pets receiving accidental exposure will not even need the antidote to the toxin as there are several layers of precaution in place already.
To sum up, keeping your pets safe begins with the pet owner. If placing baits yourself, make sure you’re using a proper station and not allowing your pet unfettered or unlimited access to it. Make sure any company you hire is using proper baiting procedures whenever children or pets are present in a home. Advise your Pest Control Operator as to your pet’s temperament and habits, if Fido chews up the kitchen floor, I’m guessing a plastic station isn’t going to slow him down much.
If your pet is exposed to pesticide or pesticide affected rodents, first and most importantly, remain calm!! Try and find out as much about the exposure as you can: how many rodents or bait stations your pet may have come in contact with, what kind of bait is it and do you have a label, all very important questions that need to be answered. Chewing on something like a bait station is a far cry from opening it and consuming al the bait inside. Remember the size comparison; if you catch your pet mastiff playing with a dead mouse his exposure will be almost nothing even if he eats the whole mouse.
Lastly and most importantly, if you are reasonably sure your pet has consumed bait or a pesticide affected rodent, its best to go to the Veterinarian and play it safe. The vet will have access to the proper antidote and will be able to support your pet through any exposure related health issues the animal may experience. Sometimes the biggest issue in exposure isn’t even the chemical itself, rodents can carry many types of diseases or pathogens in and on their systems and plastic chunks from a partially consumed bait station can do more damage to your pet’s digestive system than even a moderate to large pesticide exposure.