Common Summer Poisons

1. Rodenticides (mouse and rat poison)

  • Rodenticide poisoning is one of the most common toxicities reported to the Pet Poison Helpline. Rodenticides come in a variety of colors and forms (bricks, pellets, grain-based). Different types of rodenticides can cause several different conditions.
  • The most common type of rodenticide prevents the blood from clotting and can cause internal bleeding. Signs often do not become apparent until several days after ingestion. Symptoms include lethargy, exercise intolerance, coughing, difficulty breathing, bruising and pale gums. If not treated early, rodenticide poisoning can be fatal. This type of rodenticide does have an antidote – Vitamin K. Most pets need to be treated with prescription vitamin K for at least 4 weeks. Bloodwork is performed 2 days after the last dose of Vitamin K to ensure that clotting is normal.
  • A pet that ingests rodenticide should be taken immediately to a veterinary clinic. Often vomiting is induced to prevent as much absorption of the rodenticide as possible. The pet is also often given activated charcoal to help bind up the toxin and prevent it from being absorbed in the intestines.
  • Other types of rodenticides can cause kidney failure or neurologic disease. Identification of the rodenticide product is important when determining treatment, so bringing the packaging with your pet is very helpful.
  • Dogs and cats can be exposed by ingesting mouse poison or by ingesting an animal that died from poisoning. In many cases, they only have to ingest a very small amount of the poison to become sick. It is important to keep any mouse poison away from areas that your pet can access. Make sure to keep any unused product in tightly sealed containers and store them up high out of reach of pets and children.

2. Fertilizer

  • Typically, ingestion of small amounts of fertilizer or grass treated with fertilizer will not result in any serious symptoms. Symptoms can be more severe when fertilizer is eaten in larger quantities (ie. directly out of the bag). Symptoms of fertilizer ingestion are vomiting, diarrhea and drooling.
  • If the fertilizer contains bone meal, there is a significantly increased risk of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) or a gastrointestinal foreign body. Also, fertilizers that contain iron, pesticides and/or herbicides can be more poisonous.

3. Plants

While many plants can cause mild GI upset if ingested, here are a few that can cause more serious side effects:

  • Lilies – Certain types of lilies, such as Tiger, Easter and Day lilies, are extremely toxic to cats. Ingestion of even a few petals or leaves can cause severe kidney failure. If your cat has consumed even a small part of a lily plant, please seek veterinary attention immediately. Often early intervention with decontamination (inducing vomiting, activated charcoal administration) as well as IV fluids can improve the prognosis.
  • Tulips and Hyacinth – The bulbs of these plants have a high concentration of alkaloids. These products can cause severe tissue irritation to the mouth, esophagus and stomach. Symptoms include profuse drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. Supportive care from a veterinarian is often required. Please make sure your dog does not dig up tulip and hyacinth bulbs.
  • Daffodils – Daffodils contain lycorine, a product that has strong emetic properties (induces vomiting). Ingestion of any part of the plant can cause profuse vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and possibly even breathing problems or altered heart rhythms. If you witness your pet ingesting a daffodil, seek veterinary attention immediately.
  • Lily of the Valley – The Lily of the Valley plant contains cardiac glycosides, which can have significant effects on the heart. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, reduced heart rate, heart rhythm changes and possibly seizures. These symptoms can be fatal. You should contact a veterinarian immediately if your pet ingests even a small amount of this plant.
  • Please note, this is by no means a complete list of all poisonous plants. If you have any concerns about plants in your house/yard or your pet has ingested a plant, please contact the clinic or the Animal Poison Control Center (855-764-7661). Information about other toxic plants can be found on the ASPCA Pet Poison Control website.

4. Pyrethrin Insecticides

  • Pyrethrins are a class of insecticides that are derived from the Chrysanthemum flower. They are mostly used for flea and tick control in dogs. Many of these flea and tick control products are purchased over the counter in pet stores (ie. Hartz products).
  • Cats are much more sensitive to pyrethrins than dogs. Poisoning is most commonly seen when these products are inappropriately applied to cats. It can also occur if a cat grooms a dog that has been treated with one of these products.
  • Symptoms of poisoning include tremors, drooling, vomiting, agitation, trouble breathing and seizures. At high doses, especially without treatment, these toxicities can be fatal.
  • You should seek veterinary attention immediately if your cat has been treated with a pyrethrin product or if your pet is exhibiting any of these side effects. Treatment often includes bathing to remove any pyrethrin residue, IV fluids and medication to reduce absorption and treat the symptoms. Please consult a veterinarian before using any flea or tick product, especially on cats.