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The Rainbow You Don't Want to See

Rat Poisoning and Your Pet

I will never forget my panic when I saw Makita poop out a rainbow of blue, green and purple on a walk at Sanford Farm West. Having just retrieved her the night before from a good Samaratin who had found her and had kept her safe for the duration of my 7-hour search for her through the Windswept Bogs, I was just relaxing into the relief that she was alive and well! So when her poop revealed the tell-tale colors of rat poison, I was dismayed. I quickly called my vet-tech friend who confirmed that yes, rat poison is usually blue and green and that I should get Makita to the vet right away.

The emergency vet at Offshore looked at the sample and was as concerned as I was, but was a also little baffled by the purple color. She’d never seen that in rat poison. But to be on the safe side, she prepared the charcoal that was going to be forced down Makita’s throat to absorb any of the poison that might be left in her system. JUST as the syringe was headed to Makita’s mouth, my cell phone rang. The good Samaratin had gotten my panicked message and reported that indeed his son had seen Makita eat some crayons the night before at his house. 
PHEW! It was not rat poison after all, just Makita’s fetish for snacking on inappropriate morsels rearing its head (or should I say tail?).
While Makita and I were lucky that day, others on Nantucket recently have not been. Saturday a friend lost her cat to what the vets at Offshore suspect was rat poison, and two other dogs are currently being treated for it. Offshore doesn’t have exact statistics on how many of these cases they treat each year, but they report it does happen here on Nantucket, and they’ve seen 3 cases in the last few weeks.
It’s hard to imagine that in this day and age people put poison out around their houses to kill what they see as pests. But they do. These poisons are not just potentially deadly to our pets, but to wildlife and humans as well.
Some believe cats should be indoor-only to avoid these kinds of dangers, and dogs should remain on leash so we can stop them from eating strange and sometimes harmful substances. However, here on Nantucket we do let our cats out and our dogs off leash, so given that, let’s all be mindful that these dangers exist and know what to do should your pet have a close encounter with one.
There are different kinds of rat poisoning, with different kinds of ingredients, but symptoms of rat poisoning in a cat or dog can include: 

  • loss of appetite
  • impaired movement
  • paralysis of the animal’s hind limbs
  • slight muscle tremors, 
  • generalized seizures
  • lethargy
  • difficulty breathing
  • pale gums
  • coughing (especially of blood)
  • vomiting (with blood)
  • bloody nose
  • swelling or bumps on the skin (e.g., hematomas)
  • collapse
  • bleeding from the gums

Obviously, if you suspect your pet has ingested rat poisoning and/or has any of the above symptoms, call your vet immediately. Your vet may recommend a home solution of hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting, or may instruct you to bring the pet right in, depending on the situation. 
For those of you without pets, and who use poison to deter rats and mice, please be mindful of where you put it. Know that poison outside of your home may be ingested by pets or by wildlife. Furthermore, hawks and other birds of prey also die when they eat rodents who have eaten the poison. The best option for all concerned is to use humane traps, such as those by Havahart.
Though in the end it is up to the pet’s family to keep him or her safe, if we all work together, we can help prevent these tragic pet deaths.

The mission of Nantucket Safe Harbor for Animals, Inc. (NSHA) is to provide shelter and care for stray, homeless, unwanted or abandoned animals until they are adopted into responsible, lifelong homes and to promote animal welfare through humane education and advocacy.