Our Rat Poison Scare
Last spring my wife, Nancy and I and our Wire Haired Dachshund, Arwen, attended an archery shoot in Quebec near Ottawa. As we do every year we stay with my brother and his wife in Orleans, Ontario for a visit.
At my brother’s house we knew that they had been having a problem for a couple of years with rats coming into their brand new house built in a new sub division that used to be farm land. We knew that my sister in law had previously put out Warfarin type rat poison in the basement of the house, the back yard and the garage and that my brother had since picked it all up and disposed of it. My brother got rid of the poison because they had a wild rabbit coming into the back yard and had been feeding it on their deck. One day the rabbit was on the deck and my brother watched it fall over dead. He blamed the rat poison and so got rid of it all.
On early Friday evening of the weekend I was out in the garage preparing something for the archery shoot and Arwen was with me. She was off her lead roaming around free as she is very good with me at the “come” command. The garage door was open and she was milling around the front of the garage. A group of young children walked by on the sidewalk and I was immediately alert to Arwen possibly approaching the children as she loves to play with kids.
I noticed Arwen had gone to one of the corners of the garage door and appeared to be eating something and was paying no attention to the children. It was a red flag to me that she was into something mischievous. I tried to call her off whatever she was eating and grabbed her up with her having maybe had three seconds to get into whatever she was eating. I opened her mouth and pulled out a big chunk of a blue/green substance that I instantly recognized as being rat poison, even though I had never seen it before. I swept her mouth and got out a few small pieces while I was yelling for Nancy to come and help. I was overwhelmed with the fear that Arwen was going to die an agonizing and grotesque death. Nancy took her from me and stuck her finger down Arwen’s throat to try and make her throw up. That was unsuccessful. My brother got us into his SUV and off we went to the Vet on a Friday evening around 5:30 p/m.
We went to the nearest Vet clinic and needless to say they were closed. There was some relief at a sign on the door with an address and directions to an after-hours emergency clinic which was of course too far away for my liking.
We attended the emergency clinic where we experienced another hard blow, not open for another half hour. So there we sat waiting for the Vet clinic to open, I was very upset and I think Arwen could feel that as she was very quiet and timid. I was sure that time was working against us and I was becoming increasingly worried.
I think one of the smartest things we did that evening was while we were waiting for the emergency clinic to open my brother went to Canadian Tire and bought a box of the rat poison to show the Vet.
When the clinic finally opened we piled in and I told the Vet that Arwen had eaten rat poison. My brother gave the Vet the box of poison and the Vet who could see how upset I was told us not to worry as the Warfarin types of poison are very slow acting over a few days to a week. The Vet gave Arwen a shot of something to make her throw up. It took about five minutes to act on her and then she threw up for a half hour until there was nothing left in her. During her throwing up we could see the small pieces of rat poison that she had ingested and I estimated that she ate approximately a half teaspoon of poison.
The Vet explained to us how Warfarin poison works; that it attacks the blood system by thinning the blood and causing ulcer over a period of a few days to a week and the animal eventually bleeds to death internally. The poison accomplishes that by attacking the body’s vitamin K, the vitamin that assists the blood in clotting. The Vet advised us that there were few visible symptoms of the poison one being possible bleeding of the gums. Other symptoms of the poison acting may be blood in the stool or urine and possibly in the tear ducts. The Vet explained to us that the only antidote or cure was to provide large quantities of vitamin K over time. The Vet gave us a three week supply of vitamin K and we were on our way home to my brother’s.
When we got back to our home in Sault Ste Marie we took Arwen to our Vet for a checkup. Our Vet advised us that Arwen should be on Vitamin K for at least six weeks and that at the end of six weeks they would do a blood test to check her blood’s clotting ability. Our Vet further advised us that we should be keeping Arwen as quiet as possible, no running and no hard work. No running, wow, I think that after the smell of deer blood the second most favourite thing Arwen loves is to run, especially at our cottage. The Vet recommended that even after a clear successful blood test to keep her quiet for a further few weeks as a precaution. There went Trackfest.
I had signed us up to attend Trackfest in Wisconsin and was very disappointed that Arwen should not participate. Nancy and I were excitedly looking forward to attending Trackfest with Arwen and having a bit of a camping holiday. Gratefully the United Blood Trackers and the National Park where we were going to stay both refunded our money. The people at United Blood Trackers were very sympathetic and understanding.
During Arwen’s long road to recovery I sheepishly called Laurel Whistance-Smith, owner of Lowenherz Kennel and Arwen’s breeder. I let Laurel know what had happened thinking she was going to demand we give Arwen back as we were obviously unfit to be dog owners. Laurel was very concerned for Arwen’s well-being and very understanding. Laurel said to me, “I will never understand why people use poison to kill pests when it is such an indiscriminate killer. They should be using a killing trap and specifically targeting the animal they want to kill”. I will never forget that and have thought long and hard about it. I believe now that poison’s made for pests should be completely banned exclusively for the reason that they are indiscriminate killers.
Having done some research on pest poisons I now know that it was probably a good thing that Nancy could not make Arwen throw up as there are other poisons on the market that are corrosive, acting in an acid fashion on activation by the stomach or contact with saliva. Those poisons can cause further damage if thrown up and have to be dealt with by other medical procedures. I know too that it was very helpful for my brother to have gone out and bought the exact product that Arwen had ingested as it helped the Vet determine right away that making Arwen vomit was the right treatment followed up by prescribing vitamin K.
I suppose that this was a preventable incident had Arwen been on a lead; but at the time I was not thinking at all that poison might be a threat as I had been confident that my brother had disposed of all the poison that they had put out. I was somewhat relieved and forgiving that I always keep a close watch on what Arwen is doing when she is off lead. I shudder to think of how this may have turned out had I not been paying some attention to her and was able to act quickly on her defiant behavior of trying to eat something before I could get it from her. I guess there would be some relief to people whose dogs ingest Warfarin poison knowing that time is on their side, if they know when the dog ate the poison.
As a final note, Arwen is back to normal health, very active and does not show any signs of after effects. We are anxiously waiting to hear where Trackfest 2014 is going to be.
Our Rat Poison Scare