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Baby Dies After Ingesting Rat Poison

The City of Cape Town on Wednesday warned of the dangers of using pesticides in the home following the conclusion of an investigation into the death of a 10-year-old boy in Khayelitsha who died after ingesting rat poison.

The City of Cape Town's Health Directorate called on residents to exercise extreme caution and read labels carefully when using store-bought pesticides.

The warning came following the conclusion of an investigation into the death of a 10-month-old baby boy who died as a result of ingesting rat poison in Khayelitsha.

The City Health's Environmental Health section is mandated to investigate all pesticide/chemical incidents.

According to the City, it is understood that the child was playing inside his home when he came into contact with the poison pellets which had been set out on a side-plate, hidden behind a cupboard.

Apparently the poison had been put out for rats, but the residents had forgotten about it. The baby's caregiver took him to the local hospital after he started vomiting, but he was declared dead on arrival.

“This is a truly heartbreaking incident and my thoughts and prayers are with the family. It is important that this baby's death not be in vain and so I appeal to parents to learn from this tragedy and ensure that they do everything possible to mitigate the risk of their children being exposed to pesticides.

“These incidents are not commonplace, but one death is one too many,” said the City's Mayoral Committee Member for Health, Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli.

During the 2014/15 financial year, City Health investigated six pesticide poisoning cases across the city.

Environmental Health Practitioners also conduct regular inspections of informal traders to root out the sale of very toxic pesticides that were being sold illegally.

These poisons often carried no label and thus no information about the ingredients, manufacturer, etc thus placing users, children, pets and the environment at risk, the City said.

“Pest control affects all of us and it is a problem that is difficult to handle, but it becomes even more challenging in conditions that are conducive to the proliferation of vermin. Rats and other pests thrive in areas where they have a steady supply of food, where there is harbourage, and in the absence of predators.

“I understand that not everyone is able to afford professional pest control services, but I would also caution against buying cheap and toxic products that are not correctly packaged or labelled. There have been instances of children drinking poisonous chemical substances that have been stored in plastic cooldrink bottles because they are stored within easy reach. I appeal to residents to buy only approved and legal pesticides and to use them with care, especially when they have children or pets in the home,” added Mamkeli. City Health offers a free rodent control service to members of poor communities that can be accessed by contacting their local Environmental Health Office or by leaving a rodent complaint at their local municipal clinic.

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Rodenticides: Background & Hazards



Rodent Control

The first line of defense against rodents should be exclusion and trapping. These methods do not pose a poisoning risk to children, pets and wildlife. If you plan to use rodenticides, be sure to follow all label directions.

Remember, removing rodents with traps or poisons will not keep rodents out of your property in the future. To permanently keep rats and mice out of your home or business, you will need to prevent access by sealing all possible entry points. It is equally as important to eliminate rodent attractions such as food and water by keeping food in tightly sealed glass or plastic containers and repairing leaky pipes.

Rats and mice have been living with humans for centuries, and humans have been working for just as long to keep them at bay. Rodents such as gophers, moles, voles, and squirrels are also viewed as pests in some settings.

Poisons have been used as rodent-control measures for many years. Before the 1940s, rodenticides contained heavy metals such as arsenic and thallium or poisons such as strychnine and red squill. Most of these chemicals are no longer used as rodenticdes with the exception of strychnine, which is currently registered for use only below-ground as a bait application to control pocket gophers. For more details, see US EPA’s RED Facts on Strychnine.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the first kind of anticoagulant rodenticides known as first-generation rodenticdes were developed. This class of rodenticides work by disrupting the normal blood clotting or coagulation process so that dosed individuals or animals suffer from uncontrolled bleeding or hemorrhaging. Anticoagulant rodenticides that are in wide use today are members of a more potent class of anticoagulants known as second-generation rodenticides. The following section provides a more detailed comparison between first and second generation rodenticides.

Other rodenticides are non-anticoagulants and work in different ways. Non-anticoagulant rodenticides in use include bromethalin, cholecalciferol, and zinc phosphide.

Using rodenticides for control is frequently the cause of unintended consequences, from the stench of rodents decomposing in the walls to poisonings of non-target organisms. Primary poisoning can result from wild birds, pets, or even children eating baited rodenticides, while secondary poisoning of birds and mammals (including dogs and cats) can accompany the ingestion of poisoned rodents.

Anticoagulant Rodenticides

First-Generation Anticoagulants

First-generation anticoagulant rodenticides listed in the table below require rodents to consume the bait for several consecutive feedings for delivery of a lethal dose. There are three US EPA-registered first-generation rodenticides, including warfarin (also used as an anti-clotting drug for coronary artery disease), chlorophacinone, and diphacinone. The first-generation compounds are excreted fairly rapidly by mammals, usually within a week. However, the use of any rodenticides pose a poisoning risk to children, pets and wildlife.

First-Generation Rodenticides
Acute Oral Toxicity
Primary Poisoning Risk
Secondary Poisoning Risk
Chlorophacinone Anticoagulant, multiple dose treatment High Low (birds and mammals) Low (birds), High (mammals)
Diphacinone Anticoagulant, multiple dose treatment High Low (birds and mammals) Moderate (birds), High (mammals)
Warfarin Anticoagulant, multiple dose treatment Moderate to high Low (birds), Moderate (mammals). Highly toxic to cats. Moderate (birds and mammals)

Second-Generation Anticoagulants

The second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) are substantially more potent than the first-generation compounds, and a lethal dose can be ingested in a single feeding. Included in this class of rodenticides are the compounds difenacoum, brodifacoum, bromadiolone and difethialone. SGARs are not excreted easily, persisting in bodily organs such as the liver. Some SGARs are especially problematic to birds and mammals. For instance, brodifacoum and difethialone pose the greatest potential risks to avian predators and scavengers that feed on target or nontarget animals poisoned with bait.

EPA studies indicate that the first-generation anticoagulants are less hazardous than the more highly toxic and persistent second-generation anticoagulants. SGARs compounds described in the table below are much more likely to poison predatory wildlife that eat live or dead poisoned prey and have a higher risk of severe poisoning for children, pets, and other non-target wildlife.

Second-Generation Rodenticides
Acute Oral Toxicity
Primary Poisoning Risk
Secondary Poisoning Risk
Brodifacoum Anticoagulant, single dose treatment High High (birds and mammals) High (birds and mammals)
Bromadiolone Anticoagulant, single dose treatment High Moderate (birds), High (mammals) Moderate (birds and mammals)
Difethialone Anticoagulant, single dose treatment High High (birds), Moderate (mammals) High (birds), Moderate (mammals)
Difenacoum Anticoagulant, single dose treatment High Moderate (birds), High (mammals) Moderate (birds), Data gap (mammals)


Non-Anticoagulant Rodenticides

Non-anticoagulant rodenticides, including bromethalin, cholecalciferol, and zinc phosphide, are US EPA-registered and frequently used in controlling pest rodent populations. The potency of these rodenticides is highly variable, with rodent mortalities typically occurring on the order of several hours to days following ingestion of a lethal dose. These rodenticides belong to three different chemical classes that differ from one another as well as the anticoagulants in their mode of action, or anatomical change leading to rodent death.

As a neurotoxicant, bromethalin poisons the central nervous system and ultimately causes respiratory distress following ingestion of a single dose. Cholecalciferol, the biologically active form of vitamin D, is completely nontoxic in small amounts, but massive single doses or prolonged low level exposure can prove toxic. Ingestion of excessive amounts of cholecalciferol induces hypercalcemia (elevated blood calcium levels), which ultimately results in heart problems and kidney failure. Zinc phosphide, which functions to liberate toxic phosphine gas upon interaction with stomach acid, is highly toxic and can lead to rodent mortality within hours of ingestion. Unfortunately, zinc phosphide can also poison birds, such as hawks and owls, following ingestion of treated baits.

Non-Anticoagulant Rodenticides
Acute Oral Toxicity
Primary Poisoning Potential
Secondary Poisoning Potential
Bromethalin Non-anticoagulant, single dose treatment High Low (birds and mammals) Low (birds and mammals)
Cholecalciferol Non-anticoagulant, multiple or single dose treatment High Low to moderate (birds and mammals) Low (birds and mammals)
Zinc Phosphide Non-anticoagulant, single dose treatment High High (birds and mammals) Low (birds and mammals)

For more information on different types of rodenticides, see the National Pesticide Information Center’s (NPIC) fact sheet.

For more resources on rodent control, see the National Pesticide Information Center.For more information on different types of rodenticides, see the National Pesticide Information Center’s (NPIC) fact sheet.


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The Safe Rodent Control (SRC) Coalition


Living Rodent-Free While Keeping Families, Pets, and Wildlife Safe

The Safe Rodent Control (SRC) Coalition promotes resources to help you manage rodents safely, effectively, and affordably without the harmful impacts of chemical rodent control methods. SRC is a resource center supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders striving to protect children, pets, and wildlife from exposure to rodenticides.

SRC is committed to providing information on safe, cost-effective rodent control solutions and the risks of rodenticide use

SRC focuses on the following key areas:

  • Real Life Solutions: An easy-to-follow guide of best practices in safe rodent control solutions – from excellent exclusion tactics to an overview of the most effective, affordable traps.
  • Rodenticides – Know the Science: Our resources include the latest and most comprehensive scientific reports and fact-sheets on the risks of using rodenticides in your home or business.
  • At Risk – ChildrenPets & Wildlife: An in-depth, science-based outlook on how chemical rodent control methods put children, pets and wildlife in danger; including up-to-date poisoning data.
  • Stay Informed: From the history of rodenticides to a regulatory overview, learn everything you need to know about the past, present and future of rodenticide use.
  • The Coalition: An alliance of non-profit organizations, municipalities, businesses, scientists, and others dedicated to safeguarding your family and pets, and vulnerable wildlife through safe rodent control measures.
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Rodent Control Strategies

Rodent Control Solutions

Rodent Solutions highly recommends that you do not attempt rodent removal.  Hiring a licensed and insured professional is the safest and most effective way to remove rodents and protect against re-entry.  This information is provided as an effort to support safe rodent control.  If you have a rodent or pest problem contact Rodent Solutions at (941) 704-0063 for a professional pest inspection!

 Got Rats And Mice?

Use exclusion and sanitation tactics to get rid of rodents in a safe and cost-effective way. The most effective long-term solution is to keep rodents out in the first place. Measures such as sealing entry points prevent rodents from entering buildings and help you avoid a full-scale invasion.

Follow the tips in the sections below and you will be one step closer to keeping your home permanently free of rats and mice.

The Basics On Rodent Control

Rats and mice are not only a nuisance but can also cause property damage and transmit diseases. You’ll know they’ve arrived if you see rodent droppings near a food source or shredded fabric or paper. If you identify rodents, there are several steps to take to ensure permanent removal of these pests.

Removing rodents with traps or poisons will not keep rodents out of your home in the future. To permanently keep rats and mice out of your home or business, you will need to prevent access by sealing all possible entry points. It is equally important to eliminate rodent attractions such as food and water by keeping food in tightly sealed containers and repairing leaky pipes.

Common Sources of Food and Water

  • Food in unsealed containers such as bags of chips, rice, cereal, crackers, flour, and other non-perishables.
  • Pet food and water left out overnight or in a bag rather than in a secure container.
  • Fruits or vegetables in open bowls left outside of refrigerator.
  • Leaky pipes or faucets throughout the house.
  • Open trash and compost containers.

Common Rodent Access Points

  • Holes near cabinets, closets or doors leading to outside or crawl spaces.
  • Holes around sink or appliance pipes.
  • Cracked foundations in the basement or unscreened ventilation holes in the attic, especially in older structures.
  • Holes around windows or doors.
  • Missing screens in vents or crawl spaces under buildings.

Once you have blocked the access points and removed sources of food and water, you’ll need to eliminate the remaining rodents. The following sections offer an overview of different treatment options and serve as useful guidance for keeping your home or business permanently free of rats and mice.

 Guidelines To Maintaining A Rodent-Free Home

Three Guiding Principles:

Seal entry points to prevent rodents from entering your home or business. Be sure to use 1/4" x 1/4" metal mesh to seal off existing entry points. For more tips on how to exclude rodents and what type of materials to use, visit University of Florida's Non-Chemical Rodent Control page. Look for signs of rats and mice such as rodent droppings round food, kitchen corners, inside cabinets or under sinks. Remove rodents by using snap or electronic traps. Be cautious with live traps as rodents might urinate which increases the risk of spreading disease. In addition, some states prohibit releasing rodents into the wild.
Remove rodent attractions such as food or shelter by ensuring that food is securely stored and that surroundings are clean. Also, look for nesting material such as shredded paper or fabric. Install barn owl nesting boxes to naturally control rodents.

Outdoor Recommendations: 

  • Don’t plant ivy — it provides shelter and a food source for rodents: snails and slugs. Ivy on walls can form “rat ladders” to windows, attics and other interior spaces.
  • Keep compost piles as far away from structures as possible and grass cut to no more than two inches tall.
  • Maintain at least a 2 foot space between bushes, shrubs, fences, and buildings. Also, remove tree limbs within 3 feet of a structure or roof.
  • Avoid having a birdfeeder since it provides a source of food for rodents.
  • Keep outdoor grills and cooking areas clean.
  • Keep firewood off the ground and as far away from structures as possible to mitigate shelter opportunities.
  • Use city-issue plastic trash bins. If cracked or missing a lid, contact the Department of Sanitation for a replacement.

Indoor Recommendations:

  • Encase all food items such as breakfast cereals, chips, and crackers in containers.
  • Opt for garbage bins and compost containers with a top that seals tightly.
  • Rinse food and beverage containers before discarding or recycling.
  • Clean your garbage and recycling bins frequently.
  • Do not leave pet food or water out overnight.
  • Maintain stove tops clean and free of food scraps.
  • De-clutter your home of papers, fabric, and any similar materials that attract rodents for nesting.
  • Repair leaky pipes.
  • Seal entry points around cabinets, interior walls, attic, and crawl spaces with steel wool, caulk, or 1/4″ x 1/4″ metal mesh.
  • Maintain attic, crawl spaces, and cabinets near sinks clean and free of moisture.

Promote Natural Predators

Natural predators such as snakes, hawks, and owls can help to control rodent populations by feeding on rats and mice. Barn owls are efficient hunters and a family of barn owls can eat as many as 3000 mice per year. To encourage barn owls to nest and stay in your area, consider installing a nesting box. Strategic placement of nesting boxes combined with the use of traps and other preventative measures will go a long way to managing your rodent problems.

For more information on installing and maintaining nesting boxes, visit the Hungry Owl Project or theBarn Owl Box Company. Please note that the Hungry Owl Project strongly urges that NO rodent poisons be used indoors or outdoors while encouraging owls to your property. Using rodent poisons could kill an owl if it feeds on a poisoned rodent.

Treating Rodent Infestations

If you confirm that rats or mice are present in your home, you will need to use a combination of preventative measures and treatment options to get rid of them. The preventative measures include, removing food, water, shelter, and access to your home. This section will focus on the treatment options available and provide an overview of traps.

Summary of Rodent Control Recommendations


Types of Traps

Benefits of Using Traps

Using traps instead of rodent poisons gives you clear confirmation of a captured rodent and allows you to better gauge the effectiveness of treatment. You are also able to dispose of rodents immediately rather than dealing with the foul odor of rotting carcasses from poisoned rodents inside your walls or otherwise out of reach. Most important, using traps allows you to avoid rodenticides, which pose a greater threat of exposure to children, pets, and non-target wildlife, including natural predators.


Snap Trap This is the oldest type of trap and uses a spring-loaded bar to kill a rodent on contact. Some modern snap traps prevent risk to children and pets by enclosing the device in a plastic box. 
Electronic Trap This battery-powered trap delivers an electric shock that kills rodents quickly. This is a newer type of trap, and models are available for both rats and mice.
Live-Animal Trap This is a catch and release system that avoids killing a rat or mouse. Some states prohibit releasing rodents into the wild. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns that captured rats or mice might urinate and increase risk of spreading disease.
Multiple-Catch Live Mouse Trap This is a catch and release system that allows for capture of multiple mice. See warnings for the live animal trap above.
Glue Trap Glue traps are not recommended because the adhesive plate that is used to capture rodents can also trap birds, baby animals, lizards, and even pets. These traps also cause undue suffering to rodents. The CDC warns that captured rats or mice might urinate and increase the risk of spreading disease.

Enclosure boxes are plastic boxes that can fit a single snap trap, sometimes more, in order to provide an additional layer of protection for kids and pets. These boxes also hide the dead rodent, making for easier disposal of rodent, and can be re-used.

When using traps, take the following safety steps:

  • Always read and follow the label instructions on the rodent control product.
  • Be sure to place traps in locations where children and pets cannot access them or place traps in safety enclosure boxes.

Cleaning up after trapping rodents

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following safety tips:

  • Use gloves when disposing of dead rodents, nests, or any nesting material.
  • Spray the dead rodent or nesting material with a disinfectant solution and allow them to soak for 5 minutes before disposing rodent or materials in a secure plastic bag.
  • Spray and wipe up the area surrounding dead rodent or nesting material with a disinfectant.
  • Place the plastic bag with rodent or nesting material into another plastic bag along with any wipes or rags that were used to sanitize the surrounding area.
  • Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Review all your options before deciding on a treatment plan. If you decide to work with a pest control professional, be sure the company uses proper Pest Management techniques.

Achieving Success

Preventing and treating rodent infestations requires a combination of eliminating access points rats and mice might use to enter your home, removing food sources and shelter that attract rodents, and using traps to get rid of existing rats and mice in or around your home.Using a multi-tactic approach to manage rodents decreases the risk of dealing with future infestations since a significant piece of the puzzle is adopting preventative measures such as blocking access and eliminating food and water sources that attract rats and mice.



Rodenticides consist of different types of poisons used to kill rodents. Rodenticide baits can be lethal for any mammal or bird that ingests them and are not only poisonous for rodents. As a result, all baits pose a high risk of poisoning for non-target animals that might eat the bait or consume a poisoned rat or mouse.

If you choose to use rodenticides, you should be ready to deal with these potential consequences:

  • Rodents are likely to die in locations where they cannot be retrieved. The smell of a dead animal will persist for several weeks to several months.
  • If you or your neighbors have cats or dogs, they may die or become acutely ill from eating poisoned rodents.
  • Predatory birds like hawks, eagles and owls, and mammalian predators such as foxes and coyotes may die from eating poisoned rodents or a rodenticide bait.
  • Children are at risk of accidental poisoning since they might mistake the rodenticide bait for candy or food.

If after assessing the risks to children, pets, and wildlife of using rodenticides, you still determine that rodenticides are necessary, take these precautionary steps to reduce risk:

  • Always read and follow the label instructions on the pesticide product. The label is the law and you could be liable for any damage resulting from not following the label instructions.
  • Use only US EPA approved products that are sold and used with tamper resistant bait stations to protect children, pets, and wildlife. See US EPA’s list of rodenticide bait station products here.
  • Indoors, only place rodenticide bait stations in locations that are completely inaccessible to children and pets—inside walls, under heavy appliances, or in enclosed crawlspaces.
  • To protect wildlife, consumer-use rodenticide bait products must not contain the second-generation anticoagulants (brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone) as active ingredients (US EPA).
  • Once all signs of rodents are gone, remove bait stations promptly by placing in a secure plastic bag.
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The best way to prevent an accidental rodenticide poisoning is to eliminate the risk of exposure in the first place. Many safe and cost-effective solutions can ensure that your home remains rodent-free and that your pets stay safe. 

Tips on Protecting Pets that Spend Time Outdoors

  • Ask immediate neighbors if they use rodenticides and offer alternative solutions. If they do use rodenticides, ask them if they use tamper-resistant bait boxes. However, tamper-resistant bait boxes will not protect pets from secondary poisoning.
  • For dogs, make sure your fencing does not have gaps that make bait stations in neighboring yards accessible.
  • For cats, consider installing a fence that is specific for cats to decrease odds of your cat consuming poisoned rodents from neighboring yards. However, be aware that a poisoned rodent may enter your yard and poses a threat to any animal that consumes it.
  • If you have had issues with neighbors complaining about your pet, stay alert and try to maintain an open dialogue. If you observe strange behavior from someone or find suspicious food products, contact your vet or ASPCA at (888) 426-4435. Also preserve a sample of any suspicious-looking material for authorities to test.


If you suspect that your pet has been exposed to rodenticides, take immediate action and contact your veterinarian or Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435*

Pets And Rodenticides

Dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals are all too commonly exposed to toxic rodenticide baits. Sadly, these chemicals make the top-ten list of toxins responsible for pet poisonings, according to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The US EPA states that more than 100 pet deaths are reported each year from exposure to rodenticides.

Rodenticides are not only poisonous for rodents. Rodent baits can be lethal to any mammal or bird that ingests them or feeds on a poisoned rodent. That’s why controlling rodents with rodenticide baits puts pets at high risk of becoming ill or dying – either through direct ingestion (primary poisoning) or by eating poisoned rodents (secondary poisoning).

Safeguarding your home from rats, mice, and other rodents doesn’t require the use of potentially hazardous poisons. Safe, effective, and affordable solutions can help you rodent-proof your home while ensuring the health of your pets.

The following sections offer an overview of how rodenticides work, how pets are exposed, emergency measures if a pet is exposed, and methods to prevent poisonings.


Rodenticides can often be lethal to dogs, cats, and other domestic animals. Depending on the product’s active ingredient, some baits can pose a higher risk to specific animals.


Rodenticides vary by type and potency and are grouped by how they work. For example, anticoagulant rodenticides work by preventing the blood from clotting. Therefore, poisoned mammals (or birds) die by bleeding out. Find out more on different types of rodenticides from the National Pesticide Information Center’s (NPIC) fact sheet. It’s important to understand the risks of different rodent baits since some may be more lethal to your pet than others.

There is a further distinction between the first type of anticoagulants developed and newer types. First-generation anticoagulants are metabolized more rapidly and are less acutely toxic than the newer, more potent second-generation rodenticides (SGARs), which are largely responsible for pet poisonings. Treating pets poisoned by SGARs is also more difficult and expensive, and pets must be under veterinary supervision for a longer period of time. So, while all baits pose a high risk of poisoning, SGARs are more toxic and have a higher risk of poisoning for pets and other non-target animals that feed on poisoned rodents.

Your Pet’s Exposure To Rat And Mouse Poison

Don’t underestimate your dog or cat’s ability to access rodenticides baits that are placed in seemingly secure, out-of-reach locations. The misconception that your pet will not be able to find or chew through a secure bait station results in thousands of pets being poisoned every year, averaging over 100 pet deaths annually. Additionally, many rat and mouse poisons are formulated with food grade ingredients meant to attract rodents that can also end up attracting curious dogs, cats, or other animals.


For pets that spend unsupervised time outdoors, it’s important to be aware that they can be exposed to rodenticides if neighbors or others use rodenticides to control rodents. Additionally, dogs and cats are sometimes intentionally fed rat poisons by people intent on harming a particular animal.

It’s important to always be aware of the risks, even if you don’t use these chemicals.

Pet Poisonings

If you suspect that your pet has ingested a rodenticide, the ASPCA recommends first calling your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at (888) 426-4435.

ASPCA also recommends the following:

  • If you see or know that your pet has ingested rodenticide or has consumed a poisoned animal, take your pet to local veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic.
  • If your pet is exhibiting severe symptoms such as seizures, unconsciousness, or breathing difficulties, call ahead and take your pet immediately to an emergency veterinary clinic.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center may apply a $65 consultation fee to your credit card.

Additional Suggestions:

  • Have the rodenticide package or name of the active ingredient handy to relay this information to the vet or animal poison control operator.
  • If you suspect that a pet has swallowed a rodenticide, check their mouth for bright colors as these poisons sometimes have indicator dyes that leave a stain around the mouth or in stool or vomit.
  • Also pay attention to changes such as loss of appetite or lethargy.

Common Symptoms

University of Illinois’s College of Veterinary Medicine identifies a range of symptoms that can appear in your pet. These symptoms may include lethargy, depression, weakness, trembling, drunken walk (ataxia), abnormal eye movement, paralysis, increased water intake, increased urination, bloody urine or a bloody nose, and gastrointestinal problems.


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Rodenticide Risk for Wildlife

Risks for Wildlife

Rodenticides are designed to kill mammals such as rats and mice. It should therefore come as no surprise that these products commonly poison non-target wildlife species. Numerous studies have documented harm to mammals and birds. Other vertebrate species, such as reptiles and amphibians, are also at risk. Most rodenticides work by disrupting the normal blood clotting or coagulation process so that dosed individuals suffer from uncontrolled bleeding or hemorrhaging. This hemorrhaging can occur spontaneously or from any cuts or scratches. Because internal hemorrhaging is difficult to spot, often the only indication of poisoning in exposed wildlife is that they are weak or listless. Signs of bleeding from the nose or mouth may be visible on occasion. Affected wildlife may be more likely to crash into structures or moving vehicles or to be killed by predators.  This makes these poisonings even more difficult to document.

Wildlife poisonings have been documented in over 25 wildlife species including: San Joaquin kit foxes, Pacific fishers, golden eagles, bald eagles, bobcats, mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, gray foxes, red foxes, Cooper’s hawks, red-shouldered hawks, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, barn owls, great horned owls, long-eared owls, western screech owls, spotted owls, Swainson’s hawks, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, turkey vultures and crows.

Primary exposure and poisoning

Non-target wildlife species are often attracted to rodenticide baits. These are formulated to be tasty and alluring. This exposure can be reduced through a more careful placement and use of tamper-proof bait stations. Loose bait, whether pellets or poison grain, present the highest risk, the latter being particularly attractive to seed-eating birds and to many small mammal species.

Unfortunately, bait stations cannot stop all routes of exposure. House sparrows have been seen entering bait stations in urban environments. Other wildlife species may disturb and attempt to break in to bait stations. Cockroaches and other invertebrate species enter bait stations to feed. They are not affected by anticoagulant products but scatter bait material and carry the poison in their own bodies raising the potential for secondary poisoning.

Secondary exposure and poisoning

Rats and mice that feed on these baits can take several days to die. The poisoned rodents become increasingly weak, making them easy prey for predators.  Hungry raptors or other wildlife can receive a lethal dose when they feed on the poisoned rats and mice. This is tragic not merely because hawks, owls, foxes and other animals are dying, but because wildlife predators provide us with valuable rodent control services – unless of course we kill them first.

The biggest-selling rodenticides are of the so-called ‘second-generation’. These include compounds such as difenacoum, brodifacoum, bromadiolone and difethialone. Second-generation compounds were designed to kill rodents after a single feeding on bait. They are much more persistent than the first-generation compounds (warfarin, chlorophaninone, diphacinone) and clear very slowly from the body. In addition, second-generation rodenticides tend to be much more acutely toxic to non-target wildlife.

As a result, the second-generation compounds are much more likely to poison predatory wildlife that eat live prey or carrion – whether targeted mice and rats or other species. These compounds are causing innumerable casualties among owls and hawks, bobcats, fishers and other predators. Rodenticides may now be the single most important source of mortality for some wildlife species. Where second-generation compounds are used, entire food chains are contaminated. Residues are even detected in species that typically feed on birds rather than on rodents.

Distinguishing Between Exposure And Impact

Because food chains are contaminated with rodenticides in most inhabited parts of the world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find owls, red tailed hawks or other birds of prey that do not carry residues of one or several rodenticide products. Many mammalian predators like foxes and fishers show similar levels of exposure to rodenticides.

Rodenticide residues tend to accumulate in the liver. This tissue can be used to monitor exposure in wildlife populations.  As one might expect, there has been a lot of discussion about how to interpret tissue concentrations in wildlife species.  Also, a number of important scientific questions remain on possible effects of low-level residues in livers such as the following:

  • What important physiological processes are impaired by low level rodenticide exposure; for example, a link between disease (mange) and rodenticide exposure has already been documented in mountain lions.
  • Whether exposed wildlife are more likely to hemorrhage than animals who have not previously been exposed to rodenticides following re-exposure with the same or different rodenticide products.

Finally, surveillance networks are reporting an increasing number of wildlife fatalities with an apparent rodenticide involvement, whether large carnivores or birds of prey. Diagnosis can sometimes be difficult, especially when the individuals have been struck by moving vehicles or have experienced other forms of traumatic injury.

Use Of Rodenticides For Conservation Purposes

Despite the known harms to wildlife of rodenticides use, rodenticides have played an important role in controlled restoration programs to reduce or eliminate non-native rodent species. These controlled restoration programs are conducted by wildlife experts as a last resort and usually occur on islands where native seabirds or their young and eggs are taken by mice or rats or where rodent invaders are completely changing the natural environment of these fragile places. The terrain on these islands is often difficult, making other control methods impossible. Complete eradication is necessary for a program to be successful.  Impacts on desirable species are often seen in these eradication programs. This is weighed against the long term benefits of rodent eradication in terms of preserving natural biodiversity and protecting what are often rare and declining species. Permitting systems are in place to try to ensure the minimum amount of unacceptable impacts.



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**If someone collapses or stops breathing, call 911!

If someone swallows a rodenticide, immediately call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222

The best way to prevent an accidental rodenticide poisoning is to eliminate the risk of exposure in the first place. Safe and cost-effective solutions can ensure that your home remains rodent-free and that your children stay safe.

Here are a few tips:

  • Have all gaps sealed on the outside of your home and worn weather stripping replaced on windows and doors to keep rodents out.
  • Keep your outdoor space clean and organized ⎯ trim plants and trees and keep your trash cans tightly shut.
  • Check your home for old rat and mouse poison baits that have been left behind from previous use or by a previous occupant.

Children’s Exposure To Rodenticides


Kids and rat poisons do not mix. Unfortunately, these chemicals poison over 10,000 children across the U.S every year.

Young children, especially those under the age of 6, are at high risk of unintentional poisoning through ingestion. Kids’ curious nature and desire to stick everything in their mouths makes exposure to rodenticides a real danger.

Safe rodent control can help you keep rats and mice out of your home while protecting your little ones from rodenticide poisonings.

The following sections offer an overview of how kids get exposed, emergency measures, and how to prevent poisonings in the first place.

Rat & Mouse Baits: A Household Hazard

Mouse and rat poison

Residential use of rodenticides puts children at high risk of accidental poisoning in their own home. Rodenticide baits can be lethal for any mammal or bird that ingests them and are not only poisonous for rodents.

Rodenticide  as usually formulated as baits that come in different colors and forms such as pellets, grains, and blocks (see picture of blue rodenticide pellets). Some baits also include flavorings such as fish oil and peanut butter.

As a result, all baits, especially the small and colored pellets, pose a high risk of poisoning for children who might mistake the bait for candy or food. It can be surprisingly difficult to keep these products out of the reach of children since baits – to be most effective – are usually placed on the floor, offering kids ready access.

Child Poisonings

**If someone collapses or stops breathing, call 911!


If a child swallows a rodenticide, the Poison Center recommends the following:

  • Clear their mouth and give a small amount of water or milk to drink.
  • Immediately call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Additional Recommendations:

  • Have the rodenticide package or name of the active ingredient handy to relay to the poison control operator and medical personnel.
  • If you suspect that a child has swallowed a rodenticide, check their mouth for bright colors as these poisons sometimes have indicator dyes that will leave a stain on the child’s mouth or hands.

For more information on poisonings, see the American Association of Poison Control Center’s Poison Prevention brochure.

Symptoms by Ingredient

Active Ingredient/Type
Exposure Route
Sources: National Pesticide Information CenterUS EPA Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings, and U.S National Library of Medicine- National Institutes of Health.
Brodifacoum, Bromadiolone, Chlorophacinone, Difethialone, Diphacinone (Anticoagulant) Ingestion, inhalation, dermal Anticoagulants do not have onset symptoms. Some symptoms might manifest days later and may include: blood in urine or stool, tendency to bruise easily and bleeding under the skin, confusion, lethargy, or altered mental status from bleeding in the brain, low blood pressure, nosebleed, pale skin, shock, and vomiting blood. 
Bromethalin (Non-Anticoagulant ) Ingestion, inhalation, dermal Symptoms may include: headache, confusion, personality change, tremors, seizures, coma and marked respiratory depression.
Cholecalciferol (Non-Anticoagulant ) Ingestion Symptoms are similar to hypercalcemia: anorexia, fatigue, headache, itching, and weakness.
- Polyneuropathy, a neurological disorder, has been reported after acute intoxication.
- Nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea may be seen.
- Extreme depression, apathy, confusion, and fatigue may be associated with chronic excessive intake of vitamin D.
Warfarin (Anticoagulant) Ingestion Anticoagulants do not have onset symptoms. Some symptoms might manifest days later and may include: blood in urine or stool, tendency to bruise easily and bleeding under the skin, confusion, lethargy, or altered mental status from bleeding in the brain, low blood pressure, nosebleed, pale skin, shock, and vomiting blood. 
Additionally, poisoning by Warfarin may lead to bleeding pinpoint purplish-red spots.
Zinc phosphide (Non-Anticoagulant) Ingestion, inhalation Some symptoms of exposure via inhalation may include: a cough, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting. Some symptoms of exposure via ingestion may include; abdominal pain, cough, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, labored breathing, nausea, unconsciousness, vomiting, uncoordinated movement, fatigue.


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