Poisoning by pesticides and rodenticides is one of the most common household dangers to your pet. In this case, zinc phosphide poisoning will be explored as a potential culprit for your pet’s health condition. Zinc phosphide is an ingredient used in some rat poisons, and is also commonly used by pest control professionals. One of the effects zinc phosphide has on the body is a release of gases in the stomach, so that an animal that has ingested poison containing zinc phosphide will have breath smelling of garlic or rotten fish. Treatment is symptomatic (based on symptoms), and side effects of zinc phosphide poisoning can linger for several days after treatment.
- Garlic or rotten fish odor in breath (with no recent history of eating either of these foods)
- Rapid breathing, difficult breathing
- Blood in vomit
- Ingestion of Poisons
- Rodent Poison
- Cockroach poison
- Pest poison
- Any poison containing zinc phosphide
If you suspect that your pet has come into contact with rat or mouse poison, and you are seeing some of the symptoms listed above, you will need to have your pet seen by a doctor before your pet’s health becomes critical. Keep in mind that if your pet goes out of doors at all there is possible contact with rodent poison. It might be in a neighbor’s yard, in a trash bag, in an alleyway, or, in regards to cats, the poison might have been ingested by a rat or mouse that your cat has caught and chewed on. Even if you do not live in an area where rats or mice are a concern, rodent poison may be used for other common suburban pests, like raccoons, opossums, or squirrels.
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your pet, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition. You will need to give a thorough history of your pet’s health and recent activities. A complete blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, and a urinalysis.
If your pet has ingested zinc phosphide through rat poison, encourage vomiting to expel the poison. For immediate first aid, if you are positive that your pet has ingested this toxic substance, try to induce vomiting with a simple hydrogen peroxide solution of one teaspoon per five pounds of body weight – with no more than three teaspoons given at once. This method should only be used if the toxin has been ingested in the previous two hours, and should only be given three times, spaced apart at ten minute intervals. If your pet has not vomited after the third dose, do not use it, or anything further, to try to induce vomiting. Induced vomiting can be dangerous with some toxins, and some poisons will do more harm coming back through the esophagus than they did going down. Do not use anything stronger than hydrogen peroxide without your veterinarian’s assent, and do not induce vomiting unless you are absolutely sure of what your pet has ingested. If your pet has already vomited, do not try to force more vomiting.
A final word, do not induce vomiting if your pet is unconscious, is having trouble breathing, or is exhibiting signs of serious distress or shock. Whether your pet vomits or not, after the initial care, you must rush it to a veterinary facility immediately.
There is no specific antidote for zinc phosphide poisoning. The most likely course your veterinarian will take is a lavage (an internal washing) of your pet’s stomach with a five percent sodium bicarbonate solution, which will raise the gastric pH level and delay gas formation due to the swallowed zinc phosphide poison.
Living and Management
The health and survival of your pet depends on the amount of zinc phosphide poison ingested, and the time before treatment begins. Some animals will suffer from symptoms of poisoning, like weakness and depression, for several days after treatment.
The best prevention is to keep all poisons (especially rodent poisons) out of your pet’s reach. Carelessly placed, or stored, poisons are a potentially fatal hazard that can be easily avoided.
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