Volume II, Issue III

March 2006


        Poison for Rats Getting to Dogs and Cats

        Square Bales Better than Round Bales for Horses- But Cows Don’t Care




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Poison for Rats Getting to Dogs & Cats




Healing Springs Animal Hospital sees multiple cases of poisoned dogs and cats every year.  Even if you do not use rat poison in your own home, there are some things you should know about this dangerous product.


The most popular forms of rat poison come in green pellets.  They contain anticoagulants – agents that reduce the blood’s ability to clot.  In addition, rat poison also contains food or food-like ingredients designed to attract rats.  These same ingredients can sometimes be appetizing to dogs and cats.  Given the opportunity, dogs and cats will eat rat poison.


Bear in mind, that once poisoned, the rats and mice themselves become poisonous.  If a dog or cat eats a rodent that has been killed by rat poison, the pet will typically be poisoned, too.  Whether the poison is consumed primarily or secondarily, rat poison is more than potent enough to kill even large dogs. 

Rodents that consume rat poison do not die immediately.  They have time to wander off.  Therefore, even if you do not personally use rat poison, a neighbor using rat poison can inadvertently poison your pet. 


Here’s what pet owners should do to help prevent their pets from falling victim to this common hazard.  Do not use rat poison in your own household.  Restrict the movement of your pet to your own property.  Discourage your pets from consuming rodents, especially dead or unhealthy rodents. 


When consumed, rat poison may cause internal bleeding, external bleeding, seizures, and/or organ damage – especially to the kidneys.  Clinical signs of anticoagulant poisoning include, blood in the urine, blood in the stool, nose bleeds, and bruising.  Unfortunately, if a pet is showing outward signs of rat poison, it is usually too late to save the pet.  An emergency visit to the vet can save pets who have ingested rat poison, but only if the visit is very prompt.  By the time outward signs of poisoning are present, the pet usually cannot be saved.


At Healing Springs Animal Hospital, a veterinarian will start by forcing the pet to vomit.  They will look for the characteristic green pellets in the vomit or remains of a poisoned animal.  The vet will then start the pet on aggressive vitamin K therapy, oral or subcutaneous.  The vitamin K works to restore the bloods clotting ability.  Vitamin K therapy is inexpensive.  If you ever suspect that your pet has consumed rat poison, get it to Healing Springs immediately.  Do not wait for the pet to show outward signs of poisoning.     




Square Bales Better than Round Bales for Horses - But Cows Don’t Care


Round Bales of hay put horses at a greater risk of respiratory disease.  Square bales tend to be a better option.  Here’s why.


Large round bales are more likely to harbor high levels of harmful mold spores.  Even the best hay can contain millions of mold spores.  However, square bales are typically stored inside and fed out flake by flake.  Round bales, on the other hand, are often stored outside.  Horse owners also find it convenient to put one round bale in the pasture for days or longer to feed the horses.  This increased exposure


to the elements creates a fertile breeding ground for allergenic mold.  While horses are sticking their noses into piles of round baled hay, they breathe in higher concentrations of the mold.  This can happen at harmful levels even when the mold is subtle and/or just on the surface of the round bale. 


The mold infects the horse’s lungs and sets up a life-long allergic reaction correctly called recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) (known in our parts as heavie horse).  Veterinarians sometimes refer to the disease as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), because the disease is similar to COPD in humans. 


As you can see, the problem is not with the round bales themselves.  The problem is with the way round bales are customarily stored and used.  A round bale will not pose an unusual hazard to your horse if it is stored in a dry place (both before and after it is bought).  If you feed outside and want to use a round bale, simply store the round bale in an enclosed, dry place and only take out as much as your horse(s) will eat in one feeding. 


The same hay that could make a horse sick often does not bother cows.  Cows are much more tolerant of hay showing higher spore counts, so feeding them round bales that have been stored outside is less of a concern. 


Recurrent airway obstruction (also known as the heaves or heavie horse) is evidenced by severe difficulty breathing, reduced ability to exercise, wheezing, coughing, and nasal discharge.  It is typically caused by exposure to mold and dust.  Without proper management, RAO can be fatal.  Once a horse develops RAO, it has the condition for life.  Call Healing Springs if you notice signs of RAO with your horse.  Healing Springs can provide your horse with antihistamines and/or steroids that will reduce the severity of RAO attacks.  They will also help you develop management strategies that can help your horse live a long, comfortable life. 


RAO flares up in horses like humans have asthma attacks.  Exposure to mold and dust causes RAO attacks.  Following are good management strategies for horses diagnosed with RAO, COPD, and the heaves.

     Don’t feed round bales

     Increase the amount of time the horse stays outside

     Use low-dust substitutes for hay such as Horsehage or complete nut feeds

     Soak hay before feeding

     Use rubber matting in stalls instead of bedding.  Alternatively, use shredded paper or cardboard instead of straw bedding. 



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