My dog Baxter, a beautiful Dalmatian, is coughing. I heard about heartworms -- could this be a heartworm infection? I also just remembered that he got into some rat poison about a week ago.
If you have not taken Baxter to a veterinarian, you need to do so immediately. Coughing and difficulty breathing can be a sign of rodenticide (rat) poisoning. The poison acts to prevent the blood from clotting, and any dog or cat that eats it can die. This is a life threatening situation. Your pet may need a blood transfusion.
Exposure to rat poison is common in small animals because rodent bait is sold over the counter. It is easily accessible and widely used in homes. Exposure may be slightly more prevalent in the spring and fall when rodenticide is put out.
Coagulation problems are due to reduced vitamin K1 - dependent clotting factors in the blood, caused by exposure to the rodenticide. Your veterinarian needs to give the dog a vitamin K injection and put him on a vitamin K supplement which is best given with food containing fat (such as canned dog food) to help with absorption. During this recovery time, clotting factors will also have to be monitored.
Besides coughing, rat poison signs can include pale mucous membranes (gums), bleeding from the mouth and gums, blood in the urine and feces, labored breathing, lethargy, depression and low energy (the dog may just lie around the house). Hemorrhage or internal bleeding may also occur in the lungs, eyes and other organs and you may see weakness, abdominal pain, abdominal swelling, colic and labored breathing. Depression and lack of appetite can occur before bleeding begins.
A diagnosis of anticoagulant rodenticide toxicosis is usually made based on a report that the poison was ingested. Other diseases that should be ruled out when massive hemorrhage is encountered include blood clotting disorders, Von Willebrand’s disease, platelet deficiencies and ehrlichiosis (a blood parasite). A positive response to vitamin K1, prolonged clotting time and platelet counts are strong indications of anticoagulant toxicosis.