It was like an aerial view of three o’clock traffic on Route 66. In both directions, each traveler had a purpose, save the occasional distracted sightseer.
I watched as ants ever so methodically disassembled a bag of rodent bait near my mother’s coveted chestnut tree. To and from they marched, every ant taking a grain of the tan-colored Wilson Warfarin Rat and Mouse Killer. The temptation of the bacon and cheese flavored anticoagulant proved to be too much for the tiny army.
“Dad”, I turned to my father standing just a few feet away, “Does rat poison kill ants?”
“I don’t see why not; It’s poison.”, my dad replied as his head remained buried under the hood of his brown Plymouth Duster.
Some may find it surprising that my father would place rat poison outdoors, with no safeguards to ensure children would not handle or consume the bait. I won’t make excuses for the action, but I will say things like that were not uncommon in the 70’s. It was a time when seatbelts and carseats were optional.
It wasn’t uncommon for my dad to supply me with inaccurate answers. In the 70’s, Google didn’t exist and he definitely wasn’t the type to open an encyclopedia. Furthermore, he had the bad habit of assuming that if something was repeated enough, it must be true.
In my house, professional wrestling was real, eating carrots would give you night vision, and you could wipe out an ant colony by feeding them grits.
My dad knew nothing about ants and he certainly didn’t understand the significance of different circulatory systems. Where warfarin could cause hemorrhaging in mammals, it would be much less fatal to an animal free of veins and capillaries.
I say these things, not in a position of superiority, as it was in my late 20s, I had my own crash course on the active ingredients of rodent baits.
Upon the untimely passing of my mother-in-law, we inherited her chubby Chihuahua named “Butch”. It seemed like a good fit, my wife and I had a nice home, a big backyard, and no children to annoy the grumpy K9.
My mother-in-law LOVED Butch. Her children often joked that she loved the dog more than them. From my perspective, I think the kids had a point.
Butch was the most obese dog I’d ever seen, with a belly that nearly touched the floor and pockets of fat that sat on top of his backside. *Picture Kim Kardashian’s butt implants and you’ll have an idea of what this dog’s dairy aire looked like*
To say Butch had a eating disorder would be an understatement. He consumed everything! Being fairly new guardians of him, we didn’t consider the lengths of which he would go to keep that massive belly full.
One night, with my wife at work, I had a deep desire to complete a round of “12 ounce arm curls”, so I headed to the kitchen. Upon arrival, I saw a partially opened pantry door with Butch’s backside poking out. I could tell by his movements, he was eating something.
“What could that dog possibly be chewing on?”, I thought.
To my horror, Butch had stumbled across some long-forgotten rodent bait!
(Needless to say, this took place BEFORE I became a pest management professional.)
Separating the dog from his poison was not an easy task, full of growls and nips to my hands and fingers – but persistence finally paid off, as I was eventually successful.
I frantically tried to calculate the amount of bait Butch consumed.
“Was that enough poison to kill him? How could I be so careless? Will my wife see this as grounds for divorce?”, my mind raced.
Upon adopting Butch, we had taken him to a local vet for heartworm medication. Along with the meds and a hefty bill, came a refrigerator magnet complete with an emergency phone number.
While pushing the ten keypad digits, I finalized a “best guess” calculation of how much bait I thought Butch had consumed.
It seemed like eternity between the time I left word for the vet to contact me and the first ring of his call.
“HELLO!” I Shouted, “MY DOG JUST ATE RAT POISON! WHAT DO I DO? WHERE CAN I TAKE HIM???”
Judging by the vet’s deminor, I could tell this wasn’t his first rodeo.
“Do you have the packaging? Look to see if you can find the active ingredient”, he calmly instructed.
“I’m not sure how to pronounce it, but it’s spelled B-R-O-M-E-T-H-A-L-I-N”, I said.
“Okay. Bromethalin. How much has he eaten?”, he asked.
In all honesty, I can’t remember the amount I’d told the vet, but I do recall what he told me:
“Bromethalin isn’t a anticoagulant like most rodenticides, it causes swelling in the brain leading to paralysis and death. I don’t think he’s had a lethal dose, but I want you to get him to swallow some hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. I’m out of town, but If you can’t do this on your own, you’ll have to get him to an Emergency clinic ASAP.”
I nearly lost a finger dumping that peroxide down Butch’s throat and I’m pretty sure he never fully forgave me for the act that may or may not of saved his life. Either way, tragedy was averted.
That day was a reminder that my “shade tree mechanic” father and I have a lot in common. We both can be wrong about things, mostly because we confuse popularity with truth.
After all, If you hear multiple people say something, it must be true… Right???
Me? I used to think rodenticide was too bitter for mammals to eat a lethal dose. I never feared secondary poisoning, because I was told it doesn’t happen with modern day rodenticides.
I’ve since learned the error in my ways.
All I know is Bromethalin is not my dad’s old school rodent bait. It has no known antidote and should be used with precaution – even if they don’t make it in a bacon and cheese flavor.