Why is Decon Bad For My Pet?

Tony Luchetti, DMV Dr Luchetti

To explain why Decon is bad for pets, we must first understand how the body stops bleeding.  When a blood vessel (similar to a pipe) breaks, the body tries to repair this break first with cells called platelets.  The platelets are similar to a band-aid.  They adhere to the broken portion of the blood vessel within 5 minutes and temporarily seal the break.  However the platelets need special proteins called clotting factors to permanently seal the break.  Some of these clotting factors require vitamin K to adhere to the platelets, and thus permanently stop the bleeding.

Decon and other so called “anticoagulant rodenticides” work by lowering the levels of vitamin k in the body to levels so low, that a permanent seal can not be formed on broken blood vessels.  Most pets who ingest decon do not show signs of being sick for a few days until their body’s vitamin k reserves are exhausted.  Some signs the pet may then show are bruising of the skin, external bleeding (such as from the nose or blood in the urine), or internal bleeding (which may cause D-CONdifficulty breathing or the pet may just be  “acting more tired”).

If a pet is known to have ingested decon, timely treatment is crucial.  If we can treat a pet before the vitamin k reserves are exhausted (ideally within the first day), treatment is very effective.  Early treatment consists of usually inducing vomiting to remove any residual toxin, and then placing the pet on an oral prescription form of vitamin k (vitamin k1).  The over the counter form of vitamin k is vitamin k3, and unfortunately this form is not readily absorbed when taken orally, and thus is not an appropriate treatment for decon ingestion.

If a pet has already exhausted their vitamin k reserves and is showing signs of bleeding, treatment is more complicated.  Vitamin k1 can take up to 24hrs to start working, so in the pets who are already bleeding, the only way to quickly stop the bleeding is to give them the specialized proteins we discussed above called clotting factors.  These are given intravenously with plasma.  The plasma buys us time for the oral vitamin k1 to kick in.

In conclusion, if your pet has ingested decon, the sooner you can get your pet in for treatment, the better.  Even though your pet may look fine, the vitamin k reserves are slowly becoming diminished.  Once the vitamin k reserves are depleted and your pet starts showing signs of bleeding, treatment becomes much more expensive, and the prognosis worsens.