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Rodent baits can poison more than just mice

Rats and mice are animals that most people would prefer remain outdoors and away from their homes. But as seasons and homes change, the likelihood that rodents will venture inside increases. This leaves homeowners looking for ways to alleviate the problem, and many choose poison to evict their unwanted guests. Though effective on mice, poisons can prove harmful to pets as well.

Rodents, particularly house mice, can become quite adapted to living in a home year-round. As long as there is food and a water source, as well as shelter, a mouse can comfortably keep up residence. Although rats are feared much more than mice, mice can actually do more damage in a home. They breed prolifically, can gnaw through wiring and cause fires or electrical problems, contaminate everything they come across with urine and feces, and can carry a host of diseases. Anything from salmonellosis to Lyme disease may be transmitted by mice.

The National Pest Management Association says that the house mouse is the most common rodent pest in most parts of the world. A female house mouse can give birth to up to a dozen babies every three weeks and as early as when the mouse is 2 months old. That can add up to 150 babies per year.

Signs mice are present

Mice leave many different signs in a home that alert homeowners to their presence. This includes small dropping pellets and urine. Mouse urine can have a unique smell. Signs of nests, including wadded pieces of scraps, insulation, paper, and other materials can signal a mouse. Also, sounds like scraping, squeaking or scurrying in the walls may be present. Mice may leave dirty smudge marks over routes they routinely take. A mouse that has ample food may nest very close to the food source, traveling only a few feet. Holes or nests might be around food or areas where food is routinely stored.

Treating a mouse problem

The common methods of handling mice is to put out baited suicide traps or place poison around the home in places where mice have been seen. Most people think that putting the poison where pet cats or dogs can't reach it limits their risk for poisoning, but this is not always the case. According to veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker, even pet owners who hide the bait around their homes can wind up with a poisoned dog or cat.

Most rodent poisons contain warfarin. This is an anticoagulant that prevents blood from clotting. The mice ingest the poisoned grain or pellets, and the warfarin gets into their bloodstream. The rodent will not be affected immediately -- often it scurries away somewhere else where it essentially bleeds to death in 1 to 2 days.

Dogs and cats can be poisoned in two ways. They may ingest the rodent bait outright and exhibit no immediate symptoms. Afterward however, there may be some bleeding from the nose or blood found in urine or feces. Blood may accumulate in the abdomen. Lethargy, pale gums and weakness can also be signs of toxicosis from warfarin.

Some dogs and cats that like to hunt bait may consume a rodent that has been poisoned by warfarin. Even if you do not use it in your home, a neighbor may apply the poison. Since mice wander, it is not unlikely that a poisoned mouse could end up on your property or in your home, where a curious cat or dog may investigate. Some pets have been known to consume rodents. Both ways can be fatal if not caught early.

Avoiding the use of poisons or relying on live traps can prevent warfarin toxicosis. Urge neighbors to do the same if you are very concerned about your pet. Make sure to supervise dogs and cats when outside and don't allow them to consume rodents.

Warfarin can also be deadly to small children. It is important to avoid using bait where a child may wander in its path. Children often put foreign objects in their mouths, and it is not unlikely that a mouse could track poisoned bait somewhere else in the home without your knowledge.

Avoiding accidental pet poisoning can mean skipping poisoned baits and looking for other extermination methods.