Raven relaxing in happier days, on our trip east last fall.
My beautiful girl lay tranquilized in a cage all day, with an IV drip of vitamin K in her slender leg. Two nights ago she threw up her undigested dinner about nine pm. Every half hour through the rest of the night she threw up. Neither of us got any sleep. It wasn’t until around midnight when she started trembling that I realized something was really wrong.
We left before dark for the holistic vet an hour away as neither local vet was available. She felt better, and had stopped vomiting. The doctor gave her an anti-emetic shot and some follow up pills, and a custom homeopathic remedy. Her gums were pinker than usual, suggesting inflammation. Or, it turns out, maybe internal bleeding. We came home and straggled up to bed to nap.
On the way in I noticed that one of her vomit stains in the snow was a peculiar blue-green color with tiny particulates, which I hadn’t observed in the dark. Maybe she got into someone’s compost, I thought. When I woke up that afternoon and looked at it again, I remembered the vet’s question, What color was the vomit? All that I had seen inside and near the porch light had been vomit beige. So I emailed a photo to that vet and Doc down the road.
Bar bait, said Christy. What? You mean … bear bait? I had never heard of bar bait. Rat poison. It causes whomever eats it to bleed out from inside. Doc said bring her in first thing for the IV. While she lay there, I looked online and found some images of the poison with boasts like this pitch: “rats and mice can consume a lethal dose in single night of feeding.”
Single-dose deadly rat poison comes in several shapes and colors, including these.
That particular poison, bromadialone, is in a class of potent anticoagulants that “block the synthesis of vitamin K, an essential component for normal blood clotting, which results in spontaneous and uncontrolled bleeding.” I also learned that it can take several days for symptoms to show up, and that the poison lasts a month in a dog’s body. So she’s on Vitamin K pills for the next month.
Where did Raven get hold of that? I called all the neighbors with contiguous property, eight households in all, and all said they have not and do not use rat poison. Half of them have dogs themselves. Maybe she found a carcass of some rodent or other so-called pest, perhaps a raccoon, that had eaten the poison elsewhere and died nearby. Some day that mouth of hers is going to get her killed, I’m about resigned to that. She dodged the bowel obstruction bullet just a year ago, and now this.
She wouldn’t be the first animal to suffer the consequences of secondary ingestion; she’d be in the company of thousands, maybe millions of small and large predators, and an astonishing number of songbirds, deer, and other non-predators. Worldwide, owls, eagles, mountain lions and other wild animals are dying from these “second-generation” super-potent rodenticides. A complicated picture has emerged in the past decade of studies, another EPA v. multinational corporations struggle where what is right and good for the planet gets ignored in the interest of the almighty dollar. These powerful poisons, inspired by warfarin (diluted in pharmacology to the common blood-thinner Coumadin) now appear to be showing up in trace (but still toxic) amounts throughout the food web. One more way in which we continue to poison our planet, decade after decade, despite knowing better.
I was trying hard to welcome the new year with a positive, optimistic spirit. I had all kinds of inspiring resolutions, including to learn something new every day. What I’ve learned today just reinforces my curmudgeonly favorite phrase: Other people ruin everything.