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Overview of rodenticide poisoning

Diane P Calello, MD
Alex Troncoso, MD
Section Editor
Michele M Burns, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


This topic reviews the types of rodenticides that may lead to toxic exposures and provides agent-specific information on toxicity, clinical manifestations, and initial management. We encourage the clinician to contact a regional poison control center or consult a medical toxicologist for all serious rodenticide exposures. (See 'Additional resources' below.)


Throughout history, rodent control has been essential to the survival and health of populations. Rodents carry disease and affect food supply, and multiply rapidly when left unchecked. The process of eradicating rodent populations, however, is not without challenges. For example, rodents will avoid some toxic compounds by taste alone (primary bait refusal), will not feed twice on a substance that causes illness (bait shyness), and learn to avoid certain supplies of food or water if they cause death in other rodents [1]. For this reason, one-dose rodenticides are often used because using a toxin that must accumulate after multiple feedings will kill only a fraction of target animals.

Moreover, finding an agent that is easy to spread, highly toxic to rodents, but low in toxicity to nontarget species (such as humans and domesticated animals) is not straightforward. An ideal rodenticide has the following qualities:

It must be effective in small enough amounts that adding it to food or water supply will not cause bait refusal.

It must not partially sicken rodents who ingest it, lest it cause bait shyness for future encounters.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Feb 14, 2017.
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