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We’ve been talking lately about pet poison emergencies. But did you know that in some cases, your pet’s emergency can become a health hazard for you, too?

Your pet can become seriously ill if he ingests a certain type of rodenticide – but now comes word that what your pet eats can have serious consequences for you, too.

As reported in the June 2012 edition of DVM Newsmagazine, a particular ingredient in some rodenticides, known as zinc phosphide, can form a toxic gas when combined with stomach acids or water. The trouble for pet owners and veterinary staff begins when the pet vomits, releasing the newly formed gas phosphine.

Staff members at several veterinary clinics in the U.S. have been sickened as a result of dogs vomiting the rodenticide and releasing phosphine gas. Reported symptoms in people included headaches, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and nausea.

Other symptoms of phosphine poisoning in both people and animals include vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, even death.

Phosphine gas may smell like garlic or rotting fish, but it can be dangerous even when no odor is detected at all.

There are steps you can take to protect yourself and your pets:

*Never leave insect or rodent bait where your pets can reach them.
*If you set out bait, keep the portion of the label that lists the ingredients and emergency phone numbers. This information can assist in the treatment of a pet or person exposed to the poison.
*If you believe your pet has ingested the rodenticide, call Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661 for emergency assistance and instructions.
*Do not give food or liquids to your pet if it has ingested zinc phosphide, since the resulting stomach acids can produce more phosphine gas.
*Do not induce vomiting if you suspect your pet has eaten zinc phosphide. Always wait for instructions from medical personnel.
*Take your pet to the nearest veterinary emergency hospital. Open the car windows so the vehicle is well-ventilated if the pet throws up in the car.
*If your pet vomits indoors, immediately ventilate the area and leave until you have been given further instructions by a medical professional. If necessary, contact the Fire Department for HAZMAT response, or contact Poison Control (for human exposure) at 1-800-222-1222 for cleanup instructions.
*Phosphine gas is heavy and will sink to the ground. Therefore, stay above the animal’s level, to reduce your exposure.
*If you believe you have been exposed to phosphine gas, seek medical help immediately. 

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The list of rodenticides with zinc phosphide as the main ingredient includes:
Arrex, Denkarin Grains, Gopha-Rid, Phosvin, Pollux, Ridall, Ratol, Rodenticide AG, Zinc-Tox and ZP.

As other products enter the marketplace, this list may change. Always read ingredients and warning labels on rodenticides.

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Resources for this article:
The American Veterinary Medical Association
DVM Newsmagazine, June 2012 
National Pesticide Information Center 

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This post originally appeared on June 15, 2012.

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