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Poisoning in pet rodents

If you suspect that your pet rodent has been poisoned, it's best to stay calm and contact your vet immediately – never watch and wait. Here's more on what you should do and how to keep your pet safe.

female domestic top-eared rat in an enriched cage

If you think your pet rodent has been poisoned

  1. Stay calm and move your rodents to a safe place away from the source of poison.
  2. Contact your vet immediately and tell them when, where and how it happened. If possible, take the packaging, plant or substance to the vet, but only if you can do this safely.
  3. Follow your vet's advice - if asked, take your rodent to the vet quickly and calmly. They'll tell you what the situation is depending on the poison and how much of it your rodent has had.

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Never try to treat or medicate a rodent yourself. Some medicines for humans and other animals may be poisonous to rodents.
  • If their skin or fur is contaminated, don't let the rats lick it. Wash it with mild shampoo and water, rinse well and dry.
  • Keep your rodent away from any other animals to avoid cross-contamination.

Never 'watch and wait' if you suspect poisoning - act fast and contact a vet immediately.

Common pet rodent poisons:

Some of the things you have around your house and garden may be harmless to you, but they can be fatal to your pet rodent. Make sure you know what substances you should keep away from your rodents and what symptoms to look out for in case your rodent has eaten something poisonous.

If you think your pet rodent has been poisoned, call your vet immediately.

Rodent poisons ('rodenticides')

This refers to anticoagulant rodenticides, for example warfarin, which prevents blood clotting. Not all rodenticides are anticoagulants, so it's important to check which your rodent has eaten.

Rodenticides are used to control infestations of rats and mice. As the target animals, they're therefore particularly susceptible to their toxic effects.

Poisoning may cause life-threatening bleeding, and the effects may not appear for several days. Bleeding may be internal, so isn't always visible. Signs to watch for include loss of appetite, weakness, withdrawal and breathing difficulties.


Never give chocolate to your pet. It contains a powerful stimulant called theobromine (similar to caffeine), which is poisonous to rodents. Dark chocolate and cocoa contain high levels of theobromine.

Rodents may become unsteady on their legs, have rapid breathing, tremors or convulsions.


Ivy grows in woodlands and gardens and is a popular house and conservatory plant. All parts can be irritant if eaten, and are potentially poisonous. The leaves and berries are particularly toxic.

In rodents, ivy poisoning may cause hunching (due to abdominal tenderness), diarrhoea, twitching and a low body temperature.


Foxgloves are found growing wild in woodlands and hedges, but are also cultivated in gardens as they have attractive flowers. All parts contain toxic substances called cardiac glycosides, and any amount is potentially very poisonous.

Signs of poisoning include weakness, collapse, tremors or twitching and a fast or slow heart rate. Severe poisoning can result in death.


Oleander is an evergreen shrub or small tree with star-shaped flowers. Oleander contains toxic substances called cardiac glycosides, which are present in both fresh and dried plant material. All parts of the plant are toxic, and even a small amount could result in life-threatening poisoning.

Rodents with oleander poisoning may show signs of twitching or convulsions, collapse, have a bluish discolouration of the skin and have irregular heartbeats.

Human drugs

Human drugs such as paracetamol and oral contraceptives – as well as household cleaning products – are other causes of pet poisoning. For more information about what substances are harmful to your pet rodent, speak to your vet.

Keeping your pet rodents safe from poison

Follow our tips to keep your rodents safe from poisons.

In the home:

  • Keep houseplants which can be harmful to rodents out of their reach. Pick up dropped leaves and petals.
  • Keep pesticides away from areas your rodent can access.
  • If treating your rodents with insecticides at home, separate them from other pets to avoid cross-contamination and ingestion if rats decide to engage in mutual grooming.
  • Keep a close eye on your rodents.


  • Ensure their housing and exercise areas are free from, and not overhung by, poisonous plants.
  • Ensure your rodent's water supply can't become contaminated, and change it regularly.

Find out more