As soon as Cisco arrived at GVH, blood was drawn, an IV catheter placed and fluids started. Cisco’s blood work showed low red blood cells and low platelets. We took radiographs (x-rays) but there was so much blood in the chest that Dr. Albrecht could not evaluate the heart. Cisco’s clotting times were very prolonged- Cisco would take more than 5 minutes to form even a small clot. Cisco’s lab work pointed towards poisoning rather than a mass. In Cisco’s case, surgery would have been deadly, which is why clotting times are so important.

Most rodent poisons (rodenticides) kill rodents by depleting the body’s store of Vitamin K and the proteins that allow the body to form clots. The body doesn’t want clots forming all of the time, so Vitamin K is used by the body to “activate” the proteins that form clots when (and where) a clot is needed.  Bodies are constantly repairing small tears in blood vessels, and when the tears can’t be repaired, the animal that ingests the poison begins to bleed internally.

Dr. Albrecht removed close to a liter of blood from Cisco’s chest. Some of the blood was placed in a transfusion bag, filtered, and was given directly back to Cisco. Using Cisco’s own blood greatly decreased his chance of a reaction to the transfusion. With every syringe, Cisco started to breathe easier as the pressure on his lungs lessened. By the time Cisco was finished getting his blood transfusion, his gums were less pale. His hematocrit (the percentage of red blood cells in the blood) had increased by 3%.

In addition to his transfusion, Cisco was also given fresh frozen plasma (the liquid part of blood, with all of the proteins that allow the body to form blood clots) and Vitamin K.

A toxicology panel was sent to Michigan State University to confirm that Cisco had ingested poison, as well as identify the precise poison to determine how long Cisco would need to be treated.His blood work came back positive for a second generation coumarin called Brodifacoum (this is similar to warfarin).  Brodifacoum has a long half life in the body (the rate of elimination), so Cisco will be on oral Vitamin K for several weeks, and then monitored until we are sure the poison is fully eliminated.

Two days later, Cisco returned home to his family­—his clotting times were back to normal. He will be able to return to running with his owner as soon as he fully recovers.


I just wanted to say thank you to Dr. Albrecht and his staff for the amazing care they provided to my Mom's shih-tzu, Ebby!. You've given her a second chance at life!