For the love of you pet: Gopher bait extremely toxic for pets

By John Beck
May 16, 2013 at 12:16 a.m.

I have a bad gopher problem in my front yard. Can I use gopher bait in my front yard if I keep my dogs in the backyard?

There are a lot of people complaining of gophers this time of year. If you don't have a good hunting cat, it can really become an issue very quickly.

Most dogs and cats will keep your yard gopher free, but most people don't have their four-legged family members in their front yard.

Most gopher baits are seed like in appearance and are coated in strychnine or zinc phosphide. Both of these chemicals are extremely toxic if ingested. It takes about 1 ounce of strychnine coated seed to kill a 50 to 70 pound dog.

The zinc phosphide mixes with the acid in the stomach and makes a deadly gas, phosphine, which circulates in the dog's blood stream, causing cardiovascular collapse and irritation of the alimentary tract.

This usually causes the patient to begin having cluster seizures. After this point, there is only a 2 percent survival rate. Toxicosis is evident within 15 minutes to four hours after ingestion.

Unfortunately, there is no antidote for these poisons. Patients who have not begun to show signs (owners saw their pet ingest the poison) can have their stomach emptied and be given medications to slow stomach acid production and to support the circulatory system. Intravenous fluids and hospitalization will be a must, and even with this, prognosis is still guarded.

Worried your dog or cat might eat a dead gopher? It wouldn't be the gopher that causes the problem. It would be the poisoned seed hidden in the gopher's cheek pouches.

Gophers usually store large amounts of food in their cheeks for later. These portions would be big enough to be lethal to most pets.

The balls of seed are usually effective for several months after being placed outside. The average bait only looses 6 percent of its efficacy for every day that it is exposed to the elements. Dry baits must be considered toxic indefinitely.

They shouldn't be placed within a half mile of any pets, due to the length a gopher can tunnel. Keep a good watch on your pets when taking them for walks. You never know what might be in someone's yard.

Always take caution and read warning labels when treating your yard or house with herbicides, insecticides and cleaners. Most bottles are marked with instructions on safe handling and time requirements before letting children or pets back into the treated area. If it is safe for use around children, it is generally safe for use around pets.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at



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