Tomcat Killed Big Blue


Second in a series

The sudden loss of “Big Blue” triggered a derailment in the brains of the two young men who loved him. He was special to them and, yes, he was allowed to run loose but so were lots of other free-spirited Placitas dogs. It was a time of peace, love, and rock ‘n roll.

When you only hang out with like-minded folks you can forget that that there are others who may see things differently. If a neighbor is bothered by your dog showing up at their house you would expect them to say so. The possibility of nefarious behavior toward pets was dismissed out of hand. Surely this was an isolated event.

After the grief sunk in to Big Blue’s people I offered to keep his body for them until they decided whether they wanted to bury it or have it cremated. They called the next day, requesting a necropsy (autopsy, in human medical parlance). They’d talked with their neighbors. The general consensus was a worry that this may not be a one-off event. I conducted the necropsy and submitted stomach contents to the state diagnostic lab.

As it turned out, Big Blue did not die of d-CON poisoning as I had suspected but from a far more deadly anticoagulant called diphacinone. Just as easy to procure, but significantly more potent, this nasty rodent killer is sold under the trademark Tomcat. The bait traps are considered “pet proof” but not if the stuff is made available to roaming dogs by malicious intent.

Diphacinone was lesser known in 1979. It is so dangerous that even Mighty Mouse, consuming just a small amount, would lose his ability to clot. The minor bruising he would sustain from scurrying about and tearing into a sack of peanuts would bleed continually over 3-5 days. Sluggish from his advancing anemia he would be an easy mark for a natural predator like Big Blue to catch and swallow whole. The minute quantity of diphacinone from this live rodent snack would be so toxic that, when digested and absorbed, it could also have ended this 80# dog’s life. That’s not what happened in this case. The toxicology report indicated that a much larger amount had been ingested.
Next week: No accident
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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.