After dog's death, family seeks to educate about rodenticides

Courtesy PhotoCharlotte Balentine holds Rosie.

NEWBURYPORT — It should have been a long happy life for Rosie, a 7-pound cockapoo puppy owned by the Balentine family of Newburyport. But earlier this month, tragedy struck when Rosie was found dead — a possible victim of accidental poisoning. 

The Balentines believe their 4-month-old family member may have ingested a rodenticide, a deadly poison used to kill mice and sometimes squirrels. 

Rosie’s body was discovered Feb. 15 in the family’s backyard. Attempting to shed any light into Rosie’s mysterious death, the Balentines searched their yard and found two piles of Rosie’s feces containing birdseed. Allison Balentine said she brought the feces to an area veterinarian, who determined it contained poison.  

“She definitely ate the poison directly,” Balentine said earlier this week. 

According to Salisbury veterinarian Heidi Bassler, some rodenticides induce internal bleeding, killing its victims over a period of several days or a week. The same slow death can occur in pets who ingest the poison. The smaller the dog, the quicker the poison works. Among the symptoms of internal bleeding are fatigue, loss of appetite, and swollen ankle joints caused by blood pooling. 

“We don’t see it that often. Periodically only. It was more common when dogs used to roam and before leash laws,” said Bassler, who added that more people are now aware of the potentially tragic consequences of being careless with rodenticide.  

Still, the potential for disaster remains. Owners who believe their dogs have been exposed to an anti-coagulant poison are urged to visit their veterinarian for treatment. Bassler said once an anti-coagulant poison is detected, injections of vitamin K can save their lives. 

“Those kind of accidental exposures can happen,” Bassler said. 

Balentine doesn’t think for a moment that her pet was poisoned deliberately, but rather was the victim of a tragic accident. She and her family believe the poison-laced bait, perhaps set to kill squirrels, made its way to their property and was ingested by an unknowing Rosie. Due to her small stature, the amount of poison was enough to kill her. 

“It’s only by deduction, but I think it’s a fairly good deduction. We certainly welcome another set of eyes,” Balentine said. 

As a precaution, the Balentines brought their other cockapoo, 6-year-old Shadow, to their veterinarian for a vitamin K treatment. 

In the wake of Rosie’s death, the Balentines distributed fliers around their home off Ferry Road. Her street, she said, features large yards and friendly neighbors.  

“I don’t feel that this an intentional thing, but it’s not a nice thing at all,” Balentine said. 

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