Due to the current mouse plague sweeping across regional NSW, we’re seeing more and more pets fall victim to rat bait poisoning.
Pet owners know to keep any harmful substances out of reach, but the issue is caused by cats and dogs eating the poisoned mice or rats.
Rat bait poisoning can become fatal if not detected early, particularly this kind of second-hand exposure as it’s not obvious to pet owners.
At Fletcher Vet we believe that an informed and prepared pet owner can save the life of their pet in an emergency. Here’s everything you’ll need to know about rat poison and what you can do to help.
What is rat bait?
Rat bait is can be bought at the supermarket, so it’s easily accessible and we have a wide choice of brands with varying ingredients.
As a vet, we need as much information as we can get about the type of poison ingested so we can so we can act appropriately. Our advice is to keep records of the poisons in your house in case of emergency.
The most common rat baits on the market contain ingredients that stop the production of vitamin K – one of the key vitamins involved in blood clotting.
When the body is unable to clot properly, any injury or bump can result in bleeding that cannot be stopped, causing significant blood loss.
Signs and symptoms of rat poisoning
Typically, the signs of rat bait poisoning aren’t noticed until 2-3 days after ingestion, however, it’s critical to act as soon as you notice any symptoms.
Look out for these signs of excessive blood loss:
- Weakness and lethargy
- Pale gums
- Shock or collapse
- Respiratory signs (panting, heavy breathing and coughing)
- Gastrointestinal upset (vomiting blood, blood in faeces, or black tar-like faeces)
- Nose bleeds
- Vaginal bleeding or blood in urine
- Swollen abdomen (indicates internal bleeding)
- Lameness/swollen joints
Diagnosis and treatment of rat bait toxicity
If rat bait is suspected, we perform a full clinical exam. We send blood samples to the lab to see how fast the blood is clotting.
Catching toxicity early
If you’re at the vet immediately or soon after catching your pet in the act of eating a poisoned mouse, rate or bait, we:
- Administer medication to vomiting (this is most effective when done in under 60 minutes from ingestion)
- Feed them activated charcoal to bind up any bait in the intestines
- Closely monitor and perform a blood clotting test 48 hours after treatment.
In more severe cases treatments will include:
- Vitamin K supplementation
This cancels out the effect of the bait and can stabilise the animals’ clotting ability. Treatment is in the form of tablets and courses normally last from 2-8 weeks. In critical cases, vitamin K injections are available.
- Stabilisation in hospital
Patients who have lost a lot of blood need IV support, blood transfusions and oxygen to maintain their blood pressure.
- Emergency treatments
Surgery is required if internal bleeding has caused blood to form around the heart and lungs. The collected blood can be filtered and given back to the pet to aid in recovery, or a blood transfusion is performed.
These patients are cared for at the clinic for several days in conjunction with after-hours care at our local emergency centre.
What you can do at home
- Use mouse or rat traps over rat bait around the house
- Ensure any pest management services are aware that you have pets
- If you see your pet eat rat bait or see a slow-moving mouse, don’t wait to see if they get sick – ACT IMMEDIATELY. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Chat with your neighbours about what you’re doing to prevent mice/rats and encourage them to do the same so mice/rats travelling don’t from house to house.
If you have more questions about your animal’s health, check out our blog for more resources. Or you can call our highly experienced vets and vet nurses for advice on 4955 6670.