RAT BAIT POISONING IN DOGS

Posted by Belinda Bird on

Rat bait is one of the top causes of toxicity in dogs. Dogs are attracted to it and it is lethal! Half the time pet owners do not know that their dog or cat has ingested it, and the other half of the time only remnants of a box or bait is left, leaving owners and Veterinarians unsure of the active ingredients or the quantity ingested. 

 

And, just encase you think your dog is safe because you have placed it on a shelf that he can't reach, think again... a dog can actually receive a lethal dose from an infected rodent. 

 

Manufacturers design these products to be attractive to mice through smell and taste (sugar is a common ingredient... can you believe it!), and unfortunately, this also attracts our dogs, and occasionally cats. 

 

While rat bait is one solution to lowering or removing the rodent population around your home, there are alternative options that pose no risk to your family members. 

If your dog has ingested rat poisoning, it is important to take the box/packet and anything remaining with you in a secure container. Your vet will need to know the active ingredient and the amount eaten to treat effectively and efficiently. 

 

 

 

 

 

TYPES OF RAT BAIT AVAILABLE

 
There are four different active ingredients that are found in most rat poisons (rodenticides). 

 

 

1.

ANTICOAGULANT RODENTICIDES OR LONG ACTING ANTICOAGULANTS (ACR OR LAAC'S)

These ACR's prevent the body from producing Vitamin K (commonly Warfarin), which is essential for blood clotting. Without it, internal bleeding begins and the body has no way to stop it. It typically takes 3-5 days from ingestions for symptoms to show. If a large amount has been ingested, symptoms will likely be seen sooner. 

 

 

SYMPTOMS

  • Commonly seen symptoms are:
  • Cerebral Odema
  • Bruising
  • Blood in the urine
  • Swollen Joints
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty Breathing (Due to bleeding into the lungs)
  • Inapetence
  • Weakness
  • Pale Gums
  • Bleeding from the gums

 

TREATMENT

Very high doses of Vitamin K is required. Feeding a diet high in Vitamin K, or over the counter medications are inadequate. The treatment of Vitamin K takes 30 days to complete. A blood clotting test called Prothrombin which calculates the time it takes for your pets blood to clot, is required to confirm a final diagnosis. 

 

Treatment includes decontamination, Vitamin K1 orally (typically for 30 days), blood transfusions, plasma transfusions, oxygen, and supportive care. All given as required.

 

 

POTENCY

With there being a range of active ingredients used for the same anticoagulant purpose, it depends on the specific one that is ingested and the quantity. Bromadiolone, for example, has a wider margin of safety, requiring a larger amount to cause poisoning. The age and health of the animal also play a part in the effect. Dogs with gastrointestinal disease, puppies and senior dogs are at a higher risk. Certain species, such as cats, are more resistant to this form on poisoning. 

 

PRODUCTS CONTAINING ACR's or LAAC's

Found in Ratsak and Talon Rodenticides 

 

 

Here is a great video by Dr. Karen Becker that discusses this form of poisoning:

 

 

 

2.

CHOLECALCIFOROL (VITAMIN D3) 

Only a small amount of Cholecalciferol is required to cause significant poisoning in both dogs and cats. Cholecalciferol causes very high calcium and phosphorus levels in the body, resulting in severe, acute kidney failure. 

 

SYMPTOMS

Commonly seen symptoms are:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy 
  • Halitosis (uraemic/foul breath)
  • Acute kidney failure within 2-3 days

 

 

TREATMENT

Unfortunately, there is no antidote and it is one of the most difficult to treat, and it is expensive, often requiring 5-7 days in hospital. Treatment includes aggressive IV fluids to flush the calcium and kidney poisons out, medications to help decrease the body’s calcium level (e.g., pamidronate, calcitonin, steroids, diuretics), and frequent blood work monitoring for 2-6 weeks after ingestion.

 

 

POTENCY

Cholecalciferol is very potent with a narrow margin for safety. A small ingestion of this poison can be fatal for both dogs and cats. Quick response and treatment are key. 

 

 

PRODUCTS CONTAINING CHOLECALCIFEROL


Found in d-CON

 

 

 

 

3.

BROMETHALIN 

Bromethalin is another ingredient without an antidote and causes swelling on the brain (cerebral oedema). The ingredient name looks similar to some LAAC's, so be careful as it can be easily mistaken. 

 

The more that is ingested the stronger the symptoms. Generally, symptoms are seen within 2 hours but could be delayed for as long as 32 hours, making early intervention and 24-hour monitoring vital. 

 

 

SYMPTOMS

Commonly seen symptoms are:

  • Ataxia (wobble while walking)
  • Tremours
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis

 

 

TREATMENT

Treatment includes inducing vomiting, administering activated charcoal, IV fluids, anti-seizure medication, muscle relaxants, and supportive care. Hospital care is likely to be required for a few days as Bromethalin has long-lasting effects. 

 

 

POTENCY

Cats are more sensitive to Bromethalin than dogs, and it comes with a narrow margin of safety. 

 

 

PRODUCTS CONTAINING

Found in Tomcat

 

 

 

4.

ZINC AN ALUMINIUM PHOSPHIDES

Phosphides are the least common ingredient found in rodenticides, it is still dangerous and is potentially poisonous to you, your family and veterinary staff. It is more commonly used to kill larger creatures and produces a toxic gas in the stomach called phosphine gas. Food in the stomach will increase the amount of gas, and as a result, also increase the level of toxicity. It is important to never feed your dog after the ingestion of this poison. 

This poison is of particular concern as inhalation of the fumes from a dog’s vomit may cause lung irritation to both the dog and the pet owner.

 

 

SYMPTOMS

Commonly seen symptoms are: 

  • Stomach bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Shock
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
  • Liver damage 

 

 

TREATMENT

This poison also has no antidote, and prompt medical attention is necessary. Treatment includes anti-vomiting medication, antacids in an aim to reduce gas build-up, IV fluids, and supportive care.

At all times during treatment, there is a risk of exposure to gas, making it essential to not attempt to induce vomiting at home or provide any other medical treatment. Veterinary staff are trained in reducing risk to both themselves and other animals in the vicinity. 

 

 

POTENCY

This is the most toxic of them all, with the smallest margin of safety. A small amount can be lethal. It is important to remember that the gas is potent at all times. If your dog vomits in the car on the way to the Veterinary Clinic, immediately roll down all windows to ventilate the car as much as possible. 

 

 

PRODUCTS CONTAINING ZINC AND ALUMINIUM PHOSPHIDES 

Found in SureFire

 

  

 

HOW TO KEEP RATS AND MICE AWAY

While it seems like these sneaky critters can go as thin as paper and fit into any crevis, there are ways that you can help to keep them out of your house and home. 

 

Here are eight ways to keep rats and mice away from our home:

  1. Fill holes, cracks and gaps to remove access points 
  2. Don't feed them by leaving scraps and full bins around
  3. Remove their habitat by getting rid of excess around your yard, such as timber, old cars etc. 
  4. Trim trees, shrubs and limbs back four feet from your home
  5. Set traps inside. Traps are a safe way to remove rodents when pets are around. 
  6. Use baits and poisons outside in an area that your pet can not reach. I still recommend traps over baits, because they are still animals that experience pain and poisoning would be a horrible way to die.  
  7. Check your neighbourhood and band together with your neighbours to combat the problem together. 
  8. Call the professionals if nothing else works. 

 

 

 

  

CAN DEAD RATS OR MICE STILL BE LETHAL TO A DOG OR CAT?

Yes.. Yes.. and, Yes! If you have rat poison out and your cat or dog eats a rat that has died from ingesting one of those poisons, your pet will be affected too. Treatment will be required! 

 

Once a cat or dog ingests the poison, whether directly or via a deceased rodent, it can take 3-5 days for symptoms to show, making it imperative that veterinary attention is sought immediately. 

 

 

 

 

If you have any feedback or questions that you would like to share, please reach out to me. I would love to hear from you. 

 

 

Belinda Bird

Founder & Veterinary Nurse

 

 


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