Rat bait poisoning can be a silent killer. 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.
Manufacturers design these products to be attractive to mice through smell and taste (sugar in the product), and unfortunately, for all of us pet owners, our pets are attracted to it too.
There are four different active ingredients that are found in most rat poisons (rodenticides).
Anticoagulant rodenticides (ACR)
These ACR's prevent the body from producing Vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting. Without it, internal bleeding can start and is unable to stop. Thankfully, Vitamin K1 can rectify the imbalance if the cat or dog is treated early enough.
Treatment includes decontamination, Vitamin K1 orally (typically for 30 days), blood transfusions, plasma transfusions, oxygen, and supportive care.
Found in Ratsak and Talon Rodenticides
Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3)
Only a small amount of Cholecalciferol is required to cause significant poisoning in both dogs and cats. Unfortunately, there is no antidote and treatment is expensive, often requiring 5-7 days in hospital with aggressive therapy.
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.
Bromethalin is another ingredient without an antidote and causes swelling on the brain (cerebral oedema).
Treatment includes inducing vomiting, administering activated charcoal, IV fluids, anti-seizure medication, muscle relaxants, and supportive care.
Phosphides are the least common ingredient, 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.
Treatment includes not feeding your dog (no milk, bread or other “anti-poison home remedies”). That’s because if there’s food in the stomach, it actually makes the poisoning worse and results in more phosphine gas production. This same gas is poisonous to humans too, so make sure you don’t inhale the gas. In other words, if you’re driving to your veterinary clinic and your dog vomits at home or in the car, make sure to ventilate the area well (e.g., open the windows, turn on the air conditioner in the car, etc.). Likewise, when the veterinary staff induces vomiting in dogs ingesting phosphides, they should do so outside or in a well-ventilated area. Treatment includes anti-vomiting medication, antacids, IV fluids, and supportive care.
Symptoms of Rat Bait Poisoning
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale gums
- Coughing (especially of blood)
- Vomiting (with blood)
- Bloody nose
- Swelling or bumps on the skin (e.g., hematomas)
- Bleeding from the gums
The symptoms displayed are dependant on the toxin induced and a pet may display only a few or most of them. The symptoms listed above can be caused by a number of conditions, so it is best to find evidence that the pet has eaten some.
If evidence is found, be sure to collect anything remaining, along with the packaging so veterinary staff can see the active ingredients and treat accordingly.
How to keep Rats and Mice away
While it seems that 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:
- Fill holes, cracks and gaps to remove access points
- Don't feed them by leaving scraps and full bins around
- Remove their habitat by getting rid of excess around your yard, such as timber, old cars etc.
- Trim trees, shrubs and limbs back four feet from your home
- Set traps inside. Traps are a safe way to remove rodents when pets are around.
- Use baits and poisons outside in an area that your pet can not reach.
- Check your neighbourhood and band together with your neighbours to combat the problem together.
- Call the pros
Can dead rats and mice still cause damage?
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 the 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.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or personal experiences.
I would love to hear any feedback or experiences that you have!