Both dogs and cats can be affected by ingesting rat bait directly or by ingesting rodents which have ingested rat bait. It is a condition to be taken seriously and early diagnosis and treatment may prove life saving.
What types of rat bait are there?
There are two major types of rat bait: 1st generation drugs such as Ratblitz (active ingredient: Warfarin) have a short duration of action and require ingestion over a long period of time to be fatal, and 2nd generation drugs such as Talon and Ratsak (active ingredient: Brodifacoum) which have a long duration of action and a single dose may prove fatal.
How will rat bait affect your pet?
Rat bait acts as an anticoagulant (prevents the blood from clotting) by depleting the body's supply of vitamin K. Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin which is essential in the formation of clotting agents in the blood stream. It can take anything from 1-5 days after ingestion to begin to see the signs of intoxication.
What are the signs of rat bait toxicity?
Signs of intoxication are associated with bleeding and can range from very subtle signs such as pin point haemorrhages on the gums to frank bleeding from anywhere. Normal everyday movement results in micro damage to blood vessels at the capillary level. When the body's clotting mechanism is working properly, these damages are repaired immediately without us being aware of it. However, when our clotting system is not working, these minute traumas are not repaired and continue to bleed and thus may result in any of the following signs:-
- pale gums or small pin point haemorrhages on the gums
- bruising under the skin
- blood in the urine or faeces
- bleeding from the nose
- continued bleeding from small wounds or cuts
Other signs (as a result of blood oozing into body cavities/ organs) may include:
- vomiting and or diarrhoea
- coughing or respiratory difficulties (laboured or rapid breathing)
- seizures or muscle tremors
What to do you suspect your pet has rat bait toxicity?
If you see your pet eating rat bait it is important to bring them straight to the vet. If you are unable to, please ring us for advice immediately. If you haven't seen your pet ingest rat bait but notice signs that may relate to ingestion then we also advise you to see us as soon as possible. If you have a box of the rat bait please bring this in with you or find out the name and active ingredients.
What does treatment involve?
This will depend on the severity of the toxicity and timing of ingestion. Blood may need to be taken for clotting tests and to assess for anaemia. Treatment may be as simple as giving vitamin K tablets for 3-6 weeks or may require more intensive treatment such as blood transfusions and hospitalisation. In some cases even with the most intensive treatment some animals may die.
If you suspect your pet has eaten rat bait, your pet needs to see a veterinarian immediately.