Rat baits are dangerous and potentially deadly to animals and people that consume them. The baits used are normally flavoured to make them attractive to rodents and these can also entice other animals to eat them. Dogs and cats who ingest rat baits may die. Even children have sometimes been poisoned by rat bait.
How are dogs and cats poisoned by rat baits?
Your dog or cat could develop rat bait poisoning if they eat rat bait directly or if they eat tissue from an animal that has consumed rat bait.
What are the clinical signs of rat bait poisoning?
The clinical signs of rat bait poisoning vary considerably depending on the size of your dog or cat, and how much and what kind of rat bait they ingested.
There are different kinds of rat bait available; the most common are anti-coagulant poisons that stop blood from clotting normally, resulting in excessive bleeding. The development of clinical signs is usually delayed for 3-7 days after the dog or cat consumes the poison.
Signs of rat bait poisoning may include:
Obvious external signs of haemorrhage (dependent on where the bleeding is; for example bruising, bloody faeces or urine, nose bleeds, vomiting blood).
Loss of appetite
Distended abdomen from bleeding into the abdomen
Coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing from bleeding into the chest
pale gums from anaemia
Bulging of eyes from bleeding behind the eyes
Sudden death with no obvious clinical signs can also occur.
If you have any concerns about your pet please contact your vet as soon as possible. Rat bait poisoning can be treated, but the chance of recovery depends on how severely the dog or cat is affected, amount of bait consumed, and what kind of bait they ate. Seeking veterinary treatment as soon as possible is critical, with many needing prolonged treatment due to the lingering effects of the baits.
If you are using rat baits, make sure that they are always stored and used out of reach of children and other animals. Loose poison baits (pellets, meals) should not be used, instead the poison should be inside a bait station that cannot be accessed or opened by children and pets.
Take steps to avoid your dog gaining access to rat baits outside of your property by keeping them on leash in areas where you know rat baits are present, and preventing them from eating rodents or carcasses. Cats may be at risk of eating poisoned rodents due to their hunting behaviour. You can take steps to protect your cat, particularly if they are safely contained to your property. Rat/mouse proof your property to prevent rodent numbers building up and also to prevent poisoned animals entering your property.