Nearly all the rodent baits now used by pest controllers will cause the same effects as Warfarin: a thinning of the blood, leading to internal bleeding (hemorrhaging).
The anticoagulants of the poison prevent the blood from clotting if there are cuts and scratches and at high doses the small blood vessels inside the animal will burst.
External Rat Bait Station
For the animal owner the signs may be:
- General listless, tired and white or pale gums
- Possibly blood in the urine or poo and maybe a nose bleed
- Sometimes blood is coughed up
- In severe cases, the stomach (abdomen) becomes distended due to extra fluids internally
- Not all dogs will vomit after eating baits
Unfortunately these symptoms are not unique to rat baits poisoning and could be caused by other factors. If in any doubt take your pet to a vet for tests and a full check up immediately.
There are two types of exposure:
Direct exposure: where the dog finds an open container of baits and eats them directly
Indirect exposure: where the dog eats another animal (usually a rodent) that dies from the poison.
Direct Ingestion of Rodent Bait
If your pet eats bait directly, then the poisoning effect may be more serious; it depends on the amount consumed. This usually only happens after someone has been careless with rat control baits, either leaving a storage container somewhere where it can fall open or placing baits outside without proper security. Baits outside, for example in a garden or under a house, must be inside a child proof and dog proof container; the simplest way to ensure this is to always use the professional plastic bait stations; these are LOCKABLE.
This type of direct exposure can happen if a storage container is damaged by rodents chewing a hole in it or, more likely, baits are placed on a neighbour’s property, without due care.
Indirect Ingestion of Rodent Bait
Rodents that have eaten poison will not die immediately and may be found by dogs and cats; they can be easily caught and eaten; the amount of poison ingested by the pet is limited by what is inside the dead rodent and the quantity is RARELY enough to cause a problem for the pet, UNLESS the whole carcass is eaten. Simply chewing on a dead rat should not cause a problem for the cat or dog. This is because the effect of the poison is related to the size of the animal; in other words a typical size cat or dog must eat much more poison than the rat to have a toxic effect. It is roughly in proportion to weight, so a 2kg cat would have to eat 6 times the amount that would poison a 300gram rat, or totally digest 6 rats.
This is only an approximate indication of amounts because all individuals differ in their sensitivity to poisons and their reaction is affected by their overall health and the type and quantity of other food that the pet eats around the same time.
So, indirect exposure is usually less serious because the amount of poison inside the smaller animal is generally small.
Poisons are referred to as “dose related”, meaning the amount required to kill a large animal like a dog is many times more than the amount that will kill a rat; by the same argument, a small dog like a terrier, is more at risk if it eats 2 whole rats, than a large dog.
Since most of the bait eaten by the rat is still in its stomach, if the dog chews the body but does not eat the whole carcass, then it is very unlikely that the amount of poison ingested will make the dog sick. However, the dog owner does not often see exactly what the dog eats.
Treatment for the Poisoned Pet
There will not be any immediate symptoms as the anti-coagulant effect is slow; the time it takes for the pet to appear sick will vary with its health and the amount eaten.
If there is reason to believe the pet has eaten a large amount of bait, steps to induce vomiting may be required, so that more the poison is not absorbed over time from the stomach contents. The standard veterinary treatment is injections of vitamin K which helps reverse the poor blood clotting effects. The pet may also need extra fluids and if severely affected the vet may give a blood transfusion.
With rest and plenty of quiet time, the healthy animal will recover as the blood coagulation improves and the natural body processes remove the blood and fluids from the pet’s body cavity.
Preventing a Dog’s Exposure to Rat Poison
The pets should be supervised when away from their home property and any toxic chemicals or baits that you control must be securely locked away.
Other steps include:
Arranging for baits to be laid by an experienced pest control professional with good wildlife and animal knowledge, like Peter the Possum and Bird Man. Peter the Possum Man has extensive experience in rat and rodent control in Brisbane, and can advise you on all your pest control needs.
Ensuring you and your neighbours ALWAYS insist that the professional plastic bait stations are used for any baits to be placed outside of cavities in buildings. NEVER allow cardboard bait stations to be used, as these can be ripped open by dogs and other native wildlife (such as possums).
If you think a pet MAY have been poisoned, you must visit the vet immediately; there are some 24-hour clinics in Brisbane. Take with the animal, any samples or information about the poison, preferably packaging or the exact name of the product.
If a professional pest controller laid the baits for your rodent control, the invoice or other documentation should tell you about the poison used. The information will ensure the vet can make the best decisions but also be aware the symptoms may be caused by other types of poisons or another type of illness so try to consider a wider range of possible causes when explaining your concerns to the vet.