Rat Bait Poisoning
Rat bait (rodenticide) poisoning is the most common poisoning we see in the clinic. It generally affects dogs as they are more readily ruled by their stomachs! It is rare to see in cats.
There are various rat baits on the market including Talon, Storm, Pindone, Racumin and Pest Off. These baits work by preventing the production of clotting factors (anticoagulants). This lack of clotting factors causes prolonged and uncontrolled bleeding which is often fatal if untreated.
Primary poisoning (eating the bait directly) is the most common route of exposure. If you have rat bait on your property your dog is at risk. Even bait that is hidden away can be "sniffed out" or dragged out into the open by rats which is then accessible.
To reduce the risk of ingestion
1) Use bait stations to lay the poison.
2) Store poison in watertight plastic containers (rats can eat through the bags of bulk poison and then dogs gain access).
3) Take note of signs detailing poisoning programs in bush areas /farmlands.
Secondary poisoning when a dog/ cat eats a rat that has been poisoned is rare but can occur.
Following ingestion it takes 3 –5 days before bleeding starts. This is due to a "store" of clotting factors which are used up before clinical bleeding occurs. Clinical signs of bleeding include lethargy, white gums, anorexia, laboured breathing, dark faeces and lameness.
Diagnosis when ingestion of bait has been undetected is based on the presence of rat bait on the property, clinical exam findings and a blood sample to check the clotting time. Clotting times are increased 48 hours after the ingestion of rat bait.
Treatment of rat bait toxicity involves supplementation with Vitamin K1 until the bait is out of the system. The length of vitamin K treatment needed depends on the type and amount of bait ingested but on average at least 2 weeks treatment is needed. When life threatening bleeding has occurred a blood transfusion is needed to replace the lost red blood cells and rapidly replace clotting factors.
When the ingestion of rat bait is known the best treatment is the induction of vomiting to prevent absorption. This needs to be done within 2-3 hours after ingestion. A blood clotting test can then be taken 48 hrs later to determine the need for vitamin K treatment.
If you see or suspect your dog has eaten rat bait call the clinic ASAP. With prompt and effective treatment the prognosis is good.