Dog deaths prompt warning over rat bait

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Pet owners are being warned about the dangers of rat and mouse bait in the current mouse plague affecting both rural and metropolitan areas.

The University of Adelaide’s Companion Animal Health Centre, based at Roseworthy campus, has seen almost four times the normal numbers of cases of dogs poisoned with rat bait in the month of May to date, compared to March and April.

The Companion Animal Health Centre has had 19 dogs brought in during May suffering from rodenticide poisoning. This compares to March and April figures of 5 and 4 respectively. Unfortunately two of the dogs brought in in May died.

The University’s vets say that people using baits need to take care in putting them in places where dogs won’t be able to get access to them; and people with dogs should keep them supervised so they can’t wander and find baits.

But both dogs and cats can also get poisoned by eating poisoned rats and mice.

“Dogs are attracted to bait by the smell, just like rats and mice are, and will eat the bait if they find it,” say University of Adelaide Veterinary Clinician Dr Peter Hutchison.

“Cats don’t tend to eat baits, but 50% of the cases we see of rat bait poisonings in pets are where the animals have had no access to baits but have eaten poisoned rodents.

“As the rats and mice become sick and slower, they are easily caught by either dogs or cats. A few days later the cat or dog starts bleeding. Any pet seen to be eating rats or mice should be taken immediately to the closest vet who will make them vomit to stop the effect of the rodenticide.”

Clinical signs of rat poisoning include bleeding (in the urine and faeces or from the mouth, nose and any cuts), pale gums, increased respiratory rate and lethargy.

If poison is suspected veterinary clinics will run various blood tests. Rat bait contains anti-clotting agents which mean the pet can bleed to death internally. Treatment can involve surgery to release trapped blood and is lengthy and expensive, usually with clinic stays of a few days and ongoing treatment with vitamin K.

This is not just affecting rural and semi-rural areas but also metropolitan areas where people are putting baits around the house and in their gardens.

“The message for pet owners during the mouse plague is to not only make sure pets can’t access baits, but also check pets daily for any of the clinical signs of poisoning,” says Dr Hutchison.

“Don’t wait – if your pet has any of these symptoms get them to the vet immediately; they may be bleeding to death.”

“And please consider using traps instead. Mouse or rat traps may be less efficient than poison but they don’t kill your pet.”


Contact Details

Dr Peter Hutchison
Veterinary clinician
School of Animal and Veterinary Science
The University of Adelaide
Business: 8313 1999

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814