May the mouse plague, NOT be with you (or your pet!)

Don’t panic – it’s not like the ‘Black Plague’ that ravaged communities back in the 1300’s is repeating itself, but sadly we are seeing many cases of rat bait poisonings due to the recent increase of mice and rats.

Due to the wet weather earlier this year, it forced mice and rats into hiding. Now as the weather has become drier, it’s brought out these pests in full swing. They’ve caused many issues and devastation to farming communities both in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
The other devastation is the number of cases of pets who are being poisoned from either eating blocks of poison that are around their homes, or by secondary poisoning through eating a dead (or alive!) mouse/rat that has ingested bait.

First things first, we guess you want to know what Rat poison does and why it’s so bad for our pets to eat. Rat bait affects the way blood clots. There are a lot of different factors that are involved with making blood clot, and rat bait takes out one of these factors which results in blood not clotting. This means bad news for our furry friends!

How will I know if my fur-kid has eaten it?

Unfortunately, though rat bait is a poison, it doesn’t make our pets react the same as if they were baited with snail bait or other poisonous substances. It depends too on how much bait they have consumed. It can take between 2-7 days before seeing symptoms, which can lead to shattering consequences.

Symptoms can include:
• Obvious external signs of haemorrhage (dependent on where the bleeding is; for example bruising, bloody faeces or urine, nose bleeds, vomiting blood).
• Lethargy/Weakness
• Wobbliness
• Loss of appetite
• Distended abdomen from bleeding into the abdomen
• Coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing
• Pale gums
• Bulging of eyes from bleeding behind the eyes
• Sudden death with no obvious clinical signs can also occur.

When pets are brought in with a suspicion of being poisoned, the first thing we do is a full examination, particularly checking their gum colour and listening to their chests. Blood tests which look at the clotting time of blood is also performed which will usually confirm if they’ve had some form of bait.

Is there anything the vets can give our pets to save them?

Thankfully there is treatment available! Depending on how unwell your pet is, it might be as simple as sending home with a long course of Vitamin K, or they may need to be hospitalized and need a blood transfusion to help replenish lost blood. They require blood tests to make sure their blood count is at a good range, and to check the clotting time factor is coming back down to normal.

So how can I prevent them from getting poisoned?

Thankfully there are ways to help! If you do have a rodent issue at your house, use mouse traps rather than baits. If you are using baits, make sure your thoroughly scout your house for dead mice/rats and clear them away so your pets don’t have a chance to snack on them.
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.

Hopefully this has answered some questions in regards to what to do in a situation if your pet has possibly eaten rat bait. The best course of action is to contact the clinic immediately and book an appointment to get started on treatment as soon as possible.