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Rat bait toxicity
Mill Road Vet Hospital / Friday, 04 March 2022

Rat bait toxicity

As we head into the cooler seasons, rats and mice can start to head indoors which can be a nuisance. Often rat bait is laid out to solve the problem. If the bait is not in a secured station, an inquisitive dog could ingest the bait. Unfortunately, rat bait is highly toxic to dogs.


Rat bait works as an anti-coagulant by interfering with the clotting system. It stops the recycling of Vitamin K which is involved in producing essential clotting factors. Clotting factors allow blood to clot and help control bleeding. If there is a depleted level of Vitamin K in the body, blood clots cannot form. Uncontrolled bleeding can result.


Signs of rat bait toxicity may not be apparent until 3-7 days after ingestion. Blood loss can occur internally or externally.


Symptoms include lethargy, pale or white gums, coughing, swollen joints, bruising under the skin, eyes, or bleeding from the nose, blood in urine or tarry feces. 


As rat bait can take up to 3-5 days to cause uncontrolled bleeding, the best thing to do if you notice your dog ingesting any bait is to give your vet a call as soon as possible. We will induce vomiting to eliminate the bait from their system. This can be followed by administering activated charcoal to help to bind any remaining toxin. Depending on the case, we may also start the dog on Vitamin K supplements straightaway. 


If your dog is already showing clinical signs of bleeding, and is very unwell, then treatment can be intensive. In addition to Vitamin K supplements, they may also require a blood or plasma transfusion to replenish the clotting factors and stop further bleeds, intravenous fluids, and oxygen.


If not caught early enough, some dogs can also die from rat bait toxicity.


Vitamin K supplementation will be required for 2-3 weeks. This can be given orally once the dog is able to go home. A follow up blood test will usually be required to determine when Vitamin K supplementation can be stopped.


As rat bait can be highly toxic to dogs, alternatives like traps are preferred. If you are using bait, please ensure to secure bait in stations and check them regularly to ensure that your dog cannot gain access to them. Store any unused bait in a locked cupboard.

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