Whats the topic today?

Rat bait poisoning – Ive talked about this before but it is such a common problem that I think i need to mention it again.

Does that cause a lot of problems around Marlborough?
Yes its the number one poisoning that we see in dogs. We see cases very regularly, maybe a couple of cases every month.

Why is it so common?
A lot of people use rat bait on vineyards, farms, houses and the bait is very tasty. If it is around dogs will eat it for sure.

Dont people hide the bait when they use it?
Yes they do but the rats can drag them out and leave them in the open. Dogs are very good too at working out how to remove bait from hiding places.  The fact of the matter is if you have rat bait on your property, no matter how safe you think it is, your dog will eventually find some. Accidents do and will happen.

Does rat bait kill dogs?
Without treatment yes, they bleed to death. Rat bait destroys the bloods ability to clot so you get internal haemorrhaging. It does this by destroying the bodys ability to make vitamin K.

How long does it take for the poison to cause bleeding problems?
It can take several days after eating the poison before you get signs of bleeding. That is because the body has a store of vitamin K. Once that store has been used up is when you start to run into problems.

Whats signs might people see. Will they see their dogs bleeding?
No the bleeding is usually internal so they wont see it. Sometimes however the dog may cough up blood or pass blood in the urine or faeces.  Usually the most obvious sign is the gums go a ghostly white and the dog becomes very lethargic.

How do you diagnose rat bait poisoning at the clinic?
First we become suspicious from the clinical signs and then we confirm this with a blood test to measure the ability of the blood to clot.

Is there any treatment?
The first and best treatment if you know the dog has eaten rat bait is to make them sick but this has to be within a couple of hours of them having eaten the poison. After that and the poison will already have been absorbed.

So what can people do if its longer than 2 hours?
Vitamin K is the specific antidote for rat bait poisoning and so long as this can be started before any bleeding starts the dog should be fine.

What happens if bleeding has already started?
It takes 24 hours for vitamin K to work so that on its own that won’t save a bleeding dog. We need to give a blood transfusion to replace all the clotting factors.

That sounds expensive. Is treatment expensive?
Yes it is. Vitamin K is expensive on its own but a blood transfusion adds hundreds of dollars to the bill.

How long does treatment go on for, is it for life?
We treat with vitamin K for about 4 weeks but we need to do a follow up blood test to make sure it is safe to stop treatment.

So what are the take home messages for today?
Firstly there is no safe way to use rat bait. If you have it on your property accidents will happen
Secondly rat bait poisoning is expensive to treat and it is often fatal.