News & Advice

Rat bait – A case of who ate it? 

May 5, 2023 | Dogs, Pet Health

Recently, a little farm dog was brought in with two other dogs because ‘someone’ had gotten into the rat bait. Fortunately, the owner noticed the rat bait was missing early on and knew to bring the dogs in immediately.

With minimal time between the rat bait going missing and the owner finding out, it meant their vet could induce vomiting in all three dogs, then identify the culprit by the contents of the vomit (rat baits have a blue or green dye added for this purpose.) Inducing vomiting before the poison was absorbed meant that further symptoms were prevented, and the dogs could go home.

Other times when a pet is brought into the clinic, their owners have noticed green or blue faeces – an indication rat bait has been eaten and worked its way through the digestive system. In this case, it is vitally important to call your vet immediately. Rat bait works by thinning the blood and stopping its ability to form clots. Therefore, any pet who has digested rat bait will require treatment, such as vitamin K medication to prevent spontaneous and potentially life-threatening bleeding. In addition, not all dogs will have green/blue poo, so if you suspect your dog took rat bait, please call us!


What precautions should I take when using rat bait?

Rat bait is just as dangerous to other animals as it is to rats, so if you are using rat bait, it is important to take the following precautions:


  • Keep all rat baits out of reach of your pets, ideally in a locked cabinet or area that your pets cannot access. 


When using 

  • Use a trap or place the rat bait somewhere your pets cannot reach it. 
  • Check the traps regularly and record how much bait is put out so you know if it has been eaten or taken. 
  • While the rat bait is in use, keep the packaging or take note of the brand and active ingredient. If your pet does ingest rat bait, this information will help the vet treat your pet.  


How do rat baits work? 

Warfarin-type rat baits work by preventing the body from making vitamin K, therefore, depleting the vitamin K stores. Vitamin K is needed to make clotting factors in the blood. After a couple of days, the store of clotting factors will be depleted. As a result, uncontrolled, prolonged internal bleeding starts. You may not see signs of poisoning for up to five days.


What are some common signs my pet has eaten rat bait? 

Rat bait poisoning can present in a variety of ways, but the most common signs due to extensive internal blood loss include very pale gums, the pet becoming very lethargic and, as the anaemia becomes more severe rapid, laboured breathing. You may also see bruising under the skin, bleeding from the gum margins, black tarry faeces or blood in the urine.

A blood test at your local Anexa clinic will confirm if this is due to anticoagulant (prevents blood clotting) poisoning. If left untreated, poisoning can lead to death through blood loss.


What is involved in treating my pet for rat bait poisoning? 

Fortunately, deterioration in symptoms occurs over a few days. If there are early signs, seeking treatment sooner rather than later will halt the progression of the poisoning.
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.
The length of vitamin K treatment will depend on the type of bait that was eaten, so bringing the packet or a photo is helpful. Treatment is usually for at least two weeks, and can be up to up to six weeks. In cases involving long-acting baits, your vet may recommend blood testing 48 hours after stopping the treatment to ensure none of the poison is still in the system.

Severe cases that have eaten a lot of bait or have been sick for several days often require more intensive care. This may include fluid therapy, injections of vitamin K, and sometimes blood transfusions for severely affected and anaemic animals.


If you suspect your pet has ingested rat bait, contact your veterinarian immediately. The sooner you seek veterinary attention, the better the chances of a positive outcome.

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