Help! My Dog Ate Rat Poison

Updated September 6th, 2020

‘At A Glance (Details Below)’ Emergency Care

What To Do If A Dog Eats Rat Or Mouse Poison

  1. If less than two hours since ingestion, see a vet ASAP to cause vomiting
  2. Dogs with suspected poisoning need to start an antidote within 2 days
  3. Follow your vet’s advice on blood testing & when to stop treatment

Now dive deeper.

In a survey of our clinic over 15 years, the second most common poisoning in dogs in Adelaide is caused by rodenticides. How?

How Dogs Get Poisoned

Thankfully, deliberate poisoning with rat bait is rare. The real reason most dogs get poisoned is that owners underestimate their dogs’ intelligence, and don’t realise rat poison is something dogs want to eat.

Ignore the label claims about bitter tastes. Rat poison has to be tasty to rats or it won’t work, and if rats like it, so will dogs.

You may have forgotten that bait you laid last summer but your dog hasn’t. Most poisonings occur from:

  • Old baits safely left in a hidden area until something is moved
  • Poison knocked off a shelf in the shed
  • Baits found when visiting friends or holiday homes
  • Rats moving block-type baits into accessible areas
  • Small dogs or cats eating poisoned rats
  • Baits poorly secured: most bait stations are easier than puzzle dog feeders!

Types Of Rat Poisons

different rat poisons

In Australia, most rat and mouse baits are anticoagulants. They work by blocking the production of clotting factors. A few days after a toxic dose, affected animals start bleeding internally. Unless they receive an antidote or blood transfusion, death follows within 24 hours.

Bromethalin is a neurotoxin found in rat baits in other countries that can cause much more rapid signs of tremors, seizures, hind limb weakness and collapse.

Anticoagulants come in two types. Warfarin is an older form which requires repeated and higher doses to kill an animal. Brodifacoum or difenacoum are much more potent later generations developed to overcome warfarin resistance in rodents. Both require veterinary care, but it’s useful for the vet to know which one was used.

It doesn’t matter if the poison is in block or pellet form, it’s the active ingredient that counts.

Other rat poisons such as phosphides are used in professional pest control and farming. These can kill rapidly if urgent veterinary care is not sought. Due to their rarity in domestic situations I will only discuss anticoagulants from now on.

Signs Of Rat Bait Poisoning In Dogs

Symptoms are entirely due to uncontrolled bleeding. The most common signs of rodenticide toxicity in dogs are:

  • Lethargy & reluctance to exercise
  • Pale gums
  • Panting or heavy breathing
  • Swollen abdomen

Signs are usually vague, stressing the importance of remembering the possibility of rat poisons.

dog ate ratsak

Other signs may include:

  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Blood in the faeces
  • Swollen joints and lameness
  • Collapse
  • Blue or green dye in vomit, faeces or around the mouth- that’s how Bailey’s owners knew.

What To Do When A Dog Eats A Rat Bait

Stay calm; there is an antidote. Dogs don’t die of rat bait exposure if they see a vet within 24 hours of ingestion.

Call your vet for advice. If the rat poison was eaten less than two hours ago, you will be told to come straight down. Inducing vomiting should remove most of the poison. This includes secondary poisoning when a dog eats a poisoned rat.

If the exposure was more than two hours ago, inducing vomiting may still be a good idea, especially if your dog has had a recent meal to slow down absorption. However, there will almost certainly be poison in the system.

Your vet will either:

  1. Plan a blood test to check for slow blood clotting two days after ingestion.
  2. Start a course of Vitamin K1 (the specific antidote) for a time calculated to be longer than the action of the poison.

Warning: deaths have occurred using different Vitamin K so please consult your vet

For both options, three days after the end of the course, another clotting test is recommended.

How to decide? The decision is based on risk and cost.

  1. If the amount taken was low, or we think vomiting brought enough back up, we’ll recommend the blood test before treatment
  2. In a large dog, Vitamin K1 is very expensive, so we may test first to see if we really need to use it.
  3. In a small dog, treatment is much cheaper than testing, and quite safe, so we may choose to treat first.
rat poison test

For example, Bailey’s owner noticed a small amount of the blue dye from rat bait in his faeces. We decided it wasn’t certain he’d had enough poison to harm him so we scheduled a blood test instead of treating him. The result was normal, so he never needed treatment.

How To Make Dogs Vomit

On the internet you will read ways to make a dog vomit using peroxide. It may be safe enough (I doubt it), but who has peroxide just lying around?

Even if you make your dog vomit, you will still need to go to the vet. Far better to pack your dog in the car and head straight to the vet than losing valuable time trying to get your dog to vomit.

Vets have several gentle methods which usually work. We also keep apomorphine as a back up if the milder emetics don’t work. Vets also know when it’s not safe to induce vomiting.

Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.


20 Replies to “Help! My Dog Ate Rat Poison”

  1. We realized lot dog ate an entire bar 24 hours after she ingested it. She is now own vitamin k1 from the vet. How long does she need to not run and play? (We normally run her 3-7 miles a day.)

    1. Hi Diane. As you can probably work out from the explanation above, if a dog is on treatment then there is no abnormality unless it stops too early. You should be able to run your dog as normal and they should have normal clotting times as long as they are receiving the vitamin K1 supplement.

  2. We think my dogs ate a tiny piece of mice bait pellet, but we aren’t sure she did, we got her to the vets within 20 mins of this all happening, they made her vomit buy nothing came up and we have a blood test 48 hours after, I’m a little worries they didn’t put her on medication and by the time we get to the blood test it might be to far, I’m a little worried, I can’t see any signs but I’m just worried

  3. I found my 7 month old puppy with a wax big cheese rodent block (active ingredient DIFENACOUM) in his mouth. I doesn’t look like he was able to digest much at all. I am unable to get hold of the emergency vet (it is 10pm) which is approx 4 hours away. Is there anything I can administer or use to help him until I can get him medical help.

    1. Hi Tammy. If you read the article, the information is within. Always assume they’ve had enough to poison them, and using an emetic isn’t nearly as important as the antidote. Good luck.

  4. My dog found a box of rat pellets at my mother in laws house. We think he may have eaten one pellet only but we’re not sure. He may have eaten none. Never the less, I took him to the emergency vets 3 hours later as I was worried about it and they induce vomiting and put him on a course of vitamin K tablets. This happened 2 days ago and he is still showing no signs of poisoning at all. Can I allow him to play with his doggy friend or go for a walk or is it still too early to say he is out of the woods?

  5. My 13 week old pug puppy ate a whole wax block yesterday morning when I was taking my kids to school, we didn’t realise until 10pm when we went to put him to bed and seen the tiny specks of wax in there. The vet induced vomiting which produced nothing but we found it in his poop from yesterday so how’s hes on vitamin k but I’m still so worried 🙁

  6. Our dogs ate a square each of ratsak with Brodifacoum yesterday. The smaller dog is 14.5kg. We had them to the vet within an hour for induced vomiting and started K1 that night. Is the prognosis good? I understand that nothing is 100% but I’m very concerned for the smaller dog. No symptoms showing as yet but it’s only been 24 hours.

    1. Hi Lisa. The prognosis is excellent if you follow your vet’s advice. The only real danger comes from not recognising the poisoning or not doing something about it!

  7. My dog ate ratsak 6 days ago, he ripped of his toe nail it won’t stop bleeding. ND now he is coughing up blood

    1. Desley all I can say is that I’m glad you found my page. He’ll be OK as long as he gets to a vet before he loses too much blood.

    2. how long after the dog has eaten the poison will you know if he will be ok? does this cause any long term health issues with the dog?

      1. If a dog survives rat poison ingestion, there are no long-term side-effects. However, as poison can be active in the body for up to 3 weeks, it takes that long to be sure that the dog will be okay after eating it.

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