I have seen many pets that have been poisoned. Some have actually gotten the poison from the neighbor’s property, others have had access in their own homes and some we have never determined the type of poisoning they have ingested. As vets, we must aim to treat the symptoms which include bleeding, seizures, muscle twitching, vomiting and so forth.
We are often misguided by the history from the owners that are adamant that no poisoning is possible.
There have been so many situations where the owners refuted my suspicions of a type of poisoning with specific symptoms and I have treated the patients according to my suspicions and I have been correct. Those owners are very thankful afterwards and feel terrible that they potentially may have contributed to the loss of their pet. It is a hard call to treat those pets with specific antidotes when the owners are skeptical about your recommendations. Ultimately, as vets our aim is to save the pet and so we must go with our own instincts!
For anyone that has ever laid down any type of poison around the house or property, you need to think really hard about the risk you are undertaking as your pet has potential to ingest that poison. Do not ever believe the labels on products such as certain brands of snail pellets declaring they are safe and your dogs won’t eat them. There is no such thing as ratsak or snail pellets that are safe! Even some of the pet products sold at supermarkets can be poisonous if used incorrectly like Exelpet spot-on flea control ; so many cats get poisoned each year because the owners have inadvertently used the dog Exelpet spot-on flea control on the cat. The Exelpet product clearly states you should not use the dog one on a cat but it is a small label and is often missed.
Personally I myself have been very fortunate to discover my own dog crunching on some ratsak pellets.
I was renting a property and had a mouse burden and had to put out some ratsak. I had put some in a room that was always shut and inaccessible to my dogs. However, I obviously forgot the door open for one minute and then I heard ‘Shepo’ happily munching on the poison. I was so horrified as that was the first time I had even put out any poison. I immediately dragged both my dogs to the clinic and made them both vomit as I could not rule out ‘Punchkin’s access to it. I am very lucky that ‘Shepo’ is a loud eater because I could have lost both my dogs. I work very long hours and may have missed all the subtle crucial signs of ratsak poisoning (blood in stools, mild coughing, pale gums & etc.).
Ratsak is different from most poisons in that it can take a few days for the clinical signs to develop. Basically the poison depletes the animals from clotting factors and they then haemorrhage to death. Most other poisons lead to clinical signs shortly after ingestion.
Although secondary poisoning from ratsak is considered unlikely, I have personally seen a few animals that have been poisoned after eating dead rats poisoned with ratsak.
Below is a picture of a bitch that presented to me afterhours a few years ago now. She had one week old pups and was found collapsed. My examination revealed very pale gums and I was concerned about post whelping bleed as a possible cause. However, I asked the clients if they had ratsak out and they replied they have put out ratsak but she could definitely not access it. I pressed on and said: could she have eaten dead rats poisoned with ratsak? They casually replied: yes she had eaten quite a few dead mice! I was glad I persisted with my CIA styled questioning as it helped me decide the most suitable next treatment step. Owners went home to get me their male dog to collect blood from him. She required two blood transfusions and aggressive medical therapy. She pulled through but she was on the brink of death… Below is a picture of her and her puppies.
Yesterday morning I was called out for an emergency to check out ‘Zara’, a 7 month old staffy cross, that had been panting excessively for the past three hours.
I discovered she had very pale gums and so I immediately enquired about possible access to ratsak and the owners were insistent that she hadn’t.
I proceeded with blood work and confirmed she was midly anaemic and her clotting time was very prolonged (abnormal) to the point I could not even get a reading. I started her on basic supportive treatment including oral therapy with vitamin K (antidote for ratsak poisoning) as her anaemia was mild. However, she seemed to deteriorate inspite of my basic treatment and so I repeated her bloods and confirmed she was still bleeding. I had to give her a transfusion with caniplas (product that contains clotting factors but no red blood cells).
‘Zara’ started to respond to my treatment and by today, she was bouncing all over the place and busting to go home. I think ‘Zara’ is a very lucky girl. Her clinical signs were very subtle and her owners could have easily ignored her panting and lost her as a result! This is Zara the next morning when she was bright and ready to go home. She had pulled out her drip and caused a huge mess in her cage making it clear to us she was feeling heaps better!
If you own a cat then you should not be putting down any ratsak.
Many cats are good mousers and so may potentially get secondary poisoning. Unfortunately I have lost more cats to ratsack than dogs. The reason is most likely due to the fact that cats are good sleepers and when they are ill, they do more sleeping which may go unnoticed by owners. So by the time the owners realise that their cats are ill, it is too late. Cats also require us to cross match their blood type prior to transfusions and so it can be very challenging organising the correct donor blood when time is ticking! Dogs, on the other hand, do not need a cross match if it is the first blood transfusion that they are getting. As for those dog owners, you would be surprised how cheeky dogs can be and how far they will go to get access to ratsak. I have had many distraught clients that have come home and found their dog has managed to grab a ratsak box out of the cupboard or from behind the fridge and so forth.
The morale of the story is that pets have a mind of their own. As they always say, curiosity can kill a cat.
Be responsible and protect your pets from their curious selves!
- Pets age just as we do (rayyathevet.com)