Bella is a 16 week female Pugalier that presented to the Animal Emergency Centre as her owners noted she was becoming increasingly lethargic. She had been off colour and not eating for a few days prior. On examination, Bella was noted to have white gum colour, difficulty breathing, a sore abdomen and she was in shock. Bella was in a very critical state and we had to act quickly if she was going to make it. We were concerned Bella was bleeding internally. Blood tests showed that Bella was not able to clot her blood properly and had lost a large amount of blood – her red cell levels were dangerously low.
There are a number of things that can stop the blood clotting normally – eating rat bait is one of the most common. Bella lives on a property and a shed she did not normally have access to had been left open recently. Rat bait poisoning was diagnosed. Bella received a blood transfusion to replace the blood she had lost and 2 plasma transfusions to supply clotting factors so that she could clot her blood normally. Vitamin K treatment (the antidote to rat bait toxicity) and other medications were started to support Bella. Oxygen was required to assist with Bella’s breathing. A chest xray was performed and confirmed Bella had bled into her lungs. This was making it difficult for her to breathe. Intravenous fluids were given to ensure she remained hydrated. We monitored her blood and oxygen levels very closely. With intensive treatment including oxygen, fluids, medications and close monitoring Bella started to improve over the next 24 hours, she even started to wag her tail and get her appetite back! After 48 hours of treatment Bella had improved enough to be able to go home to continue her recovery. Bella was sent home on strict rest as it will take time for her lungs to return to normal. Treatment with Vitamin K will be needed to allow her body to produce clotting factors until the rat bait leaves her system.
Unfortunately rat baits are very tasty to pets and given the chance pets will eat them. Rat bait poisoning leads to an inability for animals to clot their blood by inhibiting the bodies normal clotting factors, hence they start to bleed excessively internally and externally. It can take up to 2-7 days after ingestion before signs are seen and the signs of poisoning can be very vague including lethargy, reduced appetite and weakness. This can progress to trouble breathing, pale gums, bleeding externally, collapse or death. There are various types of rat baits available and some will remain in the animals system for long periods of time (up to 6-8 weeks) inhibiting blood clotting, hence the length of time required for medication will vary depending on the active ingredient ingested. If it is unknown the brand of rat bait ingested we will often treat for 28 days and then reassess their blood clotting ability with a blood test to check whether the toxin still remains.
Rat bait ingestion is a potentially fatal condition that can be avoided. It is best not to have rat bait on your property at all if you have animals, it is just not worth the risk!