My adrenalin levels have still not come down. I nearly lost my dogs today due to ignorance on my part and lack of professionalism on the part of a pest control company.
When a strange smell started emanating from behind my stove, I decided to call in the professionals. I was assured that the poison used was legal and safe as far as pets and birds are concerned. I have two owls in my tree and the last thing I want is for them to eat a poisoned rat that would result in their deaths.
The pest experts came and distributed rat poison bricks loosely in my roof, garage and behind my stove where they discovered the source of the smell - a dead rat. They then put the poison bait in my garden hiding a loose pile under a cache of bricks.
HUGE MISTAKE! The professionals should have known better and I found out too late.
Rat poison is safe only if it has been ingested in small amounts by a rat and then eaten by your pet. A greedy rat can eat enough poison to kill 20 rats before he starts to feel sick and if a dog or cat eats that rat, the poison is transferred. The good news is that most rats are not this greedy. The usual patient for secondary poisoning is a pet or predator that depends heavily on rats for food (a barn cat, for example).
However if a pet directly eats rat poison it will die the same way a rat does.
A toxic dosage is a matter of milligrams. My beagles soon scented the rat poison in my garden which apparently tastes delicious in order to entice rodents to eat. They broke down the cache of bricks and swallowed a massive overdose.
Thank God I caught them in the act but not before they had swallowed everything. I phoned my vet and explained what had happened. "Bring your dogs in immediately!" But, I bleated, I thought rat poison was safe for pets? "There is no rat poison that is safe for pets if it has been directly ingested" replied the vet sternly.
The next problem was knowing exactly what the composition of the poison was as this would dictate how to treat my dogs. Luckily I remembered the name of the product but when the vet did a search on the Internet about the product, nothing indicated what the active ingredients were on their website!
There are normally two ways rat poisons will kill - by causing renal failure or internal bleeding due to the anti-coagulation properties of the poison.
Phone calls back and forth between ourselves and the pest control company eventually produced a safety fact sheet two hours after my arrival at the vet. The one my dogs had eaten would have caused internal bleeding. If I had not seen them eating the poison, it is highly likely they would have either died within three days or if caught in time they would have needed ICU treatment, blood transfusions and who knows what kind of damage would have been done to their systems.
Renal failure poisons are far more insidious and difficult to diagnose. This is caused by cholecalciferol poisoning and there is no anti dote for this poisoning.
Poor Jamie and Jemma were immediately forced to vomit (an awful process) until their stomach contents appeared clear of all poison. Jamie was induced to vomit 9 times and Jemma stopped vomiting after 7 times. The vet said I was lucky that I had brought them in so quickly and hopefully very little of the poison had been absorbed into their systems.
The safety fact sheet advised that the treatment was doses of Vitamin K1 which Jamie and Jemma will be getting for the next three weeks.
So what lesson have I learnt? If you want to keep your children, pets and wild life safe from rat poison make sure that it is put in a safe container that is inaccessible to all of the above (except rats). Loose poison is a toxic idea. Make sure that your pest control company knows what it is doing by first educating yourself.
The poison put on the floor of my garage and every grain in my garden that I could find has been removed. My vet advised me to get closed containers that can be locked and attached onto your outside walls or fences well out of reach of children and pets. Even if poison is put in the roof it should be in a safe container as cats may climb up there. If the container should accidentally fall off, make sure that it cannot be chewed open by dogs or pried open by inquisitive children.
So what are the signs of rat poisoning, particularly the one that causes internal bleeding?
Most of the time external bleeding is not obvious and one only notices the pet is weak and/or cold. If one looks at the gums, they are pale. Sometimes bloody urine or stools are evident or nose bleeds may be seen. Signs of bleeding in more than one body location are a good hint that there is a problem with blood coagulation. Be aware of the signs of rat poisoning, particularly if your pet travels with you to places outside the home where poison may be left outside.
What a s****y day! First I set out to kill rats and nearly kill my dogs in the process. My budget is blown because I have a huge vet bill and still have to pay the pest control company!
And I also feel really sorry for the rats because the poisons we use today do not kill them in a humane manner. It's a catch 22 situation because rats do cause enormous damage in our homes and to our possessions. Are rat traps more humane? What do you think?
Whatever you do, protect your dogs at all costs from contact with rat poison!