East coast mouse plague triggers shortage of Vitamin K used to counteract effects rodent bait for pets
WA vets are urging pet owners to be vigilant when it comes to putting out rodent bait, as clinics now have a limited supply of the only antidote for pets who have been poisoned.
The mouse plague over east has triggered a nation-wide shortage of Vitamin K, which is used to counteract the effects of ingesting toxic levels of rodent bait.
WA Veterinary Emergency and Speciality emergency veterinarian Katrin Swindells said Vitamin K is required to form clots that stop animals from bleeding out.
But when rat bait is ingested, the body stops recycling Vitamin K as per normal.
“As the blood clots age, the Vitamin K1 becomes Vitamin K3 and then the liver’s job is to convert it back to Vitamin K1,” Dr Swindells said.
“The rat baits that cause internal bleeding, which is the one you need the Vitamin K1 for as an antidote, they stop that conversion.”
Greencross senior veterinary surgeon Chris Cooper said the scarcity of the antidote is highly concerning.
“If there is no available Vitamin K and we have cases that come in and have got rodenticide toxicity and we know that they have got a major problem in terms of their clotting, we don't have the normal analog process to try and negate that,” he said.
“The only way we can help to negate it is to actually give [pets] whole blood, which is clearly a much bigger cost ... as a consequence, there's a high likelihood they will get more, mortalities, more deaths.”
Dr Cooper said single clinics see approximately one case of pets ingesting rodent bait each week, while emergency clinics could see up to five or 10.
But during winter time, the use of bait increases because rodents make their way into people’s homes to escape the cold and wet weather.
Dr Cooper said this is why the shortage of Vitamin K has come at a particularly bad time.
“If we run out completely, we are really going to be in difficulties, it’s very hard to treat an animal that’s got a clotting disorder from the toxicity of rodenticide,” he said.
“It would usually be quite simple to put [the pet] on Vitamin K, whereas if you can’t do that, there’s a high risk animals may die.”
While Vitamin K is the only treatment for pets in the progressed stages of bait poisoning, other preventative measures can be taken if they’re taken to a clinic quickly.
“If we get them really soon, we can make them vomit and get the bait out moments after the dog has eaten it, then often only about 10 per cent of those patients will need Vitamin K and the rest will be effectively de-contaminated,” Dr Swindells said.
She said the main symptom of rat poisoning is internal bleeding, which can be difficult to detect on the outside.
Other symptoms include:
- Faeces that is black or has blood in it
- Blood tinge in the urine
- Wounds that won’t heal or stop bleeding
- Fast or abnormal breathing
- Pale gums
Dr Cooper said dog owners should be particularly careful when putting out rat bait.
“Dogs will eat anything, a lot of the rodenticides that they use to kill animals are a carbohydrate base, so it’s a bit like a biscuit for a dog,” he said.
“It’s got to be palatable obviously for rodents to eat as well, and unfortunately it tends to go hand in hand that it’s also palatable for dogs.”
Dr Cooper said while it is difficult to stop animals eating rodent bait if it’s left out in the open, there are steps pet owners can take to mitigate harm.
He said it is important to keep rodent bait away from curious pets.
“Make sure that you put the rodenticides in a place where for instance, it's either too high for them to get to, or it’s inaccessible for them to get to,” Dr Cooper said.
The companies which manufacture Vitamin K in Australia were contacted for comment.
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