What Should I Do If My Dog Picks Up A Dead Rat?

Dangers of a Dog Eating a Dead Rat

Eating the carcass of a dead rat poses several dangers to dogs due to diseases, parasites, and toxins the rats may harbor.

Rats can carry infectious diseases transmittable to dogs, such as leptospirosis, the plague, Salmonella, and rat bite fever. Consuming a rat carcass increases the risk of contracting these illnesses. Parasites are also common in rats, including worms, that can infest a dog’s digestive tract if ingested.[1]

Dead rats may have been killed by rat poison containing dangerous rodenticides that could poison a dog who eats it. Rodenticide poisoning poses a significant risk and requires immediate veterinary treatment.[2] Consuming poisoned rat carcasses can lead to life-threatening secondary poisoning in dogs.

Unlike prey they naturally hunt, carrion like dead rats are more likely to harbor disease and toxins. While dogs are equipped to digest raw meat, dead and decaying animals are more problematic than fresh prey. Exercise caution if your dog ingests a dead rat.

Immediate Actions If Your Dog Gets a Rat

If you see your dog has picked up or caught a dead rat, it’s important to act quickly and safely to get them to release it. Trying to pull the rat from their mouth could result in them swallowing it, so don’t grab at it.

One of the best ways to get your dog to release the rat is with a trade. Have some high-value treats like chicken, steak, or hot dogs ready. Show your dog the treats and encourage them to “drop it” in an upbeat tone. When they release the rat to get the treat, be ready to kick the rat away while praising your dog.

You can also try startling your dog to get them to release. Make a loud noise like hands clapping or use a whistle or squeaky toy. The sudden sound can cause them to drop the rat instinctually. Just be ready to block them if they try grabbing it again.

Avoid methods that can harm your dog like trying to pry open their mouth or squeeze their cheeks. This risks injuring their teeth, gums or jaw. The goal is to get them to willingly give it up, not to force it from their mouth.

Acting quickly but calmly is key. The longer they have the dead rat, the more likely they are to try swallowing it. Have treats ready and act fast to trade them for dropping the hazardous item. Persistence and positive reinforcement will get them to give it up safely.

Disinfecting Your Dog After Contact

If your dog has come into contact with a dead rat, it’s important to thoroughly disinfect their mouth, paws, and fur to prevent the spread of bacteria and potential diseases. According to the CDC (source), you should take the following steps:

To clean your dog’s mouth, wear gloves for protection and use a damp cloth or gauze to gently wipe their mouth, teeth, and gums. Avoid using your bare hands. Be sure to check for any wounds or cuts inside the mouth which may require veterinary attention.

Carefully wipe down their paws and fur, especially anywhere the dead rat touched them. Pay close attention between the toes and paw pads where bacteria can collect.

Use a disinfectant spray or wipes containing diluted bleach or an EPA-registered disinfectant (source). Thoroughly saturate the fur and paws and allow to sit for 5 minutes before rinsing. This will help kill any germs or viruses.

Avoid using any cleaners that could be toxic if ingested by your dog. Rinse their fur thoroughly with clean water once disinfected. Checking with your vet is also recommended after exposure to confirm your dog remains healthy.

Visiting the Vet After Dog Eats Dead Rat

If your dog ate a dead rat, it’s important to be vigilant about any concerning symptoms and contact your veterinarian promptly if you have any worries. According to the UrgentVet article “My Pet Ate a Dead Animal—What Should I Do?”, veterinary care is recommended if the dead animal may have been poisoned or sick. The vet will ask about the details of your dog eating the rat and perform a physical exam.

Your vet may recommend bloodwork, urinalysis, x-rays, or an ultrasound to check for issues like pancreatitis, gastroenteritis, toxicity, blockages, or organ damage. According to experts on JustAnswer, rat terriers are prone to eating rats, but veterinary care is still advised to be safe. Your vet can provide IV fluids, antiemetics, antibiotics, antacids, or other supportive care as needed. They’ll also recommend you worm and monitor your dog closely.

Quora users emphasize seeing a vet right away if the rat could have been poisoned or sick. The vet can induce vomiting if needed and provide follow-up lab tests and medical support. In less concerning cases, the vet will still examine your dog, potentially run some basic tests, and recommend at-home monitoring for any symptoms. Your vet can advise you on proper dead rat disposal and preventing future ingestion.

Diseases to Watch Out For

Some of the most concerning diseases that can be transmitted from rats to dogs include:

Leptospirosis – This bacterial infection spreads through the urine of infected rats and can cause kidney and liver failure in dogs. Early symptoms may include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, and increased thirst and urination. According to the University of Sydney, leptospirosis is one of the most common infectious diseases transmitted from rats to dogs in urban environments.1

Plague – Yes, the same plague that caused the Black Death in humans can be transmitted from fleas on rats to dogs through bites. Plague causes fever, lethargy, appetite loss, and swollen lymph nodes in dogs.

Tularemia – Also called rabbit fever, this bacterial disease spreads via ticks and contact with infected animals. Dogs show fever, mouth ulcers, lethargy, and poor appetite.

Rat bite fever – Caught from rat bites or scratches, this bacterial infection triggers fever, vomiting, arthritis pain, and skin abscesses in dogs.

Monitor your dog closely after rat contact and look for symptoms like lethargy, fever, limping, or poor appetite that warrant a vet visit. Prompt treatment is key to managing these serious rat-borne illnesses in dogs.

Protecting Your Dog in the Future

The best way to protect your dog from dangerous encounters with rats is to avoid them in the first place. There are several steps you can take to minimize interactions:

– Keep your property clean and free of clutter where rats may nest. Eliminate any food sources like unsealed trash cans or pet food left outside.(1)

– When walking your dog, keep them on a short leash and away from bushes or long grass where rats may hide.(2) Consider using a basket muzzle to prevent picking up or eating any undesirables.(3)

– Work on obedience training like “drop it” and “leave it” using high-value treats. This teaches your dog to ignore interesting items on the ground.(4)

– Use humane rat control methods like traps and sealing up entry points to your home. Avoid poison baits which can also harm pets.

Staying vigilant and minimizing encounters is the best way to keep your dog safe from disease and harm. Proper training also gives you the tools to stop unwanted behaviors.

Safe Rodent Control

The most humane and effective approach for controlling rats and other rodents is through exclusion and sanitation methods. This involves sealing up any possible entry points into your home or yard, removing food sources and nesting areas, and working with a professional pest control company when needed.

To exclude rodents humanely:

  • Seal cracks and holes on the exterior of your home with weather-resistant sealants like concrete or metal mesh. Pay special attention to areas around pipes and vents.
  • Install door sweeps at the bottom of exterior doors and repair any gaps around windows or doors.
  • Use wire mesh or metal flashing to seal off crawl spaces, attics, and underneath sheds or porches.
  • Trim back any overhanging tree branches that could allow access to the roof.

For sanitation:

  • Keep trash bins tightly sealed and pick up any excess garbage around your property.
  • Eliminate possible nesting sites like woodpiles, thick vegetation, and clutter.
  • Do not leave pet food or water bowls out overnight.
  • Clean up any spills and crumbs in your home regularly.

If exclusion and sanitation methods are insufficient, contact a reputable pest control company to inspect your property and implement humane trapping or baiting techniques. They can target rodent nests and entry points while avoiding any risks to pets.

With proactive prevention and exclusion tactics, rats and mice can be deterred without cruel extermination methods.

Signs of Rat Poisoning

The most common type of rat poison is anticoagulant rodenticide, which prevents blood clotting and leads to uncontrollable bleeding. According to PetMD, the symptoms of anticoagulant poisoning include:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting (may be bloody)
  • Diarrhea (may be bloody)
  • Lack of coordination/weakness
  • Tremors
  • Pale gums
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Collapse

As VCAAnimal Hospitals explains, anticoagulant rodenticides prevent the blood from clotting properly. This leads to severe, uncontrolled bleeding internally or externally. Emergency treatment is critical for any animal suspected of anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning.

If you notice any of these symptoms after your dog has mouthered or eaten a rat, get emergency veterinary care immediately. Signs may not appear for 3-5 days after ingestion, so monitor your dog closely following any potential exposure.

Proper Carcass Disposal

When dealing with a dead rat, it’s important to safely handle and dispose of the body to avoid spreading disease. Here are some tips for proper carcass disposal:

Wear gloves and use tools like shovels or rakes to pick up the body. Never touch a dead rat with bare hands. Place the carcass in a plastic bag, seal it tightly, and put that bag inside another sealed plastic bag (Terminix).

Check your local regulations for approved disposal methods. Many municipalities allow you to double-bag the rat and put it in the garbage for collection. However, some areas prohibit this and require dead rats to be buried away from water sources or incinerated (Modern Pest).

Burning a rat carcass may be an option if allowed in your area. Use caution and common sense when doing this. You’ll want good ventilation, avoid smoke inhalation, and ensure fire safety.

Burying the sealed rat at least 3-5 feet underground can help prevent spread of disease and access by other animals. Choose a site away from vegetable gardens, compost piles, and water sources.

Never dump a dead rat into a waterway, sewer, or storm drain, as this can contaminate water sources. Only use approved disposal methods.

After handling the carcass, disinfect any tools you used and wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot water.

When to Call Animal Control

If you have a significant stray or feral rat problem that goes beyond your property, it’s best to contact your local animal control department for help. Animal control can provide humane trapping and removal services for larger infestations that impact public areas like parks, sewers, and neighborhoods.

According to the DC Health Department, you can report rat bites, sick/injured rats, or large infestations to the DC Animal Control Division at (202) 576-6664 (DC Health). They can investigate areas with recurring rat issues and may be able to provide trapping assistance.

For smaller residential rat problems confined to your private property, you’ll likely need to hire a professional exterminator or wildlife removal service. But animal control can still provide guidance on safe, humane removal methods.

When contacting animal control about rats, have details ready on the type of rats, the extent of the problem, and the impacted areas. Work cooperatively with them to identify long-term solutions beyond just trapping and removal.

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