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Watch Out For Rat Bait – And What To Do If Your Animal Has Eaten Some


Rats are not native to Aotearoa and therefore the huge, adverse impact they have on our native wildlife classifies them as a pest. Rats can breed very quickly and populations can quickly become a problem. They eat a variety of vulnerable native species of plants, insects, lizards and birds. 

Across the country. rat control programmes are in place with the aim to eradicate the rat colonies. This means, both out and about, as well as on our own properties, it is not uncommon to come across rat poison. 

Keeping your animals away from rat bait is essential as it is highly dangerous to our pets.

Rat bait is a product that is strategically used in New Zealand to control our pest population to help our native wildlife. 

It comes in several forms and if it is accidentally ingested by your pet it can have a disastrous result. 

A rat - a pest in New Zealand that destroys our native wildlife
Rat Bait - Rat Posion. Small blue pellets NZ

The most common types of rat bait used in New Zealand are anti-coagulant based rodenticides, also known as warfarin.  These include baits which have active ingredients such as brodifacoum, difenacoum and bromadioline. 

They act by interfering with the body’s normal vitamin K cycle and therefore hinder the production of clotting factors. 

These clotting factors are needed to control bleeding. 

As a result, animals that ingest this poison bleed into their body, most commonly into their chest and abdomen. Clinical signs usually take 3-5 days to develop after ingestion and include lethargy, coughing, panting when resting a distended (swollen) abdomen, pale gums , vomiting and anorexia.  

If you have recently seen your animal eat rat bait or are highly suspicious that they may have eaten rat bait, then call your local GP vet or emergency centre immediately.  

If you are suspcious that your pet has eaten rat bait from home, please bring in the box, or the product name of what you think they might have eaten as this will help to guide treatment.

A vet can induce your pet to vomit and hopefully empty their stomach, thereby retrieving any eaten rat bait. This is a quick and painless procedure that could be lifesaving. 

A blood test 48 hours later can help confirm that there is no longer any remaining rat bait in your pets body.

If your pet presents with the previously mentioned clinical signs, then please seek immediate veterinary care. Treatment usually involves fluid therapy, blood transfusions and supplementing vitamin K. Generally, pets will be hospitalised for up to 72 hours or until they are stabilised before going home. They will continue on vitamin K therapy at home for 4-6 weeks depending on the type of rate bait eaten. A final blood test is done at the end of this period to ensure further treatment is no longer needed.  


Watch out for signs in public spaces that describe what has been used - watch out for rat bait

Prevention of rat bait toxicity is essential. Ensure any bait is locked away safely or high out of reach of your pet. Read department of conservation signs and online noticeboards before going on walks to make yourself aware of any toxins in the area so you can control your pets access appropriately. 

Most Public spaces and reserves are well signposted with baiting strategies, applications and locations.

Pay attention to these signs and take the appropriate action to keep your pets safe. That may mean an on leash walk.

The Tale of Micky

Micky moved from New York City to New Zealand with his adopted family; His mum and dad, Wynnie, who was rescued as a kitten outside Wynn Casino in Las Vegas, Biggie, rescued as a puppy from a shelter in Miami, and the most recent family member, a human baby girl.

Several months ago, Micky developed a serious condition caused Addison’s Disease, and presented to Animal Emergency Centre in an Addisonian Crisis.

What happened? Dad tells the story:

In the week or two leading up to Micky heading into AEC he had been struggling when we went on walks, sometimes even protesting by lying down on the footpath outside. We put this down to him needing surgery on his knee (he had knee surgery on his other knee a few months prior). We also noticed that he was not interested in eating dry food, even cookie treats, and we thought that he might have a sore tooth.

I took him to our local vet for a check up on the Thursday afternoon. He was visibly uncomfortable while he was being examined, so we booked him in for knee x-rays and a dental under anaesthetic the following week.

The next day he was lethargic and looked sore, so he only had a short walk. He ate breakfast & dinner, albeit not much and then was sick after dinner. It wasn’t a regular experience but there were no signs that it was serious. We thought we’d keep an eye on him and take him back to the vet on Saturday morning if necessary.

Micky came to my wife in the night while she was with our new-born baby. He was whiny, but she didn’t want to turn the lights, otherwise the baby would wake up. She stayed with Micky and patted him, unaware that he had started to bleed from his rear end.

I woke up early in the morning to go to the gym and went to see Micky before I left, unaware of what had happened during the night. I saw trails and pools of blood everywhere!

I googled 24hr vet and found AEC. They answered straight away, gave me directions and said they would be waiting for us. Micky was still bleeding out when I got him to AEC and I already had an awful feeling that he might not make it.

We were so appreciative of AEC letting us visit him morning and night, it broke our hearts to see him like that and it felt like every time we saw him it was potentially goodbye. We could see how much the AEC team was trying to eliminate the possible causes to be able to determine what was wrong and treat him.

I recall it being down to ‘if it’s Addison’s disease, then this treatment will work and quickly, if it’s not then the treatment may make him worse’. Knowing nothing about this we felt confident in the diagnosis and plan, because of the process of elimination the team had followed.

We were so excited to hear the first time that Micky had started to stabilise, and we were completely amazed a couple of days later when we received a phone call saying, ‘do you want to come and pick him up tomorrow’.

We are sure that Micky knew that he was almost gone and that he had been saved. Since coming home Micky has been doing great. He’s eating well, loving his walks and being his usual happy self, we have the AEC team to thank for that!

Read more about Addison’s disease.

Man and dog

Tips for looking after your pet after surgery

So you have just picked up Fluffy from your veterinary clinic after her spey (or neuter, cruciate, patellar, abdominal surgery….). Everything went well and she has recovered from the anaesthesia, but now you have to keep her under control until the surgical site heals.

Here are some tips for managing the first night at home:

1. Always follow the discharge instructions that your vet has given you.

It can be hard to restrict exercise, but this is essential for the surgery to heal correctly. Fluffy company while she is confined in a cage and providing chew toys and treats can help her stay calm and quiet. For extremely active and boisterous animals there are mild sedatives that can be sent home for the first couple days after surgery – talk to your vet at discharge if you think your pet may need this.

2. Fluffy will not be herself the first night after the surgery.

Many of the anaesthetic drugs and pain relief that are given during surgery will not be fully out of Fluffy’s system for the first night. She may be more anxious than usual, whine and vocalise, or be very clingy. She may also just be very tired and want to sleep. Sometimes these medications will also mean she is not hungry and does not want to eat dinner. Generally, after a good nights sleep, Fluffy will feel much better in the morning.

3. Keeping the Elizabethan Collar on is always a good idea.

All pets like to lick and chew, and if Fluffy is chewing on her stitches there is a good chance she will pull them out necessitating another surgery. Licking is also not good for the wound as it introduces bacteria and makes a surgical site infection more likely.

It can be difficult to keep the E-collar on. Threading Fluffy’s collar through the E-collar can make it more secure. Also, keeping her in a small area/cage can make it harder to get the collar off.

Any time that Fluffy is not supervised, the E-collar should be left on. Don’t forget to keep cats inside while they have an E-collar as there is a risk of it getting caught in trees/fences outside.

4. Only use the medications dispensed by your veterinarian.

Most human pain relief and anti-inflammatory medications are toxic to dogs and cats. Even small amounts can cause very significant side effects including gastric ulcers, kidney damage and liver damage.

If you think Fluffy is still painful after the pain relief that has been dispensed, call for veterinary advice – never increase the dose or use a medication that has not been prescribed without checking with a vet first.

If you have any concerns regarding your pet who has just had surgery, the Animal Emergency Centre is open all night for advice. We can offer overnight care and monitoring, if you are having trouble getting them to settle at home, as well as extra pain relief if needed.

Tips for looking after your pet after surgery
Tips for looking after your pet after surgery

Is it an emergency?

We often get people ringing up with questions about their pet, and we frequently hear the words “I don’t think its an emergency, but…”. Although we are an emergency clinic, we are also here to help your pet with any concerns. If you are not happy with how your pet is doing, we always recommend a consult with a veterinarian to check them over.
However, there are some signs your pet may show that we will always consider an emergency:
  • Dogs with a distended abdomen, attempting to vomit without bringing up any food. This can be a sign of a twisted stomach (gastric dilatation volvulus). The sooner this condition is diagnosed and treatment started, the better the chance your dog will make it through.
  • Male cats straining to urinate without passing any urine. This can be a sign of a blocked bladder (urethral obstruction), and as with a twisted stomach the earlier treatment is started the better the chances of recovery.
  • Any difficulty breathing. Problems with breathing can worsen rapidly and can be fatal. So any concerns that your pet is not breathing properly should prompt an immediate visit to the vet
  • Toxic ingestions. Chocolate, onions, raisins, lilies, human medications, slug bait, and rat bait to name a few. If your pet has eaten something toxic bringing them to the vet as soon as possible gives us a chance to make them vomit. If we remove as much of the toxin from their system as possible they will have a better chance of surviving the toxicity.
  • Trauma. If your pet has been hit by a car or received some other serious trauma we always recommend a check by a vet as soon as possible. Internal injuries are not always obvious initially so x-rays and ultrasound can help us rule out anything serious.
  • Seizures. Any seizure lasting longer than a couple minutes can cause serious brain injury. So if your pet has a seizure we recommend a vet check as soon as possible.
If in doubt it is always best to get your pet checked. We are available for advice at any time during our opening hours so give us a call if you are concerned about your pet.
Is it an emergency
Is it an emergency

5 Hazards for your Pet to avoid this Christmas

It is Christmas time again, which means time off to spend with friends and family and to relax in the sun. But Christmas time also means some specific dangers may be around for your pet.

Here are five hazards that can be easily avoided if you are aware of them.

1. Grapes and Raisins.

Christmas mince pies, Christmas cake, and fruit salad are a staple item in the Kiwi Christmas, but grapes and raisins can be extremely toxic to dogs. When eaten, grapes and raisins can cause significant kidney damage which is often irreversible and can lead to death. If your dog eats any grapes or raisins call your vet for advice immediately. There are treatments that can be given to minimise the chance of kidney damage, but they are much more effective started as close as possible to when the grapes or raisins were eaten.

2. Christmas wrapping paper, ribbons and string.

Both cats and dogs can have problems if they eat wrapping paper or the ribbons and string used to tie them. If these items get stuck they can cause a blockage in the intestines which may require surgery to remove. Prevention is easier than the cure so ensure that all rubbish from unwrapping presents is tidied up promptly and put out of reach of pets.

3. Pancreatitis.

Barbeques are great during the summer but keep a close eye on what scraps you are feeding your dog. Eating a large amount of food high in fat, especially if it is not a normal part of your dogs diet, can lead to inflammation in the pancreas causing pancreatitis. This causes vomiting and diarrhoea, and can lead to needing to be hospitalised for intensive treatment. Moderate any treats you share with your pets, and ensure they are not consuming large amounts of fat. Bones are also best avoided as these can cause intestinal blockages.

4. Chocolate.

Most people are aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs, however they can forget that dogs have very sharp noses and can smell out where it is hiding. Ensure that if you have any wrapped gifts containing chocolate (or other edible goods) that they are not left under the Christmas tree in reach of your pets.

5. Electrical cords.

Electrical cords for Christmas lights can be very tempting especially for young kittens and puppies looking for a toy. Biting through an electrical cord can cause burns in the mouth and can also cause severe injury from electric shock. Make sure your electrical cords are tidied out of reach of your pets so they do not become a temptation.

Food on a BBQ
Cat with lights on Christmas tree
The Animal Emergency Centre wishes you a safe and happy Christmas. Don’t forget we are open 24 hours a day over the weekends and public holidays this festive season if you need us.

Pet Insurance

Every patient arriving at the Animal Emergency Centre is accompanied by an owner who is anxious about their sick or injured pet. Many owners also feel concerned about the looming potential for expensive treatment.

The boundaries of veterinary science are constantly expanding, and marvellous life-saving or enhancing advancements follow which improve outcomes for our critically ill patients. These advancements often come with a hefty price tag. Providing round the clock progressive veterinary care in quality facilities can be very expensive.

“…a monthly or yearly insurance fee could purchase you some peace of mind…”

Loving our pets unconditionally makes it very difficult to make medical decisions for them which are based largely on affordability. Depending on your attitude to risk, a monthly or yearly insurance fee could purchase you some peace of mind, reducing the importance of money and giving you the freedom to request the best possible treatment for your pet.

Some common pet insurance companies in New Zealand include Southern CrossPet Plan, and Pet-N-Sur, however not all pet insurance providers are created equal. The cheapest may not necessarily provide you with all the benefits you require. We recommend you read the fine print carefully to ensure your pet will be covered for life for all conditions. If you are shopping around for a better deal than you currently have, be aware that pre-existing conditions are not generally covered by new policies.

Dog looking at camera
Dog between a fence

How to look after fledgling birds

Spring is now here, and we will very commonly have baby birds (fledglings) brought into our clinic after they have fallen from a nest. These birds can do well under the care of an experienced bird handler, but they have a much better chance of survival if they are left in the care of their parents.

If you find a baby bird outside of the nest, take the time to assess it before rushing off to a vet clinic. Most of these baby birds will have parents close by who will continue to watch over and feed them, until they are able to fly themselves.

“If you find a baby bird outside of the nest, take the time to assess it before rushing off to a vet clinic.”

Healthy baby birds will:

  • Have all of their feathers.
  • Be active, vocalising and reactive to their surroundings.
  • Have no obvious injuries.

If a baby bird appears healthy you can help increase the chances of survival by allowing its parents to continue feeding and caring for it.

  • • If the bird is able to perch, place it on a branch near where you have found it.
  • • If you can see the nest it fell out of, replace the baby bird in the nest.
  • • If the bird is unable to perch and you cannot see the nest, you can make an artificial nest using an ice-cream container lined with leaves. Cut the sides of the container down by half and put some small holes in the bottom for drainage. This container can be hung in a tree or on a clothesline, close to where the baby bird was found.

If the baby bird appears sick or injured it will need to be cared for by an experienced bird handler. The bird rescue website www.birdrescue.org.nz/rescuing-a-bird has the contact details for bird rescue centres through the country. You can also call your vet clinic for advice.