DOG QUEST: Rat bait

I just had a very interesting weekend.

On Sunday, we went up to visit my father in his rural township as his computer was having severe video card issues. As Husband is a software developer, he tends to get shanghaied as “family tech support” and considering that my father gets shanghaied as “the man with all the power tools and the five foot chainsaw who is helping clear the 50 metre fallen mountain ash from our yard”, we feel this is quite fair.

We decided to take Abby up for a visit, as she’s never been to Dad’s place, while Amos has, and two dogs might be a bit much to manage.

Soon after we got to Dad’s, he disappeared to run some errands, and Husband sat down at the outside table next to the barbeque to build his father-in-law a new computer. Meanwhile, I was trying to decide on the most effective and safest way to tie up Abby so that she could keep us company and sniff things but not wander off or get in the way.

While I was untangling the doggy rope, I heard a crunching sound.

Husband interrupted my rope-studying-reverie (I think I was stuck on the same knot for an extended period) to say, “Er… what’s that she’s got?”

“Abby, LEAVE!”

She’s pretty good about leaving stuff when told, so she just pulled her head up and looked at me in confusion. I swooped down on the box, scooped it up and stared at it for a moment, heart racing, because that yellow box looked fucking familiar.

Spilling out of the box was this:

Image

Rat poison. Lethal doses of blood thinner.

The label on the box was yellow and said “RAT AND MOUSE BAIT.”

This is the kind of thing that strikes absolute terror into the hearts of dog owners.

On the back: “Causes death in 4 to 7 days.” That’s rats, true, which are rather smaller than even gangly adolescent rottweilers, but past a certain point blood thinner is blood thinner and enough internal bleeding will kill pretty much anything.

Had she actually eaten any? I took a few seconds to feel around inside the box for any dog slobber. She’s a messy eater, and when the pellets turned out to be dry, I briefly relaxed.

Then I pried open her jaws and stared blankly at the blue-green mush smeared over her teeth.

When something potentially disastrous (but not immediately catastrophic) happens, there’s always a moment where you just pause and think, Really? Really? Is this what we’re doing today? This is what we’re doing today, isn’t it? Alright. Let’s get moving.

There was a lot of simultaneous back-and-forth with Husband while I was doing all this, and then I grabbed my phone and googled “[town] vet emergency”. Sure enough, there was a 24 hour number, so I navigated through the “The office is closed! If this is an emergency, press 9…” menu and reached a pleasant young man who, after I explained that my 32 kg dog had eaten some rat bait and I didn’t know how much, agreed that, yes, rat bait was an emergency, and he’d meet me at the clinic in twenty minutes.

Incidentally, this was not only a Sunday; it was also a long weekend in our state, so I did pull the vet into the office on his holiday.

The clinic was about five minutes from Dad’s place, so I basically threw the dog in the car (correction: I didn’t really have to. At this point she felt perfectly fine, so as far as she was concerned we were just going on another adventure, and she leapt in happily), hooked her harness around the cargo barrier, and headed up the driveway.

Five minutes is enough time to imagine the worst, an image of your sweet-natured, happy, half-grown little girl dog dying with blood streaming out of her ears and eyes and nose. It’s enough time for self-recrimination – why wasn’t I watching her? – and subsequent transfer of blame – Dad’s never used rat poison, why didn’t he tell me? – and then the determination to calm oneself down – she probably hasn’t even absorbed it yet, and even if she has, there are things we can do, she’ll be okay – and of course the brief, selfish, embarrassed practical concern – fuck, this is going to be expensive.

I got there before the vet, as expected, so I flipped up the rear door and sat in the back with Abby, who was quite content to flop down next to me, receive pats, and occasionally lick my face.

“You idiot,” I said severely, and then reminded myself (rather, Husband had reminded me earlier) that rat bait is designed to be appealing to, well, non-specific mammals, and Abby eats anything anyway, so she really couldn’t be blamed for this. “Alright, it’s not your fault.”

This commentary was rewarded with an affectionate *slurrp*.

The rest of the story is fairly unremarkable. The vet turned up in short order (sooner than expected), and we trudged inside. I gave the girl a bear hug while the vet injected apomorphine and then, since it’s a rural area and they regularly deal with large animals like cows, horses and (reportedly) alpacas, we took Abby out the back to a concrete area strewn with straw. She was quite happy sniffing around at cow poo for a few minutes, until she stopped still and dropped her head. The wagging tail flopped down and stopped moving.

She proceeded to, as expected, chuck her guts up. Undigested, bright turquoise rat bait pellets were spotted in the mush of dog food and the small number of treats she’d received for sits and drops that morning.

The vet went off to prepare another shot to stop the endless regurgitation, and by the time he came back she was only bringing up thin streams of bile and she looked very miserable indeed. All the same, she wagged her tail at the vet and leaned into him for a pat.

Nothing keeps our girl down for long.

She threw up three more times while we took care of the insurance paperwork (yes. We have pet insurance, thank fucking Christ, since a public holiday call out fee is not exactly peanuts), before the second shot kicked in.

I actually had to pick her up and put her in the back of the car, since she was so worn out and unhappy by the time we had to leave. In order to avoid giving an inflated sense of my upper body strength, I do this “half a dog” at a time: pick up the front half of dog, put paws on floor of car. Dog stays there, looking groggy. Then bend down (use your knees!) and scoop up back half of dog. At this point dog’s reflexes kick in and even a very very tired and unhappy dog will scramble into the back.

Then we went back to Dad’s place.

The rest of the afternoon was uneventful. I went for a “run” (what passes for a run for me; as I’ve said elsewhere, it’s mostly walking until my muscles can support my joints and stop me injuring myself). Husband built a computer for Dad. Dad was mortified at the dog-poisoning and explained that he hardly ever uses rat bait – he’s been getting bush rats due to the dry spell, and normally it’s way under various pieces of low furniture where dogs can’t fit their heads, except that it got moved out of the way to bring the new tiles in and…

It’s totally understandable, how it happened. I know where I get my absent-mindedness, don’t worry, and Dad’s not in trouble. Shit happens.

When your dog eats rat bait, there’s a follow up blood test to make sure they didn’t absorb enough to affect clotting. Both follow-up test results are in. We did the four-day test a well as the two-day test. It’s very rare that a result appears in the second test that wasn’t detected in the first, but I love my dogs and I have no idea how to assess that risk properly, so we didn’t take that chance (pet insurance made that choice much easier. Get pet insurance, I’m not even kidding). Even if she has absorbed it, the treatment is – as I understand it – a bucketload of vitamin K to counteract the effects until it’s out of her system.

So I’ll keep you posted, but at the moment Abby is happy and healthy and friendly and generally fine.

As an antidote to the sheer terror, here’s a cute picture of the dog in question.

Abby relaxing and enjoying the cafe scene after her second blood test.

Abby relaxing and enjoying the cafe scene after her second blood test.

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