A dog bitten by a rat is susceptible to a wide range of diseases that are potentially life-threatening to both the pet and its owner. The dog requires immediate veterinary treatment. It is also necessary to understand the type of symptoms that your dog may display, which could be signs of rodent communicable diseases such as leptospirosis, rabies, rat bite fever, or even poisoning from eating a poisoned rat. Monitor your dog and incorporate preventive measures to ensure that it does not contract a fatal disease.
According to Seattle Children's Hospital, small animals such as mice, rats, moles, or gophers do not carry rabies. So if you see a mouse bite on your dog, it is probably fine. A mouse bite on a dog will be small, and likely easy to care for.
First aid and treatment
According to Uptown Vets in New York City, if a dog is bitten by a rat, the bite or scratch needs to be cleaned and disinfected. While rabies from rats is somewhat rare, your dog's rabies vaccine may need to be updated. Untreated rabies infections are fatal. Take your dog to the vet, or do some basic first aid and treatment at home on your own.
Provide first aid by cleaning and disinfecting the bitten area with an antiseptic. Dress the wound by bandaging it with an absorbent gauze pad and adhesive tape. You can also give your dog an antibiotic after consultation with your vet. The vet will perform laboratory tests to ascertain whether your dog has contracted any disease. The tests are necessary so that an appropriate course of treatment can be prescribed and complications can be avoided.
Likewise, if your dog eats a dead rat, she may be exposed to any diseases that the rat had. The rat could have died from poison, which in turn would affect your dog's system. Let your vet know right away if you see your dog eat a dead rat.
Watch for symptoms
Dogs can become infected with diseases such as leptospirosis through direct contact such as a bite, or indirectly, such as by drinking water contaminated with infected urine. Keep an eye on your dog over time, because a dog that has contracted leptospirosis, for instance, may not develop symptoms for several days. If symptoms do develop, your dog may need close monitoring along with diagnostic tests to come up with a sure plan for treatment.
If you call your vet to say "A rat bit my dog," try to gather as much information as possible such as where and when. That can help pinpoint the rat infection that other wildlife care organizations or other vets may need to know about. Early signs of leptospirosis can be hard to spot, such as fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. If a sick dog sheds the bacteria in their urine, other pets in the household may develop symptoms. Limit contact between your sick dog with other animals.
Dogs with rat bite fever, another disease that is transmitted by infected rodents, may or may not show symptoms. Rabies in rodents is rare, according to Pet Coach, but tularemia is common in rabbits and rodents. Symptoms of tularemia in dogs include loss of appetite, fever, cough, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Plague is a rare infection in dogs, but it can occur if the dog is bitten by a flea that has also fed on an infected rat. Salmonellosis can occur through indirect contact of fecal material. Symptoms of that disease include fever, diarrhea, dehydration and shock.
Supervision and prevention
First, keep your dog's vaccinations up to date. Rabies is especially important, as a dog that has been vaccinated against rabies and then comes into contact with rabies can be revaccinated and observed, but a dog that has never had a rabies vaccine must be euthanized as quickly as possible, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Do your best to keep your personal environment free of rodents, limit your dog' contact with wild animals, and observe her when the two of you are out in the wild, so you know if she has encountered something. When walking your dog, always keep it on a leash to prevent it from being bitten by a rat or wild animals, such as raccoons, that are carriers of rat diseases.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- Seattle Children's Hospital: Human or Animal Bite
- Uptown Vets: Your Dog and Rats in New York City - What are the Risks?
- The Conversation: Explainer: what is Leptospirosis and How Can It Harm Us and Our Pets?
- Centers for Disease Control: Infection in Animals
- Pet coach: My Dog Killed a Rat. Do Rats Carry Rabies? Should I Be Worried About Any Other Diseases?
- Centers for Disease Control: Caring For a Client’s Animal That May Have Been Exposed to Rabies