Australia is facing a critical shortage of the antidote used to treat poisoned animals amid heavy use in areas impacted by the mice plague.
- The extremely high number of dogs being poisoned during the mouse plague has led to a shortage of vitamin K
- Vets around the country – including Western Australia – fear they will run out of supplies
- Pet owners are being warned to be vigilant
Vets around the country say they are having trouble accessing vitamin K, which is used to treat animals that have eaten poisoned mice or baits like Mouse-Off.
Manufacturers and suppliers say there is unprecedented demand for the antidote.
“In the last two months we’ve sold more vitamin K than we normally would in 15 months,” Mavlab Animal Health national sales manager Joseph McQueen said.
“We’ve got more than 3,000 units on backorder, with customers waiting for orders we can’t currently supply.
“In a normal month, we sell 300 to 400 units of vitamin K.
“We’ll have stock available again on Monday to fulfil those backorders, but we don’t know how long this demand will go on for.”
Mr McQueen said companies were doing all they could “to alleviate the shortage” but were had to comply with Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) regulations.
“We’re one of a number of companies that create vitamin K and everyone’s feeling the same shortage,” he said.
“Our aim is by the end of June to have enough stock on hand to supply the market increases and future demand.”
Dog blood donors
Dubbo vet Ross Pedrana said his practice had been inundated with poisoned pets needing life-saving procedures.
“In a normal year we maybe see just the occasional case,” he said.
“I couldn’t estimate how many we’ve had this year, but two weeks ago on a Friday night we had five cases arrive at the same time.
“We often have every IV in our practice going, putting in either plasma or the vitamin K antidote into poisoned dogs.”
Dr Pedrana said most of the animals were saved but huge quantities of the antidote were used in the process.
“Hardly a day that goes by that we don’t get admissions with various stages of mouse poisoning,” he said.
Dr Pedrana has also been using dog blood donors – including his own pup, Digger – to facilitate transfusions.
“The owners are very willing to bring the dogs in at a moment’s notice, which is great,” he said.
“I’m fortunate to have a dog myself that’s a suitable donor.
Fears animals will die
Vet Kate Clayton said the impacts were being felt as far afield as Western Australia.
“Our wholesalers informed us last week there are very limited supplies,” she said.
“We were only able to order enough last week to to do one patient.
“They advised we may not see further supplies until July at the earliest, because currently stocks are at critical levels.
Dr Clayton said she was seriously concerned.
“This time of year is probably when we see the most cases of pet poisoning — we would see one or two cases a week,” she said.
“When there’s none of the antidote and there’s nothing else that can be used to treat these cases readily, it does make it a lot more difficult.
Dr Clayton said dogs blood ceased to clot when they were poisoned.
“They need plasma to replace the clotting factors within the blood and they need vitamin K because that’s what the rodenticide takes away,” she said.
“If people aren’t careful with how they use their rodenticides over here in the west, I’m concerned we’ll lose pets that ordinarily we would have been able to save.”
Stocks healthy — for now
Dr Pedrana was confident his practice had enough vitamin K to last until supplies were more readily available.
“The reports I get from most other vets the region is they’re mostly fairly well armed,” he said.
“I think most vets (in plague-affected areas) have got adequate stores on hand.
“We’ve got heaps of plasma in our freezer ready to go, as well as vitamin K.”
Orange vet Andrew Litchfield said while his practice had large quantities on hand, there had been difficulties securing the antidote.
“We probably have enough vitamin K to treat 40 larger-breed dogs,” he said.
“Some days we’re seeing five or six dogs that have been poisoned by anti-coagulants and each of those basically need a bottle of 25 milligram tablets, depending on their body weight.
“Because of the second and third generation anti-coagulant rodenticides, we need to treat the dogs for three to four weeks with vitamin K after the poisoning.”