Rats can carry dangerous diseases and eating them puts your dog at risk of getting sick. However, some dogs do try to eat rats out of their natural predatory instincts or if rats manage to get into their food. So what should you do if your dog eats a rat?

And is it really that dangerous for dogs to eat rats if they manage to catch and kill them outside?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: No, dogs should not eat rats. Rats can transmit diseases to dogs and eating them is not recommended.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the risks of dogs eating rats. We’ll discuss why dogs try to eat rats, what diseases rats can give dogs, what to do if your dog already ate a rat, how to rat-proof your home and yard, and alternative ways to satisfy your dog’s predatory instincts.

Why Dogs Try to Eat Rats

Dogs have a natural instinct to hunt and chase, which can explain why they try to eat rats. Here are a few reasons why dogs may exhibit this behavior:

Natural Predators

Dogs are descendants of wolves, who are natural predators. Just like their ancestors, dogs have a strong prey drive that compels them to chase and catch small animals. Rats, being small and quick, trigger this instinct in many dogs.

It’s important to remember that this behavior is instinctual and not indicative of any aggressive tendencies in your furry friend.

Smell and Taste Interesting to Dogs

Rats have a distinct smell that can attract dogs. Their scent glands produce pheromones that dogs find intriguing. Additionally, the taste of rats might be appealing to dogs due to the high protein content.

It’s essential to keep in mind that dogs have different preferences, and while some may be interested in rats as food, others may show no interest at all.

Prey Drive and Boredom

For dogs with a high prey drive, the sight of a rat scurrying around can be irresistible. Dogs that are bored or lack mental stimulation may be more prone to chasing and trying to eat rats as a way to entertain themselves.

Ensuring your dog receives enough exercise, mental stimulation, and playtime can help reduce their interest in rats.

It’s important to note that while dogs may try to eat rats, it’s not recommended. Rats can carry diseases and parasites that can be harmful to your dog’s health. If you suspect your dog has ingested a rat or come into contact with one, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian to ensure your dog’s well-being.

Diseases Dogs Can Get from Rats

Rats are common pests that can carry various diseases. As a dog owner, it’s important to be aware of the potential health risks that rats can pose to your furry friend. Here are some of the diseases dogs can get from rats:


Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that dogs can contract from coming into contact with rat urine or contaminated water. It can cause symptoms such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice. In severe cases, it can lead to organ failure and even death.

It’s essential to vaccinate your dog against leptospirosis and keep them away from areas where rats are present.

Rat Bite Fever

Rat bite fever is a rare but potentially serious bacterial infection that can be transmitted to dogs through bites or scratches from infected rats. Symptoms may include fever, joint pain, rash, and swelling.

Prompt medical attention is crucial if your dog has been bitten by a rat to prevent complications.


Salmonella is a type of bacteria commonly found in rats that can cause gastrointestinal issues in dogs. Dogs can become infected by consuming rat-contaminated food or water. Symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

It’s important to practice good hygiene and properly handle and store your dog’s food to minimize the risk of salmonella infection.


Although rare, dogs can contract the plague from infected rats. The plague is a serious bacterial infection that can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Symptoms may include fever, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, and difficulty breathing.

If you live in an area with known rat infestations, it’s crucial to take preventive measures and keep your dog away from potentially infected rodents.


Trichinosis is a parasitic infection that can be transmitted to dogs through the consumption of raw or undercooked rat meat. This infection can cause a range of symptoms, including muscle pain, fever, and gastrointestinal issues.

It’s important to ensure that your dog’s diet is free from raw or contaminated meat to prevent trichinosis.

Other Parasites

Rats can also carry various parasites, such as fleas, ticks, and mites, which can infest both rats and dogs. These parasites can transmit diseases and cause discomfort for your dog. Regularly check your dog for any signs of infestation and consult with your veterinarian for appropriate prevention and treatment options.

It’s important to note that not all rats carry diseases, and not all dogs will necessarily get sick from coming into contact with rats. However, as a responsible dog owner, it’s best to take precautions to minimize the risk of disease transmission.

Keeping your dog’s environment clean, practicing good hygiene, and seeking veterinary care when necessary will help ensure your dog’s health and well-being.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats a Rat

Check for signs of illness

If you suspect that your dog has eaten a rat, it is important to monitor them closely for any signs of illness. Keep an eye out for symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, or any unusual behavior.

These could be indicative of a potential health issue related to the consumption of the rat.

Contact your vet

Upon discovering that your dog has eaten a rat, it is crucial to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to provide guidance and advice tailored to your specific situation. Remember, your vet is the best source of information and will be able to determine the appropriate course of action based on your dog’s health and the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Get your dog dewormed

One major concern when a dog eats a rat is the potential transmission of parasites. Rats can carry various parasites, such as fleas, ticks, and worms, which can be harmful to your dog’s health. It is recommended to have your dog dewormed by your vet to prevent any potential infestations or health issues.

Clean your dog’s mouth

After your dog has consumed a rat, it is important to clean their mouth thoroughly. Use a damp cloth or pet-safe mouthwash to wipe away any potential remnants or bacteria. This will help minimize the risk of any oral infections or other complications that may arise from ingesting a rat.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure. It is important to take steps to prevent your dog from accessing rats or any other potentially harmful animals. Keep your dog’s living area clean and secure, and consider using pest control measures to keep critters away.

For more information on dog health and safety, you can visit https://www.akc.org/ or consult with your trusted veterinarian.

How to Rat-Proof Your Home and Yard

Seal up entry points

One of the most important steps in rat-proofing your home and yard is to seal up any potential entry points. Rats can squeeze through small openings, so it’s essential to inspect your property thoroughly. Check for gaps in walls, windows, doors, and vents.

Use caulk or weatherstripping to seal any cracks or holes. Installing door sweeps and mesh screens can also help prevent rats from entering your home.

Clear clutter

Rats are attracted to cluttered areas as they provide hiding spots and potential food sources. To discourage rats from infesting your home, it’s crucial to keep your surroundings clean and clutter-free. Clear out any unnecessary items, such as old furniture, boxes, and piles of debris.

By minimizing clutter, you reduce the chances of rats finding a suitable habitat in your home or yard.

Use rat deterrents

There are several rat deterrents available on the market that can help keep these rodents away from your property. Some popular options include ultrasonic devices, which emit high-frequency sounds that are unpleasant to rats but inaudible to humans.

You can also try using natural repellents like peppermint oil or mothballs, as rats are known to dislike these scents. However, it’s important to note that deterrents may not be 100% effective, and professional pest control may be necessary in severe infestations.

Clean up pet food

Rats are opportunistic feeders and will gladly take advantage of any available food sources. If you have pets, it’s essential to clean up their food bowls after every meal. Leaving pet food out overnight can attract rats and other pests.

Store pet food in sealed containers to prevent rats from accessing it. By practicing good pet food hygiene, you can reduce the likelihood of attracting rats to your home.

Secure trash cans

Rats are notorious scavengers and can easily rummage through unsecured trash cans in search of food. To prevent this, make sure your trash cans have tight-fitting lids that cannot be easily opened by rats. Consider using bins made of sturdy materials that rats cannot chew through.

Additionally, it’s advisable to keep trash cans away from the exterior walls of your home to minimize the chances of rats finding their way into your property.

Trim vegetation

Rats are excellent climbers and can use overhanging tree branches or dense vegetation as access points to your home. Regularly trim tree branches and shrubs near your house to eliminate potential pathways for rats.

Additionally, keep your yard well-maintained and remove any excess vegetation or debris that could provide hiding spots for these rodents.

By following these rat-proofing measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of rats infesting your home and yard. However, if you suspect a rat infestation or are facing persistent rodent problems, it’s always recommended to seek professional pest control assistance.

Satisfying Your Dog’s Predatory Instincts

Dogs have a natural instinct to hunt and chase, which is deeply ingrained in their DNA. While domesticated dogs may not have the opportunity to hunt for their own food, it is still important to provide them with outlets to satisfy their predatory instincts.

This not only helps keep them mentally stimulated and physically active, but it also promotes a healthy and well-rounded lifestyle for your furry friend.

Games and toys

One way to fulfill your dog’s predatory instincts is through interactive games and toys. Puzzle toys, for example, provide mental stimulation as your dog has to figure out how to get to the hidden treats.

Toys that mimic prey, such as squeaky toys or plush animals, can also trigger your dog’s hunting instincts and provide them with a fun and engaging playtime.

Agility training

Agility training is not only a great way to keep your dog physically fit, but it also taps into their natural instinct to chase and catch. By setting up obstacle courses with jumps, tunnels, and weave poles, you can simulate the thrill of the hunt for your dog.

This type of training not only provides a mental and physical challenge but also helps strengthen the bond between you and your canine companion.

Snuffle mats

Snuffle mats are specially designed mats that hide treats or kibble within their fibers. They require your dog to use their sense of smell and snout to search for the hidden goodies. These mats provide a great mental workout for your dog and allow them to engage in a natural foraging behavior.

Herding balls

If you have a herding breed, herding balls can be a fantastic way to satisfy their instinct to chase and control movement. These large, durable balls can be rolled or tossed, allowing your dog to practice their herding skills.

Not only is this activity mentally stimulating, but it also helps burn off excess energy.

Lure coursing

Lure coursing is a sport that involves dogs chasing a mechanically operated lure. This activity is a fantastic outlet for dogs with a strong prey drive, such as sighthounds. Lure coursing provides a safe and controlled environment for your dog to indulge in their instinct to chase, making it a thrilling and enjoyable activity for both you and your furry friend.

It’s important to remember that each dog is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Pay attention to your dog’s individual needs and preferences when selecting activities to satisfy their predatory instincts.

Always ensure that the activities you choose are safe and appropriate for your dog’s size, age, and physical abilities.

For more information on dog training and enrichment, you can visit www.akc.org or www.cesarsway.com.


While the idea of dogs hunting and eating rats may seem natural, allowing your dog to eat live rats can put them at risk of contracting dangerous and even fatal diseases. Take precautions to keep rats out of your home and yard.

Provide your dog with plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, and outlets for their predatory instincts. If your dog already ate a rat, monitor them closely and contact your vet right away. With proper care and precaution, you can help protect your precious pup and avoid potential health consequences.

In summary, dogs have natural predatory instincts but rats can transmit deadly diseases to them. Keep rats away, don’t let your dog hunt/eat them, and satisfy their instincts safely. Monitor your dog if they eat a rat and see the vet immediately.

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