Dogs have a natural instinct to hunt and kill rodents like rats. But do they actually eat rats after killing them or do they just leave them alone? This is a common question for dog owners who find dead rats around their home or yard.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Most dogs will kill rats but won’t eat them. They usually just shake them around or leave them alone after the kill.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into the details around dogs and rats. We’ll cover the hunting and killing instincts dogs have, whether they actually consume rats, what to do if your dog eats a rat, and how to keep rats away from your home and pets.

The Hunting Instincts of Dogs

Dogs have a natural instinct to hunt and chase prey. It is a behavior that is deeply ingrained in their DNA and has been passed down from their ancestors, the wolves. Even though domesticated dogs may not need to hunt for their survival, their hunting instincts are still very much intact.

Chasing Prey is Natural For Dogs

When dogs spot a small and fast-moving object, such as a rat, their natural instinct is to chase it. This behavior is driven by their predatory instincts and their innate desire to catch and capture prey. It is a display of their agility, speed, and determination.

However, it’s important to note that not all dogs will actually eat the prey they catch. Some dogs may simply kill the rat and leave it behind, while others may choose to bring it back to their owner as a gift.

The decision to eat or not to eat the prey depends on various factors, including the dog’s individual preferences and their level of hunger.

Terriers Were Bred to Hunt Rodents

Terriers, in particular, were bred specifically for their hunting abilities. These small and energetic dogs were originally developed to help farmers control rodent populations on their properties. Their strong prey drive and ability to dig and burrow made them excellent at catching and dispatching rats and other vermin.

Even today, many terrier breeds such as the Jack Russell Terrier, Rat Terrier, and Border Terrier still retain their instinctual drive to hunt and kill rodents. They have a natural talent for sniffing out and tracking down these small creatures, making them highly effective pest control dogs.

Individual Dogs Have Different Levels of Prey Drive

It’s important to recognize that not all dogs have the same level of prey drive. While some breeds are more inclined to chase and hunt prey, others may have a lower prey drive or may have been bred for different purposes, such as herding or guarding.

Additionally, within each breed, there can be individual variations in prey drive. Some dogs may have a very high prey drive and will eagerly chase and catch any small animal they come across, while others may have a more subdued instinct and may not show much interest in hunting at all.

To satisfy a dog’s natural hunting instincts, it is important to provide them with appropriate outlets for their energy. Engaging in activities such as playing fetch, participating in scent work, or providing puzzle toys can help fulfill their natural instincts and prevent behavioral issues that may arise from suppressed prey drive.

Do Dogs Actually Eat Rats?

It is a common misconception that dogs eat rats. While dogs are natural hunters and can often be seen chasing and killing rats, they do not typically eat them. Dogs have a built-in prey drive that compels them to chase and capture small animals like rats.

However, once they have caught their prey, they usually lose interest in eating it.

Chewing But Not Eating

When a dog catches a rat, it may instinctively chew on it as a way to release pent-up energy and satisfy its natural hunting instincts. Chewing can also help dogs clean their teeth and gums. However, most dogs will eventually spit out or abandon the rat after chewing on it for a while.

This behavior is more about the thrill of the hunt than the desire to consume the prey.

Consuming Entire Rats

While it is rare, some dogs may actually consume entire rats. This behavior is more commonly observed in stray or feral dogs that have limited access to regular meals. In these cases, dogs may resort to eating rats or other small animals as a means of survival.

However, this behavior is not common in domesticated dogs that are well-fed and have their nutritional needs met.

Risks of Rat Consumption

It is important to note that consuming rats can pose potential health risks for dogs. Rats can carry diseases, parasites, and harmful bacteria that can be transmitted to dogs through consumption. These include diseases such as leptospirosis, salmonella, and parasites like fleas and ticks.

Additionally, rats may have ingested toxic substances or been exposed to pesticides, which can further endanger a dog’s health if consumed.

If you suspect that your dog has consumed a rat or has come into contact with one, it is important to consult your veterinarian. They can provide guidance on any necessary preventive measures or treatments to ensure your dog’s health and well-being.

For more information on dogs and their behavior, you can visit American Kennel Club.

What To Do If Your Dog Eats a Rat

Look for Signs of Illness

If your dog has eaten a rat, it is important to closely monitor their behavior and look for any signs of illness. Some common symptoms that may indicate a potential problem include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, loss of appetite, and changes in behavior.

If you notice any of these signs, it is essential to take immediate action to ensure your dog’s health and well-being.

Contact Your Vet

As soon as you suspect that your dog has eaten a rat, it is crucial to contact your veterinarian for guidance. They will be able to provide you with specific instructions based on your dog’s individual circumstances.

It is important not to delay seeking professional help, as rats can carry diseases and parasites that can be harmful to your dog’s health. Your vet may recommend bringing your dog in for a check-up or may advise you on how to monitor your pet’s condition at home.

Monitor Closely and Take Preventative Measures

While you wait for further guidance from your vet, it is essential to closely monitor your dog’s health and take preventative measures to avoid any further issues. Keep a close eye on their eating and drinking habits, bowel movements, and overall behavior.

It is also advisable to keep your dog away from areas where rats are commonly found, such as garbage bins or areas with high rodent activity.

Remember, prevention is key: Make sure to regularly clean your surroundings, dispose of garbage properly, and seal any potential entry points where rats could enter your home. This will help reduce the risk of your dog encountering rats and potentially eating them.

Keeping Rats Away from Your Home and Pets

Block Access Points

To prevent rats from entering your home and potentially harming your pets, it is important to block any access points. Rats can squeeze through small openings, so make sure to seal any cracks or holes in your walls, floors, and foundation.

Pay special attention to areas where utility pipes and wires enter your home, as these are common entry points for rodents. Use steel wool or wire mesh to cover vents and openings, and consider installing door sweeps to seal gaps at the bottom of doors.

By blocking these access points, you can significantly reduce the chances of rats finding their way into your home.

Remove Food Sources

Rats are attracted to food, so it is essential to remove any potential food sources that may attract them. Keep your pet’s food in sealed containers and avoid leaving it out overnight. Make sure to clean up any spilled food promptly.

Additionally, secure your garbage cans with tight-fitting lids to prevent rats from scavenging through your trash. By eliminating these food sources, you make your home less appealing to rats and reduce the likelihood of them being attracted to your property.

Use Repellents and Traps

There are various repellents and traps available that can help deter rats and prevent them from entering your home. Natural repellents, such as peppermint oil or mothballs, can be placed in areas where rats are likely to enter.

Ultrasonic devices emit high-frequency sounds that are unpleasant to rats, deterring them from staying in the area. Additionally, traditional snap traps or live traps can be effective in catching rats.

When using traps, it is important to place them in areas where rats are known to travel, such as along walls or near entry points. Regularly check and dispose of trapped rats to prevent any potential health hazards.

Ensure Your Dog Gets Proper Nutrition

While dogs are known to be natural predators of rats, it is important to ensure that they are getting proper nutrition to maintain their health and well-being. A well-balanced diet that meets your dog’s nutritional needs will help keep them strong and capable of effectively dealing with potential rat encounters.

Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best diet for your dog’s specific needs. Remember, while dogs may have a natural inclination to chase or kill rats, it is crucial to prioritize their overall health and safety.


While dogs have a natural instinct to hunt and kill rats, most won’t actually eat them after killing them. Consuming rats can be dangerous for dogs due to diseases they carry.

If your dog does eat a rat, look for signs of illness and contact your vet right away. Be sure to take preventative measures like sealing up access points, removing food sources, and using repellents to keep rats away from your home and pets.

With proper precautions, you can minimize dangerous encounters between your dog and rats. Understanding your dog’s natural behaviors and instincts is also key to keeping them safe and healthy.

Similar Posts