9 safety measures when using rodenticides to control problematic rats

Safety measures when using rodenticides to control problematic rats
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In light of the recent alarming discovery of bubonic plague antibodies in a rat carcass in Thembisa, this article introduces 9 safety measures when using rodenticides to control problematic rats.

One case hardly makes it an outbreak, but because it is supposed to be a controlled disease in South Africa and has the ability to spread very rapidly, it can infect and kill people. The consequences of an outbreak can be catastrophic!

Bubonic plague is an infection of the lymphatic system, pneumonic plague (most feared) is an infection of the respiratory system, and septicemic plague is an infection in the bloodstream.

Rats and fleas that live on rats carry the Yersinia pestis micro-organism that causes bubonic plague. If people are bitten by rats and fleas that carry the Yersinia pestis micro-organism, they will be infected by the disease. Bubonic plague may become epidemic if infected carriers (rats and fleas) are not effectively controlled.” – CropLife South Africa

Fleas can transmit this disease to humans! Fleas jumping from rats to humans transmitted the cause of the Black Plague in 1664, killing over 70 000 people in London, England. The first outbreak in South Africa was between 1899 and 1926, where 2 568 cases and 1 505 deaths were recorded.

When considering human health and safety, CropLife South Africa advises citizens to take control of rodent management in their own premises, but be very careful when applying rodenticides (rodent poisons) in order to prevent poisoning of domestic dogs, owls and children.

They recommend the following when applying rodenticides:

  1. Use only registered rodenticides – registration is evident in a registration number starting with capital L followed by four numeric digits and Act No. 36 of 1947 on the label and container of the rodenticide.
  2. Always apply rodenticides in bait stations. Bait stations are available at retail outlets.
  3. A safe place indoors to apply rodenticides out of harm’s way is in the ceiling.
  4. Ensure that children and dogs do not gain access to rodenticides as ingestion of it may be fatal.
  5. Collect dead rats from the fourth day after the initial application of rodenticides. Use rubber gloves when collecting carcasses. Seal carcasses in plastic bags and dispose of them in refuse bins.
  6. Do not allow dogs to eat dead rats even if rodenticides were not used.
  7. Baiting needs to be maintained for at least sixteen days to exterminate rat populations.
  8. Do not use aldicarb (Two-Step) to kill rodents: it is illegal, ineffective and poses a very serious poisoning risk to children and dogs.
  9. Do not use cement or plaster of Paris mixed with maize meal as bait as it is ineffective. It causes discomfort when rats eat it and they emit alarm signals that negate the baiting process.

In addition to rodenticides, other preventative measures should also be instigated. Maintaining sanitation of your premises and controlling fleas is essential.

  1. Do not allow rubble and refuse to collect on the premises.
  2. Do not leave pet food unattended outside. Feed pets at particular times and offer just enough food to satisfy their needs.
  3. If garden birds are treated with birdseed and other food, offer small amounts in the morning to avoid any food being left over.
  4. Seal rat burrows with heavy soils or cement if they burrow under buildings.


As can be seen, dog and cat owners can be very involved when it comes to rodent control and the prevention of a possible bubonic plague outbreak. For more information on flea control in cats and dogs, click here. The official release of CropLife’s rodent management in order to prevent bubonic plague can be downloaded here.

About the author
About the author
Renier is a qualified, experienced companion animal veterinarian whose main interests are animal health and strengthening pet-owner relationships.
View all posts by Dr Renier Delport (BVSc.)

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