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Dogs have a tendency to eat things that are not good for them. For example, some dogs eat trash, plants, medicine, and just about anything that they find interesting. The most commonly found household item that causes cobalt poisoning in dogs is batteries that contain heavy metals, which includes alkaline, zinc, nickel-cadmium, and mercury or silver oxide. Other items that contain cobalt are drill bits, magnets, tires, and alloys. Inhalation of cobalt is even more dangerous, as it silently gets into your dog’s lungs and builds up, causing damage to the alveoli, and eventually leads to pneumoconiosis or lung cancer. Another rare form of cobalt poisoning is from a hip replacement. Some of the hip replacement parts can cause cobalt to leak into the bloodstream, causing symptoms similar to toxic levels of cobalt ingestion.
Cobalt poisoning is an intoxication brought on by having too much cobalt in the body. Although cobalt is an essential element in dogs, an excess of cobalt can be fatal if not treated right away. For your dog to have a toxic amount of cobalt, they would have to swallow it, breathe too much into his lungs, or have constant contact with it. The most common way that dogs get cobalt poisoning is eating something with cobalt in it, such as batteries, magnets, or some dyes or pigments. They can also be exposed to the dust from cobalt metal, such as with making tungsten carbide or another metal. Cobalt toxicity can damage the heart, thyroid gland, and cause an overproduction of red blood cells.
Your dog can get cobalt poisoning from eating, breathing, or wearing something that has cobalt in it. Some of the things that contain cobalt are:
It would be helpful if you know how your dog came in contact with the cobalt, how much he was exposed to, and for how long. The veterinarian will also need to know if your dog has had any illnesses or injuries in the recent past, and if he is up to date on his shots. Be sure to let your veterinarian know what symptoms you have noticed, because this can be crucial in getting the right diagnosis. The veterinarian will do a thorough physical examination, checking your dog’s temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, reflexes, respirations, height, and weight.
Once the physical examination is completed, the veterinarian will run some tests, such as a blood gas, chemistry panel, complete blood count, and urinalysis. Images of the abdomen will be done with radiographs (x-rays), and possibly a CT scan or MRI. If necessary, an ultrasound may be used to see if the item ingested has been digested. If your dog is suffering from inhalation cobalt poisoning, your veterinarian will do x-rays of the lungs to see how bad the damage is, and what can be done to treat the problem. For topical cobalt poisoning, the veterinarian will check your dog’s body for any rashes, and will remove the item causing the problem, which is usually a homemade collar.
To treat ingestion cobalt poisoning, the veterinarian will flush your dog’s mouth and throat for 15 to 20 minutes to remove any corrosive chemical residue. Depending on what your dog ingested and if it can be spotted on the imaging, surgery may be necessary if the object cannot be safely removed with an endoscopy. Once the object is removed, your dog’s level of cobalt should return to normal, but the veterinarian may want to keep him overnight for observation. If the problem is caused by a hip replacement, it will have to be removed surgically and replaced with a safer one.
Inhalation cobalt poisoning will be treated with bronchodilators to expand airways, cough expectorant to help thin the mucous, and diuretics to get rid of excess fluid. If the damage is severe, the veterinarian will most likely admit your dog to the hospital for breathing treatments, oxygen therapy, and IV medication until your dog is stable enough to be sent home. Topical cobalt poisoning is not serious and only requires an antihistamine and skin cream.
If your dog has been exposed to cobalt for a long time, the reaction may be hard to treat, but will usually respond well in time. However, in this type of chronic poisoning, your dog will probably need medication for the rest of his life. In the case of an acute poisoning, your dog should recovery right away with treatment and be back to normal in a few days. To prevent this from happening again, keep items with cobalt, such as batteries and magnets, out of reach of your dog.
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