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What is Coins Poisoning?

The most common form of toxicosis from coins results when dogs ingest change left within their reach. While this form of ingestion does not  offer any satisfaction from taste, the curious nature of canines leads them to explore with their mouths and consume objects of multiple types. Often, a puppy or dog who likes to eat any sort of object within reach will become ill after ingesting coins. Not only does the eating of coins allow for the risk of an obstruction in the esophagus or intestine, the compounds in coins will break down when they come in contact with gastric make up of the stomach. The release of zinc, which results due to the low PH of the stomach, is then transported to the liver, bones, pancreas, and more in the form of caustic zinc salts. 

Zinc salts can be corrosive on tissues such as the muscles and the prostate, irritating them in the process. Additionally, the proper use of iron and copper for example can be disrupted by zinc. The degree of toxicity will depend on the amount of coins eaten, whether food is present in the stomach or not, and the length of time the coins remain in the stomach. If you suspect your pet has eaten coins a veterinary visit is necessary. Do not wait for symptoms to appear; the death of a small dog due to the ingestion of a single penny has been documented.

Coins poisoning can occur in dogs when ingested. Toxicity will depend on the size of the dog and the type of coin eaten; most cases of coin poisoning in canines involve pennies, in particular the penny minted after 1982.

Coins Poisoning Average Cost

From 246 quotes ranging from $500 - $6,500

Average Cost

$3,500

Symptoms of Coins Poisoning in Dogs

  • Lack of appetite (anorexia)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst and urination 
  • Lethargy 
  • Pale mucous membranes 
  • Reddish colored urine
  • Jaundice (icterus)
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Fever

Severe cases may lead to cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, and renal failure.

Types

  • Nickels are 25% nickel and 5% copper
  • Dimes and quarters are 8.33% nickel and 91.67% copper
  • U.S. pennies pre-1982 were 95% copper and 3% zinc but post-1982 have been changed to 97.6 zinc and 2.4% copper
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Causes of Coins Poisoning in Dogs

  • Coins poisoning can damage organs including the liver, kidney and pancreas
  • Multi organ failure is possible
  • Severe anemia can occur
  • Zinc salts corrode tissues
  • Pennies can adhere to the gastric mucosa and stomach lining
  • Coins can cause an internal obstruction
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Diagnosis of Coins Poisoning in Dogs

A pet who has ingested coins must be seen by a veterinarian immediately. Symptoms of coin poisoning are not obvious right away; studies have not determined the length of time that it takes for the zinc in pennies to begin to make your pet sick. Do not wait for symptoms to appear before making the trip to the clinic. Complications that arise, like anemia or jaundice, may not be apparent to you but could be manifesting without showing signs.

The veterinarian will ask questions pertinent to your dog’s recent health and the coin eating event.

  • Has your pet been ill recently?
  • Is he on medication or supplements?
  • How is his appetite?
  • Is your dog’s behavior and activity level normal?
  • Has he been drinking more water than usual?
  • Have his toileting habits changed?

A physical examination will be done and the veterinarian will be listening to your pet’s heart rate and breathing patterns, as well as palpating the abdomen for tenderness and checking the mucus membranes for irritation or unusual color.

A complete blood count, chemical profile and coagulation profile, in addition to a urinalysis will be ordered. BUN, creatinine and urine color are just a few of the markers that will be analysed. These diagnostic tools can point to the extent of toxicity. Radiographs (x-rays) may be done and can indicate if there is a dangerous obstruction caused by the coins and also can give the location of the coins because removal will be necessary.

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Treatment of Coins Poisoning in Dogs

The coins will need to be removed from your dog’s stomach or wherever they may be in the gastrointestinal system. Pennies in particular can adhere to the lining of the stomach and do not always dislodge easily. If the incident took place just a short while ago, the veterinarian may have success with removing the coins by inducing vomiting. Because the coins may eventually cause an obstruction, it is not safe to assume they will pass through your pet’s system on their own. Removal of the source of poisoning is also an important part of the treatment.

However, before this can be considered, your dog will be stabilized through the use of intravenous fluids, blood transfusion if necessary to treat anemia, and oxygen aid if breathing is labored. Medications can be administered through the intravenous line, including gastroprotectants, antinausea drugs, and medications designed to prevent further zinc absorption. The fluids will also help to flush out the kidneys.

Removal of the coins may be done surgically (laparotomy) or by endoscopy (tube with camera). The method of removal will depend on the location of the coins and how difficult it appears they may be to remove. Your pet will be carefully monitored throughout the procedure and for the entire hospital stay.

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Recovery of Coins Poisoning in Dogs

Contingent upon the severity of the coin poisoning, your canine companion may have an extensive hospital stay. Some cases whereby the coins were removed quickly and symptoms were minimal, recovery may be fairly quick but dogs who ingested a large amount of coins and were highly symptomatic may be under veterinarian care for days to weeks. Possible complications resulting from coin poisoning are residual kidney and liver issues, anemia, and pancreatitis. The veterinary team will want to see your dog for a follow-up appointment in order to make sure his recovery is on track and his organ function is continuing as it should.

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Coins Poisoning Average Cost

From 246 quotes ranging from $500 - $6,500

Average Cost

$3,500

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Coins Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Yorkshire Terrier

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Four Months

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Unknown severity

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Diarrhea

I would like to ask, my puppy recently was sick due to zinc toxicity. She swallowed 2 dimes and four pennies. It was removed and she had blood transfusions. She’s now eating well. But suddenly developed diarrhea and noticed tiny amount of blood. What do we do? She”s on omeprazole and denamarine tab.

yesterday

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

For your question. Depending on when all of this happened, it may be normal that her GI tract is still upset, and that small amount of diarrhea maybe sort of normal in her recovery. There are a lot of things that I don't know about her situation and timing, and the best thing to do would probably be to call your veterinarian, let them know what is happening, and see if you should be concerned. I hope that all goes well and she feels better soon.

yesterday

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German Shepherd

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Swallowed Coin

My one year old German Shepard ate a coin and I’m worried that she won’t be able to pass it. Is it a dangerous problem or should she be okay?

July 13, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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It would be a good idea to have an x-ray performed to see where the coin is. Pennies contain a large amount of zinc and will cause zinc toxicosis as well so they need to be removed and not allowed to pass through the GI tract. Your veterinarian will be able to help guide you based on radiographs and the type of coin consumed on whether surgery is indicated. Good luck!

July 13, 2020

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macy

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german corgi

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2 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

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Sleeping

my dog is a german shepard corgi mix and shes like 2 months old and i think she ate a quarter but i dont know, what do i do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sept. 2, 2018

macy's Owner

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Karu

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Whippet

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12 Weeks

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

My puppy ate some coins that were in the truck and we did not realise until he vomited coins up in the night. He also passed some through in his bowel motion. We don't know how many he ate but he vomited up a 4 coins and passed 2. He ate his breakfast fine this morning and he seems to be himself. Will he be okay or will he need to go to the vet?

Aug. 13, 2018

Karu's Owner

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Coins can be concerning as they may cause a poisoning event, it is good to bulk out the food with some boiled rice to help push through any other coins and monitor Karu for any other symptoms. You should think about visiting your Veterinarian for an x-ray to see if there are any coins present in the gastrointestinal tract still. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 13, 2018

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Kaiser

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German Shepherd Dog

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6 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

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None

My dog ate three quarters from a piggy bank he knocked over this morning and are unsure if we should bring him. He is a big pup and often eats random things such a wood chips and the occasional rocks and usually passes them by the next day. Should we give him something to make him throw up or a laxative? It has been almost 6 hours now

June 6, 2018

Kaiser's Owner

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After two hours, inducing vomiting is unproductive and would only cause unnecessary distress; however you should try to bulk out the food with boiled chicken and rice to try and push the quarters through. If you don’t see any coins after 48 hours visit your Veterinarian; if there was a chance that a penny was consumed visit a Veterinarian immediately. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 7, 2018

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Zoe

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Chihuahua

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4 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

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Diarrhea

I went to check my puppy this morning and she had a penny in her bed, and she is the type of puppy that eats everything, she alson had diarrhea, its been like 3 hours, I dont know if she ate the penny, should I wait for the symptoms or take her to the vet?

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Roxy

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Mut

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3 Months

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

None

My 3 1/2 month old puppy found a dime my husband dropped & swallowed it easily. It’s late at night & she seems fine otherwise. I gave her some rice to help bulk her up so she can hopefully try to pass it. I plan to watch her for symptoms & monitor her movements until morning although she won’t need to poop again until the morning. Will it be ok to watch her u til then & asses how she is in the morning? I plan to take her to my vet in the morning. She currently weighs about 14lbs.

Coins Poisoning Average Cost

From 246 quotes ranging from $500 - $6,500

Average Cost

$3,500

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