Lead Poisoning in Dogs

Lead Poisoning in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Lead Poisoning in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Lead Poisoning?

Lead poisoning, also known as plumbism, is toxicity due to ingestion or inhalation of the heavy metal lead. Toxicity is due to the lead taking the place of the body’s essential calcium and zinc. The central nervous system and gastrointestinal tracts are effected by the mineral depletion. Lead ingested by pregnant females will also affect unborn and nursing pups. Common sources of lead include paint chips, paint dust, ceramic dishes, fishing weights, gun pellets/shot, and lead-contaminated water. Lead poisoning is life-threatening and requires immediate care. Lead poisoning is on the decrease, thanks for U.S. government regulations to remove lead from house paint in 1978. However, dogs can still be exposed to lead through roofing materials, rug padding, linoleum, and other aged household materials. If you believe your dog has been exposed, an immediate veterinarian appointment is suggested.

Lead Poisoning Average Cost

From 27 quotes ranging from $200 - $7,500

Average Cost

$3,200

Symptoms of Lead Poisoning in Dogs

Anytime a pet shows symptoms related to both the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the central nervous system, lead poisoning is a possibility. Common symptoms of lead toxicity include:

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Causes of Lead Poisoning in Dogs

Lead poisoning is caused by the ingestion or inhalation of lead-containing substances. Several common items in the household or on construction sites can contain lead, including:

  • Pre-1977 paint chips or paint dust
  • Roofing materials
  • Soldering supplies and materials
  • Pre-1977 dishes
  • Curtain/shower curtain weights
  • Rug padding
  • Linoleum/tile
  • Wine bottle foil
  • Lead fishing weights
  • Lead gun pellets and shot
  • Lead caulking
  • Lead lubricants
  • Lead pipes (and water from)
  • Lead-contaminated water
  • Auto batteries
  • Leaded gasoline
  • Used automobile oil
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Diagnosis of Lead Poisoning in Dogs

If you suspect your pet is showing symptoms of lead poisoning or know that she has gotten into a lead-containing substance, seek veterinary care immediately. There are no home treatments for lead poisoning.

The veterinarian will take a thorough history to determine the source of the lead poisoning. You will need to inform her of symptoms observed, when the symptoms started, and any sources of lead the pet may have gotten into or any uncommon locations the pet has visited recently. A complete physical exam will help determine extent of poisoning and useful diagnostics.

A complete blood cell count will indicate decreased red blood cells (anemia) and increased white blood cells (both seen with lead poisoning). Blood morphology will look for abnormal shapes, sizes and colors of red blood cells under the microscope (poikilocytosis, anicytosis and hypochromasia/polychromasia), all of which accompany lead poisoning. Blood biochemistry will detect any elevated liver enzymes, determine kidney function, and identify other systemic issues.

Radiographs of the chest and abdomen can allow visualization for lead objects in the stomach or intestines. Megaesophagus (an enlarged esophagus) is often seen accompanying lead toxicity and can be seen using x-ray.

Identification of and quantification of lead in the blood is the definitive diagnosis. Lead concentrations greater than 0.5ppm are diagnostic of lead poisoning.

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Treatment of Lead Poisoning in Dogs

If you suspect your pet has gotten into a lead-containing substance or he is exhibiting symptoms of lead poisoning, transport your pet to the veterinarian immediately. There are no home treatments for lead poisoning. The faster the pet receives treatment, the better the prognosis.

The goal in treating lead toxicity is to identify and remove the lead source, bind up any available lead in the body, and provide the pet with supportive care.

Lead-Source Removal

Gastric lavage removes stomach contents and is particularly useful if used within 1-2 hours of lead ingestion. Water is used to clean and rinse the stomach several times. Enema may also be used if the lower GI tract is considered to be involved. Surgery may be required to remove larger lead objects from the body.

Chelation Therapy

Chelation refers to the binding of one substance to another. Various chelating agents bind lead particles. Once the lead is bound, it can no longer act as a toxin and is excreted via the kidneys. Chelating agents are given orally and bind lead in the GI tract and bloodstream. Common chelating agents include thiamine, penicillamine, and Ca-EDTA.

Medication

IV fluids may be administered to address dehydration that can result from vomiting and diarrhea. Valium may be administered as an anticonvulsant in the event of seizures.

The success of lead poisoning treatment is highly dependent on amount of exposure and how soon after exposure the pet received treatment. Pets with low-exposure levels that are identified and treated quickly are often released within 12-24 hours. Pets with higher exposure levels, when the source of exposure cannot be identified, and where symptoms are severe, may need to be hospitalized for a few days.

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Worried about the cost of Lead Poisoning treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Recovery of Lead Poisoning in Dogs

Once the pet has stabilized and is released, a follow up appointment may be requested to ensure symptoms have subsided. Most pets recover within 1-2 days if treated soon after exposure. Pets with more severe symptoms may have permanent neurological damage. Pets exposed to a lead source over a long period of time may have lead reservoirs stored in the bones that cannot be treated with chelating agents. These cases can require ongoing treatment.

Follow your veterinarian’s aftercare instructions carefully and continue to monitor your pet for symptoms. Be sure to report any decline in health to your veterinarian as soon as it is noticed.

Remove all suspected sources of lead from your home. If your pet has been exposed and you have children, it may be safest to have them examined for lead exposure as well.

The veterinarian will report the incident of lead poisoning to authorities as it is classified as a public health hazard.

Lead poisoning can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your dog has lead poisoning or is at risk, start searching for pet insurance today. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Trupanion. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

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Lead Poisoning Average Cost

From 27 quotes ranging from $200 - $7,500

Average Cost

$3,200

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Lead Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Jack Russell Terrier

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Six Months

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1 found helpful

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1 found helpful

Has Symptoms

None

Just found my dog had chewed apart a shotgun shell... I know a lot of the pellets are in the carpet and unsure if she instead any... Should we just wait and monitor for symptoms? How many little pellets would cause problems?

July 10, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Ellen M. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hi there, thank you for your question. I am sorry to hear that your dog chewed up a shotgun shell! I recommend calling an emergency veterinary clinic or Pet Poison Helpline right away, as many types of shotgun shells contain lead pellets. Lead is very toxic, even in small amounts. I would address this immediately. Even if you aren't sure if she ingested any, you should treat it as if she did since the toxicity can be so severe. If you are concerned about ingestion of things in the future, please call a veterinary clinic or Pet Poison Helpline right away as these can be time-sensitive issues. Best of luck! I hope that everything turns out okay!

July 11, 2020

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Charlie(poodle)Mitch (chihuahua)teddy (Maltese)

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Poodle Maltese chihuahua

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11 Years

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0 found helpful

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0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Seizure
Seizures ,Vision Problems,Vomiting
Seizures

Hi,I have 3 dogs all around 11 years old now ,my oldest is a min poodle at two years old he started having seizures the vet said it was just something that happens with his breed then 8 month later my chihuahua begain having them at this time I only had the two dogs,we went back to vet for more testing and everything came out normal except the presence of elevated liver enzymes in my chihuahua,for along time after I would just take them in when they had a seizure and kept a diary of daily life to maybe determine any patterns that might suggest a cause my vet simply thought that it was just a coincidence that I had two dogs that just suffer from seizure disorder ,I simply didn’t agree with him oh and I forgot to mention I changed all food ,cleaning supplies and even the products I use on my skin trying to eleminate what could be causing it ,then a few years later after we had moved I took in a rescue dog as a foster and after about 3 weeks he too had a seizure so back to vet to look for a possible contagion to no avail again the vet staits that I just am very unlucky when it comes to getting dog breeds that are pron to seizures month pass and my brother and his dogs come to stay with us for 8months no problems at all with his dogs so I start to believe the vet was correct then we adopt a dog from one of my clients with dementha since she was unable to car for him anymore,I had spent time with this Maltese for over a year no history of seizures then after 3 months with me he has them and worst of all they last for 30+ min and occurrence daily I also have noticed that my dogs are now having vision issues and worst yet tooth issues or should I say gum issues especially the poodle his teeth are all loose in his gums and his breath is horrid I no longer can afford the vet care I once could and I just wondering if this could all be from a poisoning event or maybe some obscure pathogen

April 19, 2018

Charlie(poodle)Mitch (chihuahua)teddy (Maltese)'s Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

It does seem very coincidental that every dog that comes into your house starts to seizure. I do not know specifically what might be causing this, as I can't examine the dogs or see your house, but I think it is unusual that all dogs are affected. Your poodle's dental health is probably unrelated, as poodles are very prone to dental disease, and that may need to be addressed separately. I hope that you are able to resolve this problem with your veterinarian's help!

April 19, 2018

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Lead Poisoning Average Cost

From 27 quotes ranging from $200 - $7,500

Average Cost

$3,200

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