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What is Mercury Poisoning?

Mercury occurs naturally in several forms. Too much mercury in your dog’s body can damage the cardiovascular system, nervous system, kidneys, and digestive tract. Continued exposure can also injure the inner surfaces of the digestive tract and abdominal cavity, causing lesions and inflammation. There have also been reports of lesions in the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain), kidneys, and renal glands. Many causes of mercury poisoning in dogs is caused by eating button batteries, glass thermometers, light bulbs, and fish. However, there are cases of mercury poisoning from mercury found in the soil, groundwater, or even vapors from burning oil or gas. The lights in tennis shoes that light up when you walk are also toxic, and should be kept away from your dog. If you believe your dog has been exposed to mercury in any form, you should visit your veterinarian right away, even if there are no evident symptoms.

Mercury poisoning used to be a common condition in people and their pets, but since the discovery of mercury replacement material for professional use, it has become much less common. However, there are still many things containing mercury that can affect your dog, such as fish, latex paint, fluorescent light bulbs, and button batteries. As a matter of fact, mercury is still found in high levels in many types of fish used in commercial canned pet food. While an occasional can of tuna or salmon may not be harmful, feeding this to your dog on a daily basis can be harmful within a few months because mercury builds up over time since it does not get expelled from the body readily.

Mercury Poisoning Average Cost

From 51 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

Symptoms of Mercury Poisoning in Dogs

The symptoms of mercury poisoning are gradual, so they sometimes go unnoticed until the levels of mercury are high enough to cause severe symptoms. The nervous system is usually the first to be affected by mercury poisoning. This is because the brain holds mercury longer than any other part of the body, so the toxin builds up to cause damage to the central nervous system. Your dog may not start to show any symptoms at all until one or two months after exposure, making the diagnosis extremely difficult. Although most often the signs are gradual, dogs exposed to a high level of mercury can have immediate and obvious symptoms, such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal behavior and chewing
  • Anxiety
  • Blindness
  • Coma
  • Convulsion
  • Damage to the kidneys (inability to urinate, abdominal swelling)
  • Death
  • Lack of coordination
  • Loss of feeling in paws
  • Nervousness
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting blood
  • Watery and bloody diarrhea

 Types

  • Acute mercury poisoning is exposure to a high level of mercury that causes symptoms right away
  • Chronic mercury poisoning happens gradually from exposure to smaller amounts of mercury on a daily basis
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Causes of Mercury Poisoning in Dogs

  • Eating contaminated fish or fish products
  • Exposure to contaminated soil
  • Breathing toxic fumes from burning oil or trash

Eating other items that contain mercury, such as

  • Latex paint
  • Fluorescent light bulbs
  • Button batteries
  • Glass thermometers
  • Children’s light-up tennis shoes
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Diagnosis of Mercury Poisoning in Dogs

Because your dog may not start to show any symptoms at all until one or two months after exposure, making the diagnosis extremely difficult. However, if you suspect that your dog has been exposed to mercury or some other poison, be sure to let the veterinarian know before they do any tests. Even if you are bringing your dog to the veterinarian because of symptoms not mentioned in this article, tell the veterinarian what you believe your dog was exposed to, how much, and when it happened. He will do a complete physical examination, check vitals (body temperature, breathing rate, blood pressure, and pulse) reflexes, height and weight. Next, they will do some tests, such as urinalysis, fecal flotation, complete blood count (CBC), blood chemical analysis, blood gases, and fecal cultures. A kidney biopsy will be done by using a fine needle biopsy to get a small sample of tissue to examine microscopically. Radiographs (x-rays), CT scans, MRI, and ultrasound of the abdomen and brain are usually done as well to see how far the damage has gone. If the veterinarian suspects damage to the central nervous system, an electroencephalogram (EEG) will be done to record your dog’s brain activity.

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Treatment of Mercury Poisoning in Dogs

Your dog will be hospitalized and given IV fluids, oxygen therapy, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory medications. The veterinarian will usually try an activated charcoal lavage and a chelation medication, such as penicillamine or dimercaprol, to bind to the mercury so it can be eliminated through the kidneys in the urine.

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Recovery of Mercury Poisoning in Dogs

Unfortunately, the damage done by the mercury is not reversible, so if your dog has severe central nervous system, cardiovascular, or renal damage, it is permanent. Many dog owners choose euthanasia if their quality of life is expected to be low. To prevent this from happening again, keep items with mercury out of the reach of your dogs.

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Mercury Poisoning Average Cost

From 51 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

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Mercury Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Siberian Husky

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Twelve Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Frequent Urination,

I have been adding about a tablespoon of tuna to my dog's dog food because she really likes it. She started having the problem needing to urinate frequently tonight I tried calling my vet to see if they offered emergency care. The closest one to me is 1 1/2 hrs.away. She is resting and seems to be ok right now. Should I take her now or take her into my vet when they open?

Sept. 17, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Kate D. MA VetMB MRCVS

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0 Recommendations

Hello, Thanks for contacting us about your dog. I'm sorry to hear she's unwell. The urinary symptoms you describe sound a lot like cystitis and I am sure she is quite uncomfortable. It's difficult to say whether it is related to the tuna -- I can see you are concerned about possible mercury poisoning, but I think it is unlikely that the first symptom would be cystitis like your dog is showing. So hopefully it's not a problem of mercury poisoning. In terms of whether she will be ok until the morning: if this is a bladder infection or cystitis, which it sounds like, then it should be ok to wait until the morning to see the vet, although obviously she will be uncomfortable until she receives the medication she needs. So if she is otherwise relaxed, settled and is showing no other symptoms, I think this is a reasonable decision at this time. But you know your dog best -- and if you are worried that she's really not right, or there are other symptoms apart from needing to urinate frequently, then a trip to the emergency vet will definitely help make sure there's nothing else going on. I hope that is helpful, and that she feels better soon.

Sept. 17, 2020

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Beagle

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Noisy Breathing

my dog has eaen thermameter front part of grey colour called murcery what to do now

July 26, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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Hello- If your dog consumed a portion of a mercury thermometer then you need to see a veterinarian ASAP. I would also recommend calling pet poison help line at 855-764-7661. They can make a treatment plan for your veterinarian to give treatment the best chance of success. I would also recommend seeing a veterinarian or going to a veterinary ER immediately. Take care.

July 26, 2020

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German Shepherd

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9 months

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Unknown severity

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Diarrhea

Two days ago my dog accidentally ate a can of tuna that was on the counter. She has had diarrhea since. Tonight she has woken me up all night asking to go to the bathroom but now seems to be unable to have a bowel movement.

July 24, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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Hello- Thank you for your question. She was likely up all night asking to go to the bathroom because she feels like she needs to defecate but due to the diarrhea there’s nothing left in her system. She is likely having abdominal cramping. I would recommend bringing her into your veterinarian, and they will be able to get her medications to stop the diarrhea and help settle her stomach. I hope she feels better soon.

July 24, 2020

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Belgium Malinois

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Ate A Light Bulb

My pup grabbed a CFL bulb and broke it. I know they contain some mercury. I am not sure if he ingested or inhaled any. There are no cutes in his mouth or snout. His appetite is fine, urination normal, waiting on night walk for poop. What should I be watching for with him? He’s been more calm the last few days as we are in an extreme heat wave so I can’t use that symptom.

July 13, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. From your description, I am not sure how long ago this happened, but I would expect to see some signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, breathing problems, or general malaise. If he is showing any of those signs, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 13, 2020

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Cuillin

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Great Pyrenees

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Anxiety

I bought a lamp with a CFL bulb, which broke whilst being transported home. I stopped to collect my dog after the bulb had broken. Bulb was in the back seat of the car, dog was in the trunk area. The drive home was less than 10 minutes, and I drove with the windows down. Is there a risk from mercury vapors to my dog? There is a grill so I know he didn’t eat any. He’s been a bit anxious this evening, though he does sometimes have anxious spells anyway. No other symptoms.

Sept. 12, 2018

Cuillin's Owner

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Harry

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schnauzer

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

None

I broke a glass thermometer today and I didn't let the dog get near it yet. However there are friends coming over today and we're going to play with him in the room I broke the thermometer and I'm not sure I cleaned it up properly. I went on websites and it said to use tape to clean up, and I did, now there is no visible mercury on my table but I'm scared that some more might be hiding in corners. Is this enough for cleaning?

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Brodie

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French Bulldog

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

I had a question, I just recently heard that feeding dogs fish can potentially cause mercury poisoning. I had been feeding my dog around a can of tuna almost every day for about 2 weeks. Is he at risk for mercury poisoning?

Mercury Poisoning Average Cost

From 51 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

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