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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.

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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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Ask a Vet

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Gem

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Pit bull

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Anxiety

A Fluorescent light bulb, while turned on, broke inside of the house. It was all over the carpet so unfortunately I had to vacuum the remaining pieces. When the bulb initially broke, she wasn’t in the room. She got curious of the noise and was probably 50 feet from where it shattered. She was only near it for about 30 seconds and I took her out of the room. Is she exposed to the mercury?

Aug. 23, 2018

Gem's Owner

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0 Recommendations

The amount of mercury found in a fluorescent light bulb is very small and much smaller than what was used in thermometers; if Gem wasn’t close to the breaking bulb, I wouldn’t be too concerned but I would ensure that everything was cleaned properly afterwards. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 23, 2018

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Jersey

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Shepherd/Collie

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12 Years

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic, Bloated

We have been feeding Jersey 1 can of tuna a day for a year with her kibbles. She just suddenly stopped eating, has trouble walking, seems very stiff, lethargic, drink a lot of water, and has a bloated tummy. She hasn’t eaten in 3 days I hand fed her a little chicken and rice, raw carrots but that’s it, she didn’t want much and still doesn’t want to eat She just pooped for the first time on day 4, it’s “soft” and has mucus “clumps” She’s not fixed, she did go through a heat, but doesn’t seem like shes pregnant, we have 2 other dogs and they are fine so ruling out worms... Worried about the mercury even though I read it’s uncommon I also have her a couple doses of CBD oil so far

June 25, 2018

Jersey's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

There are many things that may be going on with Jersey that are more common than mercury poisoning. She may have a uterine infection, she may have a systemic disease, or a tumor. Unfortunately, without seeing her, I can't tell what might be going on. From your description, it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can assess her health and see what might be happening with her.

June 25, 2018

Thank you for the reply! Looked up pyometra, I’m 99% sure she has it. She did go through a heat a couple months ago. She now also has whitish discharge leaking out of her. She still wags her tail too...we will get her checked out

June 27, 2018

Jersey's Owner

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Mercury Poisoning Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$3,500

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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