What are Poisoning by Petroleum Products?
Poisoning with petroleum products can be a serious problem for dogs. Petroleum products contain hydrocarbons, chemicals that are made primarily from a carbon and hydrogen group, which are toxic to dogs as well as humans. Dogs have a high chance of being exposed to petroleum hydrocarbons since many products commonly found in households and garages contain some type of distilled petroleum, including engine oil, gasoline, paint solvents, wood stain and lighter fluid among others. If these products are stored incorrectly, they may leak and end up on a dog’s coat, where they will often be ingested during washing. Outdoor dogs can also be exposed through environmental contamination from a spill or a leaky storage tank. Toxicity can vary among groups of hydrocarbons, depending on the thickness and volatility of the liquid. Very light, non-viscous compounds like gasoline and kerosene can be inhaled easily and are highly toxic to the lungs, blood, and nervous system. Some other hydrocarbons are less toxic, but in large amounts, they can still be very dangerous. Hydrocarbons can cause irritation on the skin and in the mouth if ingested. They may induce vomiting and subsequent aspiration. Ingested petroleum products can cause lethargy, weight loss, and oily feces up to two weeks after the incident. Inhalation of petroleum products (through fumes or aspiration) can damage the lungs and limit the oxygen exchange that takes place in the alveoli. CNS symptoms may be present with any type of significant toxicity. Mild exposure usually doesn’t cause permanent damage, but high doses, especially through inhalation, can be fatal.
Petroleum products contain hydrocarbons that are toxic to dogs as well as humans. Exposure to large amounts causes serious illness and even death. Petroleum hydrocarbon poisoning in dogs can take place through ingestion, inhalation, or direct skin contact.
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Symptoms of Poisoning by Petroleum Products in Dogs
These are some of the symptoms you might see in a dog with petroleum poisoning.
- Skin irritation
- Oral irritation
- Clamping of the jaws
- Coughing or choking
- Oil in vomit or on the lips
- Difficulty breathing
- Oily discharge from the nose
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- General weakness
- Dry feces
- Oil in the feces
- Shivering or excitability
- Head tremors
- Lack of coordination (appearance of walking drunk)
- Visual dysfunction
- Respiratory failure
There are three different types of petroleum poisoning.
Direct skin contact
- Causes skin irritation and can lead to ingestion when dogs lick themselves
- Some animals show no symptoms other than oral irritation
- Others may develop hypoglycemia a few days after the incident and experience weight loss, lethargy, and symptoms of general weakness
- Dogs that ingest a large amount of petroleum will often vomit
- Oil may be found in the feces a few days later
- Dogs can inhale gasoline or kerosene fumes; they may also aspirate ingested petroleum products when they vomit
- This can lead to permanent lung damage and eventual death from respiratory failure
Causes of Poisoning by Petroleum Products in Dogs
These are some common petroleum containing products that could cause be toxic to your dog.
- Diesel fuel
- Lighter fluid
- Crude oil
- Paint solvent
- Wood stain
- Brake fluid
Products that contain aromatic hydrocarbons (crude oil, gasoline, kerosene, naphtha and others) can be especially dangerous since these types of hydrocarbons are carcinogenic and are easily absorbed through inhalation. These are some of the most common ways dogs may be accidentally exposed to petroleum hydrocarbons.
- Leaky containers
- Paint solvent left in an open container after use
- Leaky storage tank
- Spill from a car accident
- Pipeline break or tank car accident that contaminates water
Diagnosis of Poisoning by Petroleum Products in Dogs
If you know your dogs was exposed to a petroleum product you should take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Even if you didn’t witness the incident, large amounts of oil on the coat or a noticeable smell of oil on your dog can be reason for concern. The veterinarian will confirm the diagnosis symptomatically and take fluid samples from the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, liver, and kidneys. These samples will be carefully analyzed by a lab to confirm the presence of hydrocarbons as well as to check for any other toxic chemicals. Some older products contain toxic additives like lead so hydrocarbon toxicity may be combined with poisoning from other chemicals.
Treatment of Poisoning by Petroleum Products in Dogs
Vomiting is not usually induced with petroleum poisoning due to the risk of aspiration. Activated charcoal may be given, especially if other toxic chemicals are also present. Otherwise the veterinarian will treat your dog symptomatically. Supplemental oxygen may be needed for dogs with breathing difficulties. Dehydrated dogs may be given intravenous fluids or electrolytes. Hydrocarbons can be stored as lipid molecules in the liver or kidneys for a short amount of time, but as long as there is no permanent damage, they will be eventually flushed out of the body.
Dogs with petroleum related aspiration pneumonia can be more difficult to treat. Antibiotics may be needed if bacterial infection is present, which can happen when stomach contents are inhaled. Steroids can make the condition worse, so they are not usually used with pneumonia or respiratory illness from petroleum poisoning. If aspirated hydrocarbons have caused permanent damage to the lungs, there may be little the veterinarian can do.
With poisoning from direct skin content, the best treatment is to wash the area with mild soap and water. The veterinarian may prescribe creams to help limit irritation if needed.
Recovery of Poisoning by Petroleum Products in Dogs
Dogs will usually recover from mild exposure to petroleum hydrocarbons, however large amounts or consistent long term contact can end up being fatal. Early treatment can help, but inhalation and aspiration don’t have a good prognosis even with early treatment.
The best way to manage petroleum is to limit exposure. Keep all petroleum containing products sealed. Make sure your dog is confined elsewhere if paint solvent or wood stain is being used. Clean up all spills immediately. Avoid letting your dog run free around gas or oil wells, and keep him away from junk yards or old cars, if possible.