What is Metal and Lead Toxicity?
If your rabbit is allowed to roam freely within your home he may be at risk of becoming poisoned by lead or metal. Curious by nature, rabbits have a habit of biting and chewing, which may lead to exposure to toxic compounds.
Metal and lead toxicity can be acute or chronic. Signs of exposure may be hard to detect as they may mimic other conditions. A rabbit exposed to lead may exhibit character changes such as lethargy and lack of appetite, which will lead to critical effects such as neurological changes and death if left untreated.
Unlike some other animals, such as a dog or a cat, rabbits are unable to regurgitate or vomit and are thus are incapable of ridding their bodies of poison. Rabbits can also recycle the poison through their digestive systems because they are caecotrophic.
Metal and lead toxicity in rabbits is a condition that can occur when your rabbit ingests a type of toxic metal (cosmetics, foil, paint particles, plaster, linoleum, small metal toys) that are poisonous to him. Metal and lead toxicity can affect your rabbit's vital organs, leading to a life-threatening situation.
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Symptoms of Metal and Lead Toxicity in Rabbits
Your rabbit may show signs of metal and lead toxicity in the following ways.
- Blood in urine or stool
- Decreased Stools
- Gastrointestinal hypomotility
- Lack of appetite for food or water
- Mouth irritation
Acute Lead or Metal Toxicity
- Ingestion of a large quantity of a product containing lead
- Your rabbit may appear to be depressed
- You may see signs of weakness
- Your rabbit may also exhibit neurological symptoms such as, convulsions, lack of coordination, twitching, or walking around in circles
Chronic Lead or Metal Toxicity
- Consistent chewing and grazing over a period of time on items or compounds containing lead
- The presence of acute symptoms may be accompanied by anorexia, paralysis, and weight loss
Causes of Metal and Lead Toxicity in Rabbits
- Contaminated food or water
- Curtain weights
- Lead foil
- Lead on soldered cages
- Paint particles
Diagnosis of Metal and Lead Toxicity in Rabbits
The diagnosis of metal and lead toxicity will include the evaluation of your rabbit’s clinical signs, a discussion of the recent history of your pet (illnesses, dietary changes, behavioral abnormalities), and diagnostic testing.
After a physical examination the veterinarian will order a complete blood count and profile, including a serum lead assessment. A stool sample and a urinalysis will be done to see if there are any abnormalities present. X-rays can locate any metal substances in your rabbit's gastrointestinal tract or stomach. The veterinarian may also want to perform other tests to help her evaluate the functions of your rabbit's internal organs, and to rule out other health conditions.
Treatment of Metal and Lead Toxicity in Rabbits
Metal and lead toxicity in rabbits requires immediate medical attention. Treatment options may include:
Chelating agents encourage removal of lead and metals through the bloodstream for elimination by the kidneys. Gastrointestinal motility modifiers will assist the digestive system with resumption of normal function. Pain management will be administered as required. If the poisoning has advanced to a critical stage and your rabbit is having seizures, drugs to stop them and counteract the effects will be given.
Hydration therapy will also be implemented. Your rabbit may be dehydrated; fluids will rebalance your pet’s electrolyte levels as well as promote the kidneys to eliminate the toxins through frequent urination. Along with the medication, the veterinarian can give fluids either through a syringe or intravenous, depending on your rabbit’s needs.
If your rabbit has ingested items that can be removed surgically, such as small metal toys, this will be discussed. In addition, severe cases of metal and lead toxicity in rabbits may require a blood transfusion if anemia has progressed to a dangerous level.
Recovery of Metal and Lead Toxicity in Rabbits
Rabbits who have been treated successfully have a good prognosis for recovery, although treatment in the form of medication may need to be repeated. The prognosis becomes guarded if the seizures become severe as they may become uncontrollable. If your rabbit does survive the toxicosis, monitor him carefully over the next several weeks as secondary infections have been known to occur, even with treatment.