Zinc Poisoning in Dogs

Zinc poisoning in dogs is rarely met, but may affect your pet and you should be aware of the symptoms and the first aid help that needs to be applied in the case of a zinc poisoning. Zinc poisoning may occur due to objects that contain zinc or certain ointments that may have a higher percentage of zinc. Zinc is a substance that will cause severe stomach and intestinal irritation and is toxic to canines.

Causes of Zinc Toxicity

Your pet may get zinc toxicity due to the ingestion of objects that contain zinc. Some culprit objects may include:

  • Pennies, that contain zinc (especially pennies produced after 1982); the zinc is coated with copper but the copper coating may be broken and the zinc may cause damage in the dog’s body
  • Zinc bolts
  • Metals that have been galvanized
  • Ointments that contain zinc
  • Zinc supplements and other combined supplements that contain zinc
  • Board game pieces made of zinc

Symptoms of Zinc Poisoning

You may not be able to monitor your pet 24/7, so he may ingest an object that contains zinc; however, you should be able to recognize the symptoms of zinc poisoning:

  • Chronic vomiting, due to the fact that zinc affects the stomach lining
  • Diarrhea, if the zinc affects the intestinal lining as well
  • Excessive salivation and foaming at the mouth
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Pale gums and mucous membranes
  • Sudden collapse
  • Seizures
  • Coma, in rare cases and only if the amount of zinc ingested in high

If the dog is exposed to zinc on a regular basis, he will develop a blood disorder that will be fatal. Zinc affects the production of the red blood cells and will cause hemolytic anemia and a low concentration of red blood cells. Hemolytic anemia will be signaled by symptoms such as:

  • Pale gums
  • Jaundice (yellow eye whites and other mucous membranes)
  • Brown or orange urine

In high amounts (over 50 mg per pound of weight, or 1 to 3 pennies), the ingestion of zinc can lead to liver and kidney failure.

Diagnosing Zinc Toxicity

Zinc toxicity may be detected through blood testing, which will also establish if the red blood cell count is normal and if hemolytic anemia is present.

The vet will test the kidney and liver function and may perform a radiograph of the abdomen to see if he can identify the ingested objects.

Treatment of Zinc Toxicity

The dog must be encouraged to vomit, so that the toxic materials are eliminated. However, if the dog has ingested larger objects, these may have to be surgically removed.

Intravenous fluid or blood transfusion may be necessary in severe cases of zinc poisoning.

The vet may also recommend chelation therapy, which can reduce the levels of zinc from the body. This therapy will typically include calcium EDTA or penicillamine.

Ideally, you should remove objects that contain zinc from the dog’s environment to prevent zinc poisoning in the future.