Zinc poisoning is a rare disorder that affects dogs after they have consumed some zinc-containing materials. The causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of the same has been discussed in this article.
Zinc is an essential mineral for the health and fitness of a dog. Nowadays, zinc supplements are even added to dog foods in order to keep them fit. However, zinc poisoning is a case where an excess amount is ingested by the dog, leading to severe complications. Zinc deficiency in dogs is common but cases of toxicity are rare.
Zinc can be ingested by dogs in various forms. Zinc contamination results due to direct or indirect contact with galvanized zinc materials, like nuts and bolts of iron and even cages. It is also found in automotive batteries and similar items that are found in the backyard of the home or garden, or near the garage rooms. Dogs left unattended can also accidentally swallow large amounts of zinc oxide ointment that is used as a cure for skin irritation in humans. Coins and pennies minted after the year 1982 mainly contain zinc (nearly 98%) and copper (just 2%-4%). The gastric juices in the digestive system of a dog facilitate faster absorption of zinc in the body, so pennies have been quite dangerous for dogs who swallow them accidentally. Other sources may include calamine lotions, home paints, and shampoos.
Zinc toxicity can lead to various symptoms that include any one or all the following.
- Excessive and continuous vomiting
- Lack of Appetite
- Lethargy and weakness, showing strange dog behavior
- Pale Gums
- Icterus (yellow mucous membranes)
- Kidney Failure
- Liver failure
- Red urination
If this is not detected at an early stage, then it can be potentially fatal for the dog and can even leave lasting effects on its health. It can lead to other blood disorders as well. Basically, zinc interferes and blocks copper and iron, minerals that are chiefly involved in the production of red blood cells. This leads to the destruction of red blood cells in the body as they are not able to function efficiently. A pale or rather jaundiced-yellow-colored gum of the dog will easily reveal the problems that the dog is going through. Higher levels of zinc in the blood can lead to brownish or orange-colored urine. A toxic dose for a dog is considered to be between 1-3 pennies or 50 to 100 mg/kg (i.e. 50 to 100 mg of zinc per kg of the material ingested). In severe cases, the dog can face issues of acute kidney failure and liver damage.
A diagnostic test is essential to trace the exact cause of the poisoning and to provide proper treatment to the dog. A full check up of the blood count should confirm the presence of anemia. Urinalysis should also be performed to test the functioning of the kidneys. Abdominal radiographs are a very useful tool to detect the presence of zinc-containing substances in the body. The serum zinc level of the blood is also checked so that the toxicity level can be determined.
It is necessary that the ingested substances are removed from the dog’s body, especially from the gastrointestinal tract. If these substances are found in the stomach, then an endoscopy needs to be performed to remove them. Checking for anemia is absolutely essential and if required, intravenous fluids and blood transfusion must be administered. Gastrointestinal protectors can be used to treat gastric irritation.
Preventing zinc poisoning in dogs requires proper care and regular health checks by a veterinarian. If you think your dog has eaten some zinc-containing item, then immediately consult your veterinarian so that he/she can prescribe the necessary medications.