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Arsenic Poisoning in Dogs

Arsenic Intoxication in Dogs

Arsenic, a heavy metal mineral, is frequently present in chemical compounds found in various consumer products. These products include herbicides (used to eliminate unwanted plants), insecticides (designed to eradicate insects), wood preservatives, and certain drug formulations used to combat blood parasites such as heartworm. The levels of arsenic in parasitic treatment drugs are typically below the lethal threshold and pose no harm to dogs. However, excessive ingestion can result in toxicity. Dogs usually ingest arsenic-containing products accidentally when they gain access to such compounds.

Symptoms and Types

If a dog experiences acute exposure to arsenic, it may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Staggering
  • Fresh bright red blood in feces
  • Lying down due to extreme exhaustion
  • Body feeling unusually cold, especially at extremities like ears and limbs
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Untreated dogs or those heavily intoxicated may face death

In cases of chronic (long-term) exposure, symptoms may manifest subtly, such as poor appetite and weight loss.

Causes

  • Ingestion of arsenic-containing compounds
  • Overdose of arsenic-containing drugs to treat heartworm parasites in dogs

Diagnosis

Diagnosing arsenic poisoning relies heavily on background history, particularly regarding any arsenic-containing compounds present in the home. When consulting your veterinarian, provide a comprehensive overview of your dog’s health, symptom onset, and any potential incidents that might have led to the condition. Information about recent medications administered to your dog is also crucial for diagnosis.

Often, owners bring their dogs to the veterinarian due to sudden unexplained vomiting episodes. However, few recall witnessing their dogs ingest arsenic-containing compounds, making it less apparent as the primary cause. Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination, including a complete blood profile, chemical blood profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis. Sampling stomach contents may also be necessary, as arsenic presence in the bloodstream or stomach confirms the diagnosis. In cases of chronic arsenic poisoning, evaluating arsenic levels in the body can be done through a hair sample, as arsenic accumulates in hair over time. If feasible, collect a sample of vomit or diarrhea to expedite the diagnostic process, ensuring prompt treatment to prevent further harm to your dog.

Treatment

Treating acute arsenic poisoning is urgent, with time being critical for a favorable outcome. Vomiting serves a protective role by expelling much of the ingested poison. However, if vomiting doesn’t occur promptly, your veterinarian may perform gastric lavage (stomach irrigation) to remove stomach contents. Given arsenic’s severe damage to the liver and kidneys, dogs in kidney failure due to arsenic poisoning may require dialysis. Treatment aims to eliminate the poison from the body through fluid therapy and excretion-promoting drugs. Chelating compounds, which bind heavy metals like arsenic, are used to slow its absorption and enhance water solubility for efficient elimination. Your veterinarian may administer these antidotes to aid your dog’s recovery, possibly requiring hospitalization until stabilization and recovery.

If you witnessed your dog consuming arsenic, inducing vomiting immediately following the incident can be beneficial. Contact your veterinarian for safe vomiting induction instructions. However, if time has passed since ingestion, only a veterinarian should treat your dog. Inducing vomiting can be risky with certain toxins, potentially causing more harm. Avoid inducing vomiting if your dog is unconscious, experiencing breathing difficulties, or showing signs of severe distress or shock. Following initial care, promptly seek veterinary assistance regardless of whether vomiting occurs or not.

Living and Management

Upon returning home from the hospital, prioritize your dog’s rest and shield it from stressors. Adhere to your veterinarian’s instructions for home care, including medication administration and dietary recommendations. Opt for easily digestible food to aid in your dog’s recovery from poisoning.

Ensure all sources of arsenic-containing compounds are secured or removed from the premises. If retention is necessary, store them out of reach of both children and pets. Adhering to proper guidelines for handling and storing such poisonous substances can prevent most issues from occurring.

Monitor your dog closely and promptly seek veterinary advice if you notice any abnormal behavior. Unfortunately, in many cases of severe intoxication, few patients survive unless treatment is initiated very early.

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