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Excess Iron in the Blood in Dogs

Iron Toxicity in Dogs

Excessive iron levels in a dog’s bloodstream can lead to cellular damage. Although iron is crucial for a dog’s bodily functions, an overabundance can be fatal. Dogs may consume unhealthy doses of iron if they are given multivitamins unsuitable for their age, size, or health condition, or if they access dietary or pregnancy supplements not meant for them.

Symptoms and Types

In dogs, iron toxicity manifests in four distinct stages:

Stage I (0–6 hours)

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Gastrointestinal hemorrhage
  • Abdominal pain

Stage II (6–24 hours)

  • Initial recovery
  • Stage III (12–96 hours)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Gastrointestinal hemorrhage
  • Shock
  • Tremors
  • Abdominal pain

Stage IV (2–6 weeks)

  • Gastrointestinal obstruction due to stricture formation

Causes

The primary cause of iron toxicity in dogs typically stems from ingesting pills within the household setting. A toxic dose is generally defined as exceeding 20 mg/kg.

Diagnosis

To diagnose iron toxicity in your dog, your veterinarian will require a comprehensive history of your dog’s health, the onset of symptoms, and any potential incidents that may have triggered this condition. A thorough blood profile, encompassing a chemical blood profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis, will be conducted. Elevated iron levels in the bloodstream will be evident in the blood test results. If there is suspicion of your dog ingesting iron pills, diagnostic imaging may be employed to locate them and assess whether they can be removed from the digestive system before complete absorption into the body.

Treatment

The dog will receive high doses of fluids to address shock and correct the acidosis in the bloodstream. Efforts will be made to remove any remaining unabsorbed iron pills from the dog’s stomach. This may involve inducing vomiting using antiemetic drugs or performing a gastric lavage. Gastric lavage entails slowly infusing a saline solution into the stomach cavity to flush out its contents, which are then extracted in small amounts using another tube.

Living and Management

After treatment, it’s crucial to monitor the dog’s blood enzymes and liver enzymes. Your veterinarian will arrange a follow-up examination to assess your dog’s blood and ensure that iron levels are within control. Additionally, it’s important for you to watch out for any signs of gastrointestinal obstruction following iron toxicity, as the digestive system may react to the toxicity itself or the medical interventions used to address it.

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