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Poisoning by Petroleum Products in Dogs

Petroleum Hydrocarbon Toxicosis in Dogs

Petroleum hydrocarbon toxicosis is a severe reaction that occurs when dogs are exposed to refined petroleum oil products or ingest such substances.

Common petroleum products that pose poisoning risks to small animals include fuels, solvents, lubricants, waxes, as well as certain pesticides and paints with a petroleum base. Substances like benzene and mineral spirits are often inhaled, potentially leading to chemical pneumonitis—a life-threatening condition marked by the spread of petroleum products across lung surfaces, causing inflammation. Aromatic compounds such as benzene are particularly prone to causing systemic toxicity throughout the body.

Dogs may come into contact with these products through accidental spills or deliberate application by humans attempting to remove substances like paint from their skin or hair.

It’s crucial not to induce vomiting in cases of petroleum product poisoning, as the substance may cause more harm if regurgitated, potentially leading to aspiration pneumonia if the toxin is inhaled into the lungs.

Cats are also vulnerable to petroleum hydrocarbon toxicosis.

Symptoms and Types

The following are symptoms commonly associated with petroleum hydrocarbon toxicosis in dogs:

  • Dog emits a petroleum-like odor
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing, including choking, coughing, and gagging
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bluish-purple discoloration of the skin or gums
  • Excessive salivation
  • Pawing at the muzzle
  • Chomping or gnashing of the jaws
  • Head shaking
  • Instability or difficulty walking (ataxia)
  • Rare occurrences of tremors and convulsions
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Loss of consciousness or entering a comatose state
  • Loss of all bodily functions

Causes

Petroleum hydrocarbon toxicosis in dogs can occur through various means:

  • Inhalation, ingestion, or direct contact with petroleum hydrocarbons such as gasoline, benzene, kerosene, paint thinner, linseed oil, and turpentine (although the last two are not hydrocarbons, their toxic effects on the body are very similar).
  • Toxicity may result from swallowing petroleum hydrocarbons, having them come into contact with the skin, being present in the fur, or inhaling fumes emitted by petroleum hydrocarbons.

Diagnosis

To accurately diagnose petroleum hydrocarbon toxicosis in your dog, it’s important to provide your veterinarian with a detailed history of your dog’s health, including any symptoms observed and potential incidents that may have led to the condition. This history can help your veterinarian determine which organs are affected by the toxin and exclude other possible toxicities like ethylene glycol or drug exposure.

If possible, bringing a sample of your dog’s vomit to your veterinarian can aid in quicker treatment administration.

Diagnostic tests will likely include a comprehensive blood profile consisting of a chemical blood profile, complete blood count, urinalysis, and electrolyte panel. Additionally, your veterinarian may test vomit or stomach contents for petroleum distillates. As some animals may develop aspiration pneumonia from inhaling petroleum products, chest X-rays will be taken to detect signs of inflammation and pneumonia, facilitating immediate treatment.

Treatment

Your veterinarian will administer activated charcoal to your dog to decontaminate and neutralize the toxin. If your dog recently ingested petroleum products, a stomach lavage (wash) may also be performed. Inducing vomiting is typically not recommended in these cases, as it may lead to aspiration pneumonia, a potentially severe complication.

The primary goal in cases of uncomplicated petroleum hydrocarbon ingestion is to reduce the risk of aspiration into the dog’s lungs. Depending on your dog’s lung health upon arrival at the veterinary hospital, oxygen therapy may be provided. If your dog had petroleum hydrocarbons on its skin or fur, it will undergo bathing at the hospital and may receive topical antibiotics to prevent skin infection resulting from irritation.

Recovery and Management

Ensure all petroleum products and petroleum-based items are kept out of your dog’s reach, preferably stored in a locked or childproof cabinet, to prevent accidental poisoning. If your dog displays any signs of respiratory distress after returning home from the hospital, such as rapid breathing, panting, or coughing, contact your veterinarian promptly and take your dog to a veterinary hospital for immediate emergency treatment.

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