Arsenic Intoxication in Dogs
Arsenic is a heavy metal mineral that is commonly included in chemical compounds for consumer products, such as herbicides (chemicals to kill unwanted plants), insecticides (chemicals to kill insects), wood preservatives, and in some drug formulas for treating blood parasites like heartworm. In parasitic treatment drugs, the level of arsenic is in sub-lethal ranges and will not harm a dog, but over-dosage can lead to toxicity. In most cases, dogs accidentally ingest products containing arsenic when they gain access to such compounds.
Symptoms and Types
In case of acute exposure to arsenic, the following symptoms may be present in an affected dog:
- Abdominal pain
- Fresh bright red blood in feces
- Lying down with extreme exhaustion
- Body may feel unusually cold especially at extremities including ear, and limb extremities
- Loss of consciousness
- Death in untreated dogs, or in cases of heavy intoxication
- In chronic (long-term) exposure symptoms may be subtle like poor appetite and weight loss
- Ingestion of arsenic-containing compounds
- Overdose of arsenic-containing drugs to treat heartworm parasites in dogs
Background history is very important in the diagnosis of arsenic poisoning and your veterinarian will need to know about any arsenic-containing compounds you have at home. You will need to give a thorough history of your dog's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition. A history of any medications given to your dog lately will also help in diagnosis. Frequently, owners will bring their dogs to the veterinarian with the complaint of a sudden unexplained episode of vomiting. However, few owners report seeing their dogs ingest arsenic-containing compounds so this may not be the first cause that apparent. Your veterinarian will perform a complete blood profile, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. A sample of the stomach contents may also be necessary. Arsenic in the blood stream or stomach contents will confirm the diagnosis. In cases of chronic arsenic poisoning the level of arsenic in the body can be evaluated from a hair sample, as arsenic is deposited in the hair over a course of time.
If possible, you should collect a sample of the vomit or diarrhea to take to the veterinarian. This will help to speed the diagnostic process so that your dog can be treated before further damage is done.