Lead Toxicity in Rabbits
Exposure to high concentrations of lead and its compounds can lead to a toxic condition called heavy metal poisoning. Almost all of the rabit's body systems can be affected as a result of this type of poisoning, including the destruction of enzymes resposible for creating red blood cells, which can be fatal. In vast quantities, lead can also damage a rabbit's nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Because rabbits have a tendency to lick and chew lead-containing household substances -- especially painted surfaces and occasionally metallic objects -- they are often susceptible to lead toxicity.
Symptoms and Types
- Decreased appetite or complete loss of appetite (anorexia)
- Gastrointestinal hypomotility or stasis (slowing or inactivity of the intestinal contents)
- Weakness, lethargy, ataxia (loss of muscle coordination)
- Anemia and low blood cell count
- Diarrhea (rare)
There are numerous household materials that may expose your rabbit to toxic levels of lead, including:
- Cages lined with solder or lead paint
- Lead-based house paint residues or paint chips
- Plumbing materials and supplies
- Lubricating compounds
- Tar paper
- Lead foil
- Improperly glazed ceramic dishes (food or water bowl)
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your rabbit, including a complete blood profile, chemical blood profile, complete blood count, and a urinalysis. Rabbits suffering from lead toxicity will generally show abnormally high concentrations of lead in the bloodstream. Additional diagnostic testing may include X-ray imaging, which may detect lead containing contents in the stomach or intestines.