GENERAL PET ARTICLES

Understanding Cataracts

A cataract is an area of opacity within the lens or the lens capsule of the eye. The eye’s lens is a soft tissue equivalent of a glass lens inside a camera. Its purpose is to focus light into a discernable image onto the retina in the back of the eye. Like a dirty camera lens, a cataract obstructs some of the light, making the image cloudy and darker. Cataracts can cover all or part of the lens,...

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A cataract is an area of opacity within the lens or the lens capsule of the eye. The eye’s lens is a soft tissue equivalent of a glass lens inside a camera. Its purpose is to focus light into a discernable image onto the retina in the back of the eye. Like a dirty camera lens, a cataract obstructs some of the light, making the image cloudy and darker. Cataracts can cover all or part of the lens, reducing vision to a greater degree as the opacity is more generalized. They can be progressive, meaning that blindness increases as the cataract matures.

There are several causes of cataracts. Juvenile cataracts (occurring in young animals) are congenital or caused by trauma to the eye. Almost all dogs with Diabetes Mellitus will develop cataracts even when receiving insulin therapy. The normal aging process causes a graying and hardening of the lens (nuclear or lenticular sclerosis) which is not a cataract and does not affect vision significantly. Many older pets will have an inherited cause for cataracts that begin to develop as the animal ages. These may progress slowly over years, or rapidly over months. Very rapid onset of cataracts causes suspicion that an underlying disease is responsible and should be investigated.

Specifically, cataracts are abnormal deposits of opaque proteins within the lens. There is currently no known medication or treatment to reverse the formation of a cataract. Surgery to remove the clouded lens is the only method of restoring vision to an affected eye. A tiny incision is made through the capsule that contains the lens. A technique called phacoemulsification is used to ultrasonically dissolve the lens and remove it by aspiration through a needle. Afterward, an artificial lens may or may not be implanted in the capsule. If not, the pet will lose the ability to focus, but light is allowed to reach the retina where the brain perceives an image. Blurry vision is easier for the animal to compensate for than complete blindness. An artificial lens will focus the image to some degree; however, it is impossible to implant an exactly matched lens to restore 20/20 vision. In either case, the animal’s ability to see will greatly improve after surgery.

In the past, it was recommended to wait for a cataract to fully mature before surgery. Advancements have caused Ophthalmologists to rethink this approach, so be sure to consult a specialist about the best time to pursue cataract surgery for your pet. Complications from surgery can include uveitis (inflammation in the eye), infection, bleeding in the eye, secondary glaucoma, and retinal detachment leading to permanent blindness. Also, not all pets are good candidates for cataract surgery. A complete evaluation of the eye must be performed to determine whether surgery will be of benefit to the patient. Overall, 90 to 95% of pets who undergo cataract surgery have improved vision.

Untreated progressive cataracts will over time lead to blindness. A mature cataract and the affected lens can eventually detach from the suspensory tissues and settle to the bottom of the eye. It may occlude normal fluid drainage and result in glaucoma. Glaucoma is a very painful swelling of the globe caused by increased fluid pressure inside the eye. Cataracts may or may not cause significant problems during the lifetime of the pet. Only your veterinarian with an Ophthalmologist’s consult can help to predict the quality of life your pet will have with a cataract.

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Understanding Giardia Infections

Giardia is a microscopic protozoan parasite of warm blooded animals. Pets and people can become infected by ingesting giardia cysts from contaminated food and water. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, flatulence, weight loss, lethargy, and dehydration by fluid loss. Symptoms may be acute, chronic, or intermittent. Giardia is passed in the feces, and pets may re-infect themselves or their...

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Giardia is a microscopic protozoan parasite of warm blooded animals. Pets and people can become infected by ingesting giardia cysts from contaminated food and water. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, flatulence, weight loss, lethargy, and dehydration by fluid loss. Symptoms may be acute, chronic, or intermittent. Giardia is passed in the feces, and pets may re-infect themselves or their owners, making environmental treatment as important as medical treatment.

After ingestion of the cysts, the giardia transform into trophozoites, a motile form of the organism that invades the small intestine. There, they cause damage to the intestinal wall which causes interruption of the absorption of nutrients, leading to malnutrition and weight loss. Diarrhea results from the lack of fat absorption and the colon may become inflamed leading to mucous in the loose stools. Excessive fluid loss can lead to dehydration and death if not corrected.

Diagnosis of giardia is accomplished by fecal examination under a microscope and fecal-antigen testing. The trophozoite and cyst forms of the parasite can be observed in direct smears and flotation techniques, but their numbers may vary greatly in each bowel movement, making this an unreliable method for ruling out giardia in a sick animal. Fecal-antigen tests are much more sensitive since they can detect very low numbers of the organism.

It appears that some animals can become reservoirs of giardia, and remain asymptomatic. Whether they develop resistance to the organism or just harbor low numbers of opportunistic cysts is unclear. There are some advocates for routine screening of pets for giardia.

A vaccine for giardia exists that can reduce the numbers of cysts passed in the feces, and may be useful in a kennel environment where re-infection is likely. The vaccine does not however prevent infection and is not recommended as a core vaccine for all pets.

Giardia infections generally respond well to treatment with fenbendazole or metronidazole. Higher doses of metronidazole can be associated with neurological toxicity, so patients should be monitored for symptoms. Fenbendazole is labeled for pets as young as 6 weeks old and can be used during pregnancy. The two medications may be combined to treat resistant infections. Giardia should always be treated because of the zoonotic risk to people, even if the pet is asymptomatic.

Environmental treatment and bathing of the pet can help prevent re-infection. Giardia cysts are very hardy outside the body. All contaminated surfaces and fabrics should be disinfected with a bleach solution or quaternary ammonia. A mild grooming shampoo can help remove the cysts from the animal’s coat. Stools should be picked up, and the pet should be kept out of the exposed soil.

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Understanding Heart Failure & Treatment Options

Heart failure may be classified as cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle) or valvular disease (disease of the flow regulating valves in the heart). Sub-categories of cardiomyopathy are Dilatative (larger dogs are over-represented) and Hypertrophic (affecting mostly cats). Mitral valve insufficiency is a problem of mainly small breeds of dogs. The term Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) may be...

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Heart failure may be classified as cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle) or valvular disease (disease of the flow regulating valves in the heart). Sub-categories of cardiomyopathy are Dilatative (larger dogs are over-represented) and Hypertrophic (affecting mostly cats). Mitral valve insufficiency is a problem of mainly small breeds of dogs. The term Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) may be used to describe any disease process of the heart involving reduced blood flow.

The heart is simply a pump. Its function is to keep oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood moving in one direction to reach the organs and tissues. When the heart becomes less capable of doing its job, all systems in the body suffer consequences.

Dilatative Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is the most common type of heart disease affecting dogs. It can occur in any breed, with larger dogs being genetically predisposed. It occurs when the heart muscle loses contractility, or the ability to squeeze blood out of the heart chambers. It can involve either side of the heart, although left-sided DCM is most common. In this case, the left ventricle cannot pump blood out of the heart as quickly as it fills with blood returning from the lungs. The left side of the heart muscle will stretch out and congestion will occur in the lungs as a result of increased pressure. Coughing is the first symptom of left-sided DCM. In right-sided DCM, the blood is backing up in the abdomen instead. The right side of the heart receives spent blood from the organs and returns it to the lungs for re-oxygenation. The increased blood pressure in the abdominal vessels causes water to leak from the vessel walls into the abdominal cavity. Fluid accumulation in the abdomen is called ascites. As more fluid builds up, the diaphragm cannot expand into the abdomen, and respiratory distress will occur with no cough necessarily present. Sometimes DCM affects both sides of the heart simultaneously. On x-ray, the cardiac silhouette will show enlargement. Treatment for DCM of any origin involves removal of excess fluid by using diuretic drugs like furosemide and spironolactone. Improvement of contractility and reduction of blood pressure is gained with the use of ACE inhibitors such as enalapril and benazepril and vasodilators like amlodipine and diltiazem. A newer drug called pimobendan is used in combination with diuretics and blood pressure medications to enhance blood delivery to the organs. Taurine deficiency causes dietary related DCM especially in cats who cannot produce this amino acid on their own. Taurine is added to all commercially prepared dog and cat foods.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a heart disease affecting mainly cats. It is very rare in dogs. In this form of heart failure, the heart muscle becomes hypertrophied or thickened. It becomes less efficient at pumping blood, and the heart chamber decreases in size. Blood slows as it passes through the ventricles leading to the possibility of the formation of blood clots. Eventually, a heart murmur (turbulence and regurgitation of blood) can be heard with a stethoscope, but not until the disease has progressed to a significant degree. The murmur may also disappear, making this an unreliable method for diagnosing HCM. On x-ray, the overall cardiac silhouette may appear to be a normal size as well. Symptoms of HCM are respiratory distress caused by fluid build up in the lungs, though cats rarely cough. A blood clot may dislodge from the heart and wind up at a narrowing part of the arteries. The condition is called thrombus (clot). It can occur on the left side of the heart and cause pulmonary embolism in the lungs; or, on the right side of the heart the clot moves to the hind-limbs causing saddle-thrombus. Complete or partial paralysis and anoxia occur in the rear legs, leaving them cold and lifeless. The prognosis of a thrombus is poor or guarded at best. Unfortunately, sudden death is the first “symptom” of many cats with HCM. If caught early, HCM is treated with blood thinners and blood pressure medications. Maine Coon cats have a genetic predisposition for HCM.

Mitral valve insufficiency occurs in small breed dogs primarily. For some reason in these animals, the mitral valve that controls the direction of blood flow becomes thickened and less flexible. A significant murmur can be heard with a stethoscope on examination. The murmur is produced by regurgitation of blood back into the heart chamber. The valve should act as a one-way gate, but in this type of heart disease it is not effective. As a result of the back up in blood flow, left side heart enlargement occurs as in DCM, and coughing results from pulmonary congestion. Less often, the valve disease involves the tricuspid valve. In this case, the heart failure involves the right side of the heart, and symptoms reflect those related to right sided DCM including abdominal ascites. Treatment includes the medications described to control the effects of DCM. Surgical repair or replacement of the affected valve is very risky and cost-prohibitive at this point in time.

The overall prognosis for CHF depends on the mechanism and progression of the disease. Treatment for symptoms and consequences of CHF can greatly improve quality of life as well as extend life-expectancy in most cases.

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Vomiting Pets

It is not uncommon that a pet may vomit once or twice occasionally without any other symptoms of illness and seem fine afterward. Because of their curious nature, a pet may ingest something they shouldn’t. It may upset the stomach causing the pet to vomit without any ill effect. That said, recurrent vomiting can be a symptom of underlying disease and should be addressed. Acute vomiting that...

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It is not uncommon that a pet may vomit once or twice occasionally without any other symptoms of illness and seem fine afterward. Because of their curious nature, a pet may ingest something they shouldn’t. It may upset the stomach causing the pet to vomit without any ill effect. That said, recurrent vomiting can be a symptom of underlying disease and should be addressed. Acute vomiting that coincides with any other symptoms such as lethargy or diarrhea is cause for concern, and veterinary care should be sought. Vomiting is never “normal”.

Cats groom themselves and occasionally vomit a hairball. This should be infrequent and never assumed to be the cause of continued vomiting. Many illnesses cause vomiting as a symptom, including liver disease, inflammatory bowel, hyperthyroidism, and cancer. A complete physical exam with a blood chemistry panel can often detect occult disease. Cats are notorious for ingesting string and ribbon, which can cause a linear foreign body obstruction in the intestines. This can be a life-threatening problem and requires emergency treatment. Vomiting is the primary symptom of foreign body ingestion.

Dogs too are susceptible to foreign body obstruction. A dog may chew up and swallow parts of toys or tennis balls which may then require surgery to remove. Diseases that cause vomiting in dogs are numerous, including pancreatitis, parvovirus, inner-ear infections, liver disease, and kidney failure. Persistent vomiting should always be considered a symptom of disease.

Vomiting causes rapid water and electrolyte loss, and it upsets the acid-base balance in the body by expelling large amounts of hydrochloric acid produced in the stomach. Repeated vomiting is very traumatic to the stomach and esophagus and can lead to gastric ulceration and bleeding. If possible, take the vomitus – the material vomited – to the vet with your pet. The contents of the vomitus can give the doctor a clue as to the cause.

Diagnostic tests that may be performed on a vomiting pet include a complete blood count, blood chemistry profile, and electrolytes. An abdominal x-ray or ultrasound can reveal gastric and intestinal obstructions and tumors. Assays for gastrointestinal disease and pancreatic specific enzymes may be measured as well.

Treatment for vomiting is first of all symptomatic, but the underlying cause must be addressed and treated to prevent further episodes. A simple diet change may be in order in the case of food allergy, or the vomiting may be a sign of serious organ dysfunction.

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Weight Loss – Should I Be Concerned?

Many people attribute weight loss in a geriatric pet to the normal aging process. Often, a pet will lose a significant amount of body mass before the owner is aware. The fact is, every change in the body has an underlying cause, even when the reason is not obvious. Weight loss may be a symptom of chronic disease, and there may be other subtle symptoms that are also written off to old age. Muscle...

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Many people attribute weight loss in a geriatric pet to the normal aging process. Often, a pet will lose a significant amount of body mass before the owner is aware. The fact is, every change in the body has an underlying cause, even when the reason is not obvious. Weight loss may be a symptom of chronic disease, and there may be other subtle symptoms that are also written off to old age. Muscle loss is the most serious form of weight loss and can be very difficult to reverse.Unexplained weight loss can occur for a number of reasons, the most common of which is caused by organ dysfunction. Renal insufficiency (kidney failure) and Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) are the most frequent underlying causes of muscle loss in pets. Metabolic disorders such as Cushing’s disease and Diabetes Mellitus can cause chronic weight loss as well.

Hyperthyroidism is very common in older cats. Weight loss will occur despite an increased appetite, and the cat will vomit frequently. Other symptoms usually accompany these problems that cause muscle wasting. Increased water consumption is always a symptom of a disease process, but changes in appetite and attitude are also common. Senility or cognitive dysfunction is a possibility when an animal gets older, but contributing factors must be ruled out when there is weight loss.

In the case of unexplained weight loss, a thorough examination and blood work will be performed. A blood chemistry panel and urinalysis can reveal a number of disease processes that lead to weight loss. Routine wellness checkups can help monitor the pet’s weight to discover trends over time. Twice a year veterinary visits are recommended for all geriatric (over seven) pets. Because dogs and cats age much faster than a human, a year is almost the equivalent of a human decade.

The prognosis for managing a disease is always better when discovered early in its progression. The chance of slowing or even reversing the weight loss depends entirely on treating the underlying cause. Increasing the amount of food given to a pet is likely to be a temporary solution. The metabolic changes that are causing the pet to shed pounds cannot be overcome by increasing the calories.

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When Its Time To Say Goodbye (Euthanasia)

Our most important responsibility as caring pet owners is to ensure that our beloved pets never experience unnecessary suffering. With all of the wonderful advancements in animal nutrition and medicine, our pets live longer, healthier, and happier lives these days. Still, there are times when technology cannot defeat time, and there is no treatment option left to bring comfort to our animals. In...

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Our most important responsibility as caring pet owners is to ensure that our beloved pets never experience unnecessary suffering. With all of the wonderful advancements in animal nutrition and medicine, our pets live longer, healthier, and happier lives these days. Still, there are times when technology cannot defeat time, and there is no treatment option left to bring comfort to our animals. In that case, we are left with the difficult task of saying good-bye. Humane euthanasia is a way to avoid unnecessary agony and allow our pets to keep some dignity in their time of passing.

This is never an easy decision to make, but it cannot be said enough that we do not want our pets to suffer. Keeping a dog or cat alive for our own selfishness – because we cannot bring ourselves to let go – doesn’t do the animal any favors. Since they cannot express their feelings, we must measure their quality of life by assessing other indicators. As illness becomes intractable, normal desires diminish. Appetite and attitude may be depressed. A pet that no longer gets excited about treats, or stops greeting you at the door after work, may be telling you that they are feeling miserable. They may lose interest in their toys as well. All of the things they live for have become too much trouble or may even cause them pain. The smell of food may only nauseate a very ill pet.

Other indicators of a poor quality of life include incontinence and immobility. Pets may be in so much pain that they urinate or defecate where they lie. This causes shame and worry to a potty trained animal as it would any person. It is unhealthy and unfair to the pet, and the burden that it causes on the household must be considered. Stress on the family is also felt by the animal, and it is not unreasonable to factor this into the assessment of quality of life.

When it is time, euthanasia should be absolutely humane and painless. Discuss euthanasia with your veterinarian until you fully understand and are comfortable with the procedure. Ask if there are any other treatment options available for your pet’s condition. Admit your concerns; the doctor is there to address them. Veterinarians schedule extra appointment time for these difficult times. There are slight variances in the specific procedure and drugs used for euthanasia, but the goal is to avoid any pain and suffering. Anesthetic agents will be given to ensure that the animal is completely unconscious. Then a drug is given intravenously to stop heart and brain function. The entire procedure is very rapid and completely painless.

During this emotional time, you can take comfort in the fact that you have provided your pet with a happy and healthy lifetime. We’ve always known that one day we would have to say good-bye, but our pets provide many cherished memories that remain with us long after they have left our sides.

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Whipworms

Whipworms are an intestinal parasite of dogs and rarely, cats. Human whipworm infection is not caused by the species of worm that infects our pets, so zoonosis is unlikely in healthy people. Female whipworms lay eggs intermittently and in low numbers, making them easy to miss during a fecal exam. The adult worms reach a length of about 2 inches, so they can be seen by the unaided eye. However,...

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Whipworms are an intestinal parasite of dogs and rarely, cats. Human whipworm infection is not caused by the species of worm that infects our pets, so zoonosis is unlikely in healthy people. Female whipworms lay eggs intermittently and in low numbers, making them easy to miss during a fecal exam. The adult worms reach a length of about 2 inches, so they can be seen by the unaided eye. However, they are seldom passed in stool, so rarely are they observed. Heavy whipworm burdens cause significant inflammation in the gut and lead to bloody diarrhea. Undiagnosed whipworm infections can cause waxing and waning symptoms that can mimic other diseases.

Whipworms are blood suckers, but they usually do not cause anemia by themselves. They pass eggs in the stool which incubate in the environment for 2 to 4 weeks before becoming infective. A microscopic larva forms inside the egg which will hatch in the digestive tract when a new host inadvertently ingests it. This typically occurs when an animal grooms itself. The larva will mature into an adult whipworm as it makes its way into the cecum, the area where the small and large intestines connect. About 80 days pass after ingestion of an egg before adult worms are mature enough to mate.

Whipworm infection may be diagnosed when a veterinarian performs a fecal flotation. Eggs are floated in a salt solution and observed under a microscope. Because there are typically so few eggs present, a negative test is not a rule out for suspected whipworm infection. The veterinarian may choose to prophylactically de-worm your pet if intermittent lethargy and diarrhea persists. De-worming is repeated three times at monthly intervals because of the long lifecycle of the whipworms.

Viable, infective whipworm eggs can persist in contaminated soil for years, so stools should be removed from the pet’s environment.

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Xylitol Poisoning

Many products for human consumption contain artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes. Xylitol is a common sweetener found in items such as chewing gum, toothpaste, sugar-free jelly, and reduced-calorie baked goods. It is shown to possess antibacterial properties and other human health benefits, making it very popular for use in oral health products. To dogs however, Xylitol can be deadly in...

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Many products for human consumption contain artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes. Xylitol is a common sweetener found in items such as chewing gum, toothpaste, sugar-free jelly, and reduced-calorie baked goods. It is shown to possess antibacterial properties and other human health benefits, making it very popular for use in oral health products. To dogs however, Xylitol can be deadly in relatively small doses.

When dogs accidentally ingest products containing Xylitol, the compound is mistaken for glucose by the pancreas. The pancreas is the organ responsible for insulin production and blood-sugar (glucose) regulation. Normally after digestion, insulin is released into the bloodstream to allow the glucose in food to be utilized as the primary source of fuel for cells by driving glucose into the cell. Xylitol promotes insulin release which reduces blood glucose levels causing a condition called hypoglycemia. The symptoms of hypoglycemia include lethargy, weakness, ataxia (loss of coordination), seizures, and coma followed by death. Xylitol induced hypoglycemia can occur as quickly as 30 minutes and persist for days.

A toxic dose of Xylitol is relatively small. The amount contained in one or two sticks of sugar-free gum can cause hypoglycemia in a 22 pound (10 kg) dog. Smaller doses have a delayed onset of symptoms compared to larger doses. The hypoglycemic dose for Xylitol is reported to be approximately 0.2-0.4 grams per kilogram of body weight.

If possible, the animal should be induced to vomit within 30 minutes of accidental ingestion of Xylitol, and the dog should be hospitalized. An intravenous catheter will be placed and replacement fluids will be administered along with glucose as a supportive measure. Because hypoglycemia can be prolonged (days in duration), IV glucose is usually supplemented and blood glucose values are monitored several times a day. There is no medical antidote for Xylitol; it will have to be metabolized and excreted by the body.

Higher doses present another problem, even if the hypoglycemia is corrected. Hepatic necrosis, or the destruction of liver cells, begins to occur at about 10 times the minimum toxic dose. The mechanism of liver damage caused by Xylitol is not completely understood, but internal bleeding due to clotting deficiency is a common result. Complete liver failure and death can rapidly follow. Liver function tests should be monitored for several days after exposure.

Xylitol toxicity in cats has not been reported. It is unknown whether cats tolerate the sweetener, or because of their discriminating tastes, they are less likely to ingest products containing Xylitol. In either case, accidental exposure to Xylitol should be avoided.

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Zinc Toxicity

Zinc is found in many common household items and is very toxic when accidentally ingested by pets. It is a potent gastrointestinal irritant and causes hemolytic anemia, or red-blood cell destruction. Dogs and cats are equally susceptible to the toxic effects of zinc; however, cats with their discriminating tastes are less likely to ingest foreign bodies in general. Likely sources of zinc include...

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Zinc is found in many common household items and is very toxic when accidentally ingested by pets. It is a potent gastrointestinal irritant and causes hemolytic anemia, or red-blood cell destruction. Dogs and cats are equally susceptible to the toxic effects of zinc; however, cats with their discriminating tastes are less likely to ingest foreign bodies in general. Likely sources of zinc include pennies minted after 1982, diaper-rash creams, sunscreen, galvanized nuts and bolts, batteries, fungicides used on lawns, and algaecides used in swimming pools. The amount of zinc that causes toxicity varies by the source of the metal or one of its salts and the acidity of the stomach at the time of ingestion. A recent meal may reduce the amount of zinc that is absorbed by the GI tract into the bloodstream, but this is not a useful indicator to determine how aggressive an emergency medical intervention should be.

Zinc, in very small amounts is an essential element found in all systems within the body. High quantities of zinc however, cause significant irritation to the stomach and intestinal lining. Vomiting and diarrhea are the most common presenting symptoms. There may be blood in the stool as well. An X-ray may reveal a metallic foreign body if it has not already been vomited or passed in the feces. Other non-metallic objects may not be visible on the radiograph.

Secondarily, zinc toxicity causes red-blood cell destruction. The pet may appear icteric, or have a yellow tint to the mucous membranes and skin. Blood work may reveal evidence of hemolytic anemia, indicated by decreased numbers of healthy red cells, and increased numbers of damaged (oxidized) red cells called Heinz bodies and spherocytes. There may also be increased numbers of immature red cells called reticulocytes, indicating that the anemia is regenerative in nature. The mechanism by which zinc causes hemolysis is not clearly defined, but the toxic metal exacerbates oxidative damage to red cells by interfering with copper and iron utilization by the cells. Zinc may also decrease glutathione levels, a very important antioxidant enzyme that protects cells from damage. Ultimately, the spleen is responsible for the destruction of oxidized cells. Phagocytes, a type of non-circulating white blood cell found in the spleen, will consume and digest the damaged red cells leaving only the yellow-red pigment bilirubin to remain in circulation. Bilirubin is responsible for the icterus, or yellow tint of the pet’s tissues.

Other findings on lab work include increased Alanine aminotransferase (ALT), a liver leakage enzyme indicating damage to hepatocytes (liver cells). Also, the white blood cell count may be increased as a result of inflammation and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) may be elevated due to GI bleeding. Decreased potassium and chloride, and increased sodium, are consistent with vomiting and diarrhea. The urine may contain elevated levels of bilirubin, protein, and inflammatory casts from the renal tubules (kidneys).

A test to confirm increased serum-zinc levels is the only definitive diagnostic measure of toxicosis, in the absence of a zinc-containing foreign body. This is a specialized test not normally included in the basic blood chemistry profile.

Zinc ingestion is a medical emergency and should be treated aggressively. Treatment begins with removal of any detectable foreign body, either by inducing vomiting, if deemed safe by poison control and the attending veterinarian, or by gastro-endoscopy or surgical gastrotomy (opening of the stomach). Certain ingested substances can cause more damage on the way back up the esophagus, and inducing vomiting would be contraindicated.

Symptomatic treatment for vomiting and diarrhea, as well as intravenous fluid and electrolyte replacement will be instituted. In the case of severe anemia, a blood transfusion may be necessary. The pet will be hospitalized and monitored for several days to prevent secondary renal failure and complications from anemia such as respiratory distress. Antibiotics are started to prevent bacterial overgrowth in the inflamed intestinal tract, and antacids will be used to prevent further damage to the mucosal lining of the stomach.

Zinc toxicity is a fairly rare occurrence, more common in young dogs and puppies, but has devastating consequences if left untreated. Household items containing zinc should be kept well out of reach of pets to avoid accidental ingestion.

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Texas West Animal Health

16367 South FM 4,

Santo, TX 76472

Phone. 940-769-2222

Fax. 866-632-3365

Email. texaswestvet@gmail.com