The chances of your dog ingesting lead are actually pretty slim: most sources of lead poisoning, like paint and rat poison, have been phased out in recent years. Still, you should know that dogs can get lead poisoning if they ingest it—and the symptoms are often fatal.
What does lead poisoning in dogs look like?
Lead poisoning in dogs is a serious concern. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of lead poisoning, so you can get your dog treated right away if he or she has been exposed to lead.
Lead poisoning in dogs can occur without any noticeable symptoms, but more often it causes vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Blood tests will help determine whether or not your dog has been exposed to lead, but if you suspect that your pup has been poisoned with this heavy metal it’s best to see a vet if possible (especially if symptoms are severe).
If enough lead builds up in the body over time it may cause neurological symptoms like seizures (jerking movements), tremors (shaking), paralysis (inability to move) and even death!
How does your dog get lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning in dogs can occur when they eat lead paint, lead-glazed ceramics or lead-contaminated soil. While it is possible for a dog to get lead poisoning from eating an object that contains the metal, most cases of lead toxicity are caused by ingesting paint chips or dust. This happens most commonly in young dogs living in urban areas where there may be old houses with peeling or flaking exterior paint and homes built before 1978 that contain crumbling interior paint.
In addition to being more common in younger animals (because their immune systems are still developing), urban pets are also more likely to develop this condition because they live near older homes with deteriorating exterior siding.
Lead Poisoning Treatment for Pets
If your dog has been exposed to lead, follow these steps:
- Remove the source of lead. If you’re cleaning up a spill or removing paint chips, wear gloves and protective clothing. Wash your hands after handling contaminated materials.
- Remove the dog’s collar and tags. Rinse them thoroughly and put them in a plastic bag for later testing.
- Remove any leashes and other items that might contain lead pieces (like collars), as well as toys, bedding, and water bowls that could be contaminated by the source of lead. Put all these items in another plastic bag for testing later on.
- Stop feeding your pet until tests come back negative for low-level exposure (less than 50 micrograms per deciliter).
Lead Poisoning Prevention for Dogs
If you’re concerned that your dog may be suffering from lead poisoning, there are a few things you can do to protect your pet.
- Keep your dog away from lead paint.
- Keep him away from lead in the soil.
- Keep him away from lead in the water. Some areas with high levels of lead pollution are listed on this EPA website, but if you live near an industrial area or highway and have any doubts about whether your tap water might contain dangerous amounts of this toxin, it’s best to talk with a professional before making any decisions about what type of filter might be right for your family’s needs.
- Also make sure that everyone who lives in the house washes their hands after working with hazardous materials at their workplace—and doesn’t bring those hazards home! This way, if kids come over for play dates or sleepovers (or even just drop by) they won’t accidentally get exposed themselves either!
Seek veterinary help immediately if you think your dog has lead poisoning
If you think your dog has lead poisoning, it’s important to get them to a vet right away. Lead poisoning symptoms in dogs can vary depending on how much exposure they’ve had and their age, so it’s best to have a professional look at them. If you suspect your dog has been exposed to lead or has symptoms of lead poisoning, contact your veterinarian immediately for help. In severe cases where symptoms are most severe, animals may need extra care from a veterinarian specializing in toxicology or pain management specialists if surgery is necessary.
If you want to avoid this problem altogether, keep these tips in mind:
- Never use old paint containers as food storage containers
- Always wash hands after working with any kind of paint or other potentially toxic materials
- Never leave scrapings from old paint cans out on the ground where pets might eat them
The take-home message here is that you want to do everything within your power to protect your dog from the dangers of lead poisoning. To reiterate, make sure you know where potential lead sources are in your home and yard—and if you’re not sure, contact a professional.