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Arsenic Toxicity

Arsenic is a naturally occuring metalloid that is used in various commerical products. Dogs, like other animals and humans, can suffer from its toxic effects. Than to dogs' generall indiscriminate tastes, they are at a heightened risk of ingesting products containing this deadly compound.

Cause

Arsenic poisoning can occur when a dog ingests any type of product containing arsenic. Common sources include herbicides, insecticides and certain treated wood products.Some private water wells have higher than normal concentrations of arsenic as well, it may be possible for dogs or other animals to be poisoned if they drink too much. Some parasite treatments, such as injectable medications for heartworm, contain low levels of arsenic tht help to kill off parasites and their larvae. In normal dosages, the levels of arsenic in these drugs won't harm a dog, But overdosing can lead to toxicity. It is important to note that arsenic is only used in injections made to treat a pet that already has heartworms; arsenic is not present in monthly preventatives. 

Symptoms

Symptons of this poisoning usually develop quickly (withing a few hours of ingestion) and severly.

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Lethargy
  • Blood in the feces
  • Dehydration
  • Depression

Without treatment, a pet may go into shock and die.

Diagnosis

A thorough laboratory work-up, including a blood count, blood chemistry profile and urinalysis will be performed. A sample of stomach contents may also be taken. If arsenic is found in the blood or stomach contents, toxicity is confirmed. A health history is also very usefule in a case of arsenic poisoning. Pet owners should let their vet know about any recent exposure to arsenic-containing products that their pet may have had or about any parasite medications they have taken recently.

Treatment

Arsenic poisoning is an emergency and should be dealt with immediately. A vet will induce vomiting to rid the body of the poisonous substance or perform a gastric lavage (stomach wash). Medications to slow absorption of the poison will be administered, and drugs may be given to promote excretion from the body. Fluid therapy may also be needed to help flush out the poison and combat dehydration. In sever cases, a dog may have to undergo dialysis to prevent kidney failure. 

Prevention

Cases of arsenic poisoning are less and less common as more companies move away from using the substance in their products, but prevention is still the best way to protect pets. Pet owners should remove all sources of arsenic from a dog'senviroment and carefully follow the saftey guidelines listed on any arsenic-containing products for handling and storage. Dogs should not be given more than the required dose of any medication containing arsenic or other potentially poisonous substances. If a dosage is missed, "doubling up" on the next does is never appropriate. Instead, a vet should be notified before the medication is given again.