Feb
11
2016

Lead toxicity is a real threat in Flint, Mich. and not just for humans.

On Feb. 5, James Averill, DVM, PhD, State Veterinarian and Animal Industry Division Director at the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), announced that two dogs tested positive for lead toxicity, reported CBS News Detroit.

“In October [2015], we got a call from a veterinarian that a client’s dog wasn’t doing well and they’d done a toxicity screen and lead was involved, so he reported it to us,” Averill told NEWStat. “We found the second dog just by accident, in January.”

One dog was a stray and the other was a family dog. Both survived, according to CBS News Detroit.

“When the governor of Michigan declared a state of emergency, we got information out to the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association as well as veterinary clinics and two shelters in the area,” Averill told NEWStat. Pet owners were also advised to have their water tested, give their pets only filtered water, and keep the toilet lid closed.

Since the two dogs tested positive for lead toxicity, Averill approved a handful of dogs to be tested; all tests were negative.

“Veterinarians don’t typically test for lead poisoning,” Tina Wismer, DVM, DABVT, DABT and Medical Director of the Animal Poison Control Center at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), told NEWStat. “If they do, the best test is a blood lead level done on whole blood. The acceptable level for lead is 0.3 to 0.35 parts per million.

“Acute signs of lead toxicity include vomiting, anorexia, tremors, and seizures, especially in cats. Age is also a factor—the younger the pet, the more susceptible,” Wismer told NEWStat.

The most common source of lead toxicity, according to Wismer, is old lead paint. That’s why, should a patient show signs of lead toxicity, a leading question is whether a client is remodeling. If so, cats and dogs will groom the lead dust off their paws.

Removal of the source of the lead toxicity usually clears up the problem. For more sensitive cases, off-label medications can help, according to Wismer.

Photo credit: © iStock/alexei tm

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