Pets and Heavy Metals

Are heavy metals bad for my pets?

We all are concerned about the safety of the water we drink. Our pets, like us, need safe drinking water to live a happy, healthy life. Our pets should be given the same high quality water that we drink. Heavy metal contamination of drinking water is bad for humans and our pets. Dogs, cats, and birds can be harmed by drinking water with heavy metals like lead and copper. Lead poisoning, for example, is caused through acute and long-term exposure to the metal. Lead can substitute itself for calcium in animal bones, cause cell damage and interfere with normal biological cell activity. Because of their high toxicity, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury are among the metals of most concern. These metals are systemic toxicants that are absorbed into the bloodstream and carried throughout your pet’s body. These metals damage vital organs, even at trace levels of exposure. They are also classified as carcinogens according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Symptoms of lead poisoning in dogs, cats and birds

These symptoms of lead poisoning relate to the gastrointestinal and central nervous system. Gastrointestinal disorders are seen with chronic and low-level exposure. Central nervous system symptoms are more common in acute lead exposure, especially in young animals. Common symptoms include: 

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of energy
  • Poor appetite
  • Tenderness in the abdomen
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Blindness

 Birds can show paralysis of the feet, drinking too much and intermittent convulsions. Birds can appear uncoordinated and weak. Lead poisoning in birds is often fatal. Heavy metals in general will weaken your bird’s immune system. This can lead to other diseases unrelated to heavy metals.

Prevention of heavy metal poisoning of pets

If your pet is already showing any of these signs, visit a veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination. Laboratory tests for blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis will reveal information for initial diagnosis. The best way to keep your pets safe is to minimize exposure to heavy metals.

Improperly glazed ceramic water bowls are a common source of heavy metal contamination. Avoid metal bird toys since they can may contain toxic metals.

Make sure your pet’s drinking water is safe. You can use the heavy metals test kit from Health Metric or get it from Amazon to be sure your pet’s water is free of toxic heavy metals.