Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pennies Cause Zinc Poisoning in Dogs

I saw a headline recently that caught my attention from the sheer craziness of the animal involved in the story.  The headline was Puppy Survives Swallowing 113 Pennies.  Why would any animal swallow that many pennies? Then I got to wondering, how many dog owners  know that swallowing even one penny can be cause for concern for their four-legged friend? 

Penny starting to corrode in stomach
It's true that this story is not the norm, most dogs will only swallow one or two pennies, not 113!!  In our ER we see a case about every 4 months where a dog has found a penny and decided to find out how it tasted.  The problem is the contents of the penny.

All pennies minted after 1983 have a zinc core covered by copper.   Pennies are just heavy enough that they tend to stay in the stomach even when the animal has been given medication to make him or her vomit.  The acidic environment, depending on the amount of food in the stomach, can cause the penny to break down rapidly.  Once the penny starts to corrode the zinc is released into the bloodstream and causes anemia and liver damage.  It could take a few hours to a couple days before signs of toxicity start to show up.
Corroded penny removed from Dachshund

Signs of zinc toxicity and anemia can include extreme tiredness, vomiting, bloody urine, decreased appetite, and seeming depressed.  These signs signify the need to get your dog to the vet very quickly.

Radiographs and blood tests will be used to determine the cause of the symptoms.  Once penny ingestion and zinc toxicity is determined the immediate treatment goals will include decreasing zinc absorption, correcting anemia, minimizing liver damage, and removing the penny.  Most likely the penny will be surgically removed although endoscopy may by possible if the penny is still sitting in the stomach.  The time it could take to allow the penny to pass, if it even will, could cause irreparable damage to the liver or even death.

Once the penny is removed the patient may need a blood transfusion to correct the anemia and will be given IV fluids to flush the liver to help the body get rid of the zinc. Additionally, the dog may receive Pepcid for stomach upset and/or an anti-nausea medication to prevent vomiting.  Supportive care may be needed for additional days or weeks depending on the amount of toxicity and how the animal responds to treatment.

Other common objects or products that contain zinc include zinc supplements, diaper rash ointment, sunscreen containing zinc oxide, automobile fuses, wire, and some nails. But the one most often overlooked is still the penny.

The moral of the story...you can't count your pennies with your hound dog by your side!

4 comments:

Tamara said...

Thank you for sharing this important information! I agree that many don't realize just how dangerous pennies are to our pets.

bearachute said...

PENNIES KILL DOGS! I just lost mky beautiful, adoring, irreplaceable Yorkie, Chewy. He was my service dog and I don't know how I can go on without him.

Please, if you love your animal, don't wait to see if his tummy gets better with time. SAVE HIS LIFE AND GO TO THE VET!!

Make the vet listen. Make sure they do an x-ray. This information was too late to save my best friend. Please don't let it happen to yours.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I just had to let our 5 year old pom, Baxter, go today for this reason. You would never think you dog will swallow a penny.

We do not know when or how it came about but he started out throwing-up and being the scavenger he was we thought he ate something, somewhere he was not suppose to. It began on Saturday evening and I tried things at home and didn't take him to the vet until Tuesday morning.

After reading this the only thing that I see could have prevented this from being fatal. Was if we had took him sooner. And maybe if the vet had kept him longer and put on an IV. It was mentioned but was not done until it was too late. He went into kidney failure.

Vets are at our mercy and we are at theirs in these cases. I spent over $1000 and still did not save him. Vets don't know what you are willing to pay to save your pet and sometimes wait for things to progress to make sure they have good reason to do what they do. I think mine did the what he thought was necessary at the time and we can't know if an IV sooner would have saved him or just cost more. Looking back I would have insisted they keep him longer. It's too late now and we will miss him greatly forever.

Gary Dillenkoffer said...

What if a pup released it from the anal do you think the dig would get better