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Michael Dym, V.M.D.
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Dr. Michael Dym
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Symptoms of Toxicity in Dogs and Cats

Symptoms of pet toxicity and pet detoxification
  • Lack of energy
  • Poor color
  • Frequent infections
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain

There are no specific signs and symptoms of toxins in your pet. Instead, signs and symptoms develop according to which organs are affected. If mercury damages the kidneys, there will be signs of kidney failure: increased drinking, increased urination, swollen limbs, high blood pressure, weakness, and anemia. If aflatoxin damages the liver, there will be signs of liver failure: yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice), indigestion, abdominal pain, andbleeding. When toxins are scattered throughout your pet's body, there are no specific organ signs but pets look unkempt and lack vigor. Most won't digest their food well and will catch infections easily.

Diagnosing toxicity and detoxification

Diagnosing toxicity in your pet is often difficult. Tests that help make specific diagnoses are: blood tests, tissue samples for histopathology, and X-rays. When sending blood and tissue to the laboratory, the veterinarian asks for a specific test because there is no blanket test that identifies toxins. Thus, the veterinarian asks the lab to look for lead, for zinc, or lily bulbs, etc. Because there are hundreds of toxins, it is difficult for the veterinarian to know which tests to order, and it is difficult for pet guardians to pay for all the tests. While blood and tissue tests are always useful even when they don't identify a specific toxin because they indicate which organs are affected, X-rays are only useful if toxic materials, such as pennies, are visible within the pet.

When the toxic material can be measured, a specific pathology—such as zinc toxicosis—can be diagnosed. Unfortunately, diagnosing a specific toxin is so difficult that it is rarely done. It is more common to diagnose general poor health and suspect toxins are a factor.

Cancer as a sign of toxins in your pet

Many factors contribute to cancer, including the pet's genetics, diet, and mental state. In addition, toxin exposure increases the likelihood of cancer. For example, exposure to toxins in 2,4-D, moldy pet food, and certain vaccines are proven to cause cancers in dogs and cats. Many believe food additives also increase our pets' risk for cancer.

Is cancer a problem we should worry about in pets? Yes, it is. Cancer rates are so high in pets that one-half of senior dogs and one-third of senior cats have cancer. Signing your pet up for pet health insurance can help reduce veterinarian costs if your pet is diagnosed with cancer.