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Pet Owner Version

Copper Poisoning


Barry R. Blakley

, DVM, PhD, Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan

Reviewed/Revised Oct 2020 | Modified Nov 2022

Various breeds of dogs, especially Bedlington Terriers, have an inherited sensitivity to copper poisoning. Short-term poisoning is usually seen after accidental administration of excessive amounts of copper salts, which are sometimes part of medications for parasitic worms.

Low levels of molybdenum or sulfate in the diet can increase how much copper is absorbed and influence longterm copper poisoning. This can be caused by eating certain plants, such as subterranean clover.

Signs include abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, dehydration, and shock. If the animal survives the gastrointestinal disturbances, destruction of red blood cells and blood in the urine may develop after 3 days. Diagnosis is confirmed by finding copper in the feces, kidneys, blood, or liver.

Often, treatment is not successful. Gastrointestinal sedatives and symptomatic treatment for shock may be useful. Medicines designed to remove toxic metals from the body may be useful if given early. Dietary supplementation with zinc acetate may reduce copper absorption.

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