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 Lead Poisoned Pets and Your Family

     Lead Toxicity in Dogs and Cats    

by Jill E Maddison BVSc, PhD, FACVSc and Christine G. Hawke BSc(Vet), University of Sydney

Unlike the dramatic onset of clinical signs seen with most small animal poisonings, lead poisoning often has an insidious onset. The potential sources of lead for domestic animals are numerous and widespread. Ingestion of lead-based paints is the most commonly identified source of lead in poisoned cats and dogs. Renovations of older houses involving sanding or scraping lead based paint is believed to be the major origin of the lead based paint in these instances. Other lead sources include lead acid batteries (e.g. car batteries), roofing materials, plumbing supplies, bullets, solder, pewter, linoleum, grease, putty, lead foil, toys, improperly glazed ceramic water or food bowls and fishing sinkers. Cats only rarely chew or ingest non-food items, thus eliminating many of the common sources of lead that poison dogs. However, because of their grooming habits, cats are more a risk of accidental ingestion of lead particles that contaminate their fur and paws.

The clinical signs of lead toxicity in dogs include convulsions or fits, vomiting and diarrhoea, abdominal pain and bizarre behaviour such as hysteria. Lead poisoning is more commonly diagnosed in younger dogs because they are more likely to chew on objects. However, adult dogs may also be affected. In contrast, lead poisoning in cats often only causes loss of appetite and signs such as fits are uncommon. Vomiting and diarrhoea occur occasionally. Cats with lead toxicity are usually adult although occasionally kittens may be affected.

Diagnosis of lead toxicity involves either a urine or a blood test. The diagnosis is sometimes difficult and two different tests may be required to confirm that lead poisoning is present, particularly in cats.

Lead Toxicity in Birds

by Dr Ross Perry, BVSc BSc (Vet) FACVSc (Avian Health).
Registered Bird Specialist Veterinary Surgeon, at Homebush Animal Hospital

Lead poisoning of birds is common and it is often fatal.

Lead poisoning is often linked with other heavy metal poisoning’s, especially zinc poisoning (from galvanised metal), and occasionally copper, chromium and mercury poisonings.

The signs or "symptoms" affected birds show are often and easily attributed mistakenly to other causes and disease processes.

Lead poisoning can cause sudden death, or it can cause a slow debilitating death over months or years. Lead poisoning can be linked to many different signs of illness, most of which can also be the result of other illnesses. Such signs can include reduced appetite, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, passing too much urine (sometimes blood tinged), drinking too much, being weak, uncoordinated and sometimes partly paralysed, especially in the feet. Some birds have intermittent convulsions and fits.

Lead and other heavy metal poisoning’s cause damage to various organs and also interfere with the immune system such that many birds with subacute and chronic poisoning develop infections that contribute to the birds’ suffering and deaths.

There are many sources of lead and other heavy metals that poison birds.

Water birds such as ducks have been the targets of shooters for many years and swamps, marshlands and lakes where they have congregated are often heavily contaminated with lead shot. Whether or not the birds are actually shot or "just swallow" some, they still end up dying from the lead, unless treated.

Old paint, some old varnishes, and paint scrapings remain poisonous for years. Lead and lead oxides are also found in lead flashing (used on roofs, around chimneys, and to stop "rising damp" in older buildings. Solder, curtain weights, fishing sinkers, car wheel rim weights, lead lined windows and lamp shades, costume jewellery, metal buttons and buckles, and a great variety of galvanised metal objects have all been sources of lead poisoning. Most birdcages are galvanised and potentially deadly despite assurances that this is not so from some salespeople. Similarly many water containers for cockatoos are galvanised and sealed with solder. Some seed bells are hung on galvanised wire. Many shiny bells and cage ornaments corrode and flake after a few years and can poison and sometimes kill the birds for whom they were provided. Some brass, bronze and pewter containers can also be a source of poisoning. Lead can also accumulate in birds from exposure to lots of petrol fumes over time. At the turn of the 19th century there were many small tin making factories and smelters in some inner city (Sydney) areas and the soil of gardens built on such sites is often still heavily contaminated with lead.

The diagnosis and treatment of lead poisoning are both "tricky" in birds. My advice is that if you suspect you have a bird that might be poisoned, consult a veterinary surgeon with an expressed interest in bird medicine and health. Such vets are likely to have either FACSc (Avian Health) or MACVSc (Avian Health) qualifications or at least be member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians. Ask for a referral if help is not forthcoming.

For more information contact Dr Ross Perry, BSc (Vet) (Hons), BVSc (Hons), FACVSc (Avian Health), Holistic Veterinary Surgeon and Physician, Registered Bird Specialist. You can email Dr Perry after registering your details on his website

So what does a lead poisoned pet mean for you and your family?

by Michelle Calvert, Lead Advisory Service Australia

Lead poisoning is a common source of accidental poisoning in pets, mainly puppies.

At least 10 animals are lead poisoned in Sydney every week! If you have a pet that is diagnosed with lead poisoning - chances are that you may have been exposed as well.

This is of particular concern if there are children or pregnant women in the household.

Who is most at risk from lead?
  • Pregnant women and their unborn babies
  • People who live in (especially children) and/or renovate pre 1970 houses
  • Workers in lead jobs or those with lead hobbies and their families

Take a moment to answer the CHILDHOOD LEAD EXPOSURE RISK FACTOR QUESTIONNAIRE to see if your child should be tested.


If you would like more information contact the NSW EPA Pollution Line on 131 555

The LEAD Group Inc. Fact Sheet Index

NSW Lead Reference Centre and NSW Government Publications On this site

  1. About the Global Lead Advice and Support Service (GLASS)

  2. Main Sources of Lead

  3. How Would You Know If You or Your Child Was lead poisoned?

  4. Lead aware housekeeping

  5. Ceiling dust & lead poisoning

  6. Is your yard lead safe?

  7. Health Impacts of lead poisoning

  8. Rotary Questionnaire

  9. Lead poisoned Pets and Your Family

  10. Childhood Lead Poisoning Risk Factor Questionnaire

  11. Is Your Child Safe From Lead? - What Can You Do About Lead?

  12. Lead in Drinking Water in Australia

  13. Have We Really Resolved The Lead Issue?

  14. The Importance of the Availability of "Spot Tests" for Lead in Paint

  15. Pregnant or Planning a Pregnancy

  16. Breastfeeding and Lead

  17. Lead in breast milk

  18. Beware The Lead In Lead Lighting

  19. Renting and Lead

  20. What to do if you have too much lead in your tank water

  21. Lead Contamination in Stormwater

  22. Contamination At Shooting Ranges

  23. Banned: Leaded Wick Candles

  24. Lead, Ageing and Death

  25. Metal miniatures: How to minimise the risks of lead poisoning and contamination

  26. 7 Point Plan for the MANAGEMENT OF LEAD by Australian parents and carers

  27. Countries where Leaded Petrol is Possibly Still Sold for Road Use, As at 17th June 2011

  28. Lead Poisoning And The Brain - Cognitive Deficits And Mental Illness

  29. Facts and Firsts of Lead

  30. Lead mining royalties by state and territory

  31. Lead Mining Stewardship - Grey Lead and the Role of The LEAD Group

  32. Preventative Strategies of The LEAD Group

  33. What do Doctors need to do about Lead?

  34. A Naturopath's Experience Of Lead & People With Diagnosed Mental Illness

  35. Case File: Helping Manage Australian Lead in Petrol - How GLASS Works

  36. Glass Web & Service-Users, Experts & Volunteers, by Country; Countries with Leaded Petrol for Road Use & Worst Pollution

  37. Lead in ceiling dust

  38. Lead paint & ceiling dust management - how to do it lead-safely

  39. Esperance parliamentary inquiry follow-up factsheet: Where to from Here??

  40. Broken Hill lead miners factsheet 1893 with Note 20081015

  41. Helping a Doctor Help 35,000 Lead-Poisoned People Around the Lead Smelter at La Oroya in Peru
    Ayuda a un doctor que ayuda 35,000 personas envenenadas por plomo alrededor de la fundidora de plomo en la Oroya-Peru

  42. Fact sheet for Australian toy importers and traders

  43. Iron Nutrition & Lead Toxicity
    Informe de Acciones – Hierro y Plomo en la Nutrición

  44. Sanitarium-Are You getting Enough Iron

  45. Do-It-Yourself-Lead-Safe-Test-Kits-flyer

  46. Blood lead testing: who to test, when, and how to respond to the result

  47. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to both adults and children

  48. Lead Exposure & Alzheimer’s Disease: Is There A Link?

  49. In CHINA - Blood lead testing: who to test, when, and how to respond to the result

  50. Why you should have your ceiling dust removed before you take advantage of the Australian government's Energy Efficient Homes Package: Insulation Program

  51. Alperstein et al Lead Alert - A Guide For Health Professionals 1994

  52. Ceiling Dust WorkCover Guide Lee Schreiber Final Nov 1999

  53. What can I do about climate change AND lead?

  54. The Need for Expert Clinical Assessments in Diagnosis Of Heavy Metal Poisoning

  55. Why you should have your ceiling dust removed before you have insulation installed

  56. Thirty Thought-Starters on Ceiling Void Dust in Homes

  57. Pectin: Panacea for both lead poisoning and lead contamination

  58. Nutrients that reduce lead poisoning June 2010

  59. Lead poisoning and menopause

  60. Fact sheet For Schoolkids From Professor Knowlead About Lead

  61. Prevention of Exposure to Lead at Work in Indonesia

  62. Mencegah kontak dengan timbal di tempat kerja di Indonesia

  63. How to Protect Your Family from Lead in Indonesia

  64. Bagaimana melindungi keluargamu dari timbal di Indonesia

  65. Cigarette Smoking & Lead Toxicity
     صحيفة معلومات: التدخين والتسمم بالرصاص

  66. Medical Evaluation Questionnaire For Occupational Lead Exposure

  67. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to children

  68. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to adults

  69. Biosolids used as fertilizer in China and other countries

  70. What are the lead poisoning risks of a lead pellet, bullet or shot lodged in the body?

  71. Alcohol’s link to higher lead and iron levels

  72. USA Case Definition of Adult (including Occupational) & Child Elevated Blood Lead Levels (EBLL)

  73. Low Level Lead Exposure Harms Children - A Renewed Call for Primary Prevention

  74. Occupational Health & Safety Fact Sheet Dangers of lead for roofers

  75. Let’s Make Leaded Petrol History - Let’s Make Leaded Gasoline History

  76. Lead, Your Health & the Environment. Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Korean, Macedonian, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese 

  77. Lead Safe Housekeeping

  78. Old Lead Paint

  79. Working safely with lead

  80. A Renovator's Guide To The Dangers Of Lead (Brochure 30 pages)

  81. A Guide For Health Care Professionals (Brochure 34 pages)

  82. A Guide To Keeping Your Family Safe From Lead (Brochure 20 pages)

  83. Lead Hazard Management In Children's Services (Brochure 15 pages)

  84. A Guide To Dealing With Soil That Might Be Lead-Contaminated

  85. Exposure Assessment: Lead Neurotoxicity - Is the Center for Disease Control's goal to reduce lead below 10 µg/dl blood in all children younger than 72 months by 2010, good enough?

About Us | bell system lead poisoning | Contact Us | Council LEAD Project | egroups | Library - Fact Sheets | Home Page | Media Releases
| Q & A | Referral lists | Reports | Site Map | Slide Shows - Films | Subscription | Useful Links |  Search this Site

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 Last Updated 01 May 2014
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