1. Contact your veterinarian.
  2. If an animal has swallowed a lead object your veterinarian may instruct you to induce vomiting, however, do not induce vomiting unless instructed to.
  3. Animals with seizures should be transported to a veterinarian immediately as they will require medication to control seizures.




Onset of signs is variable depending on the dose, duration of exposure and age of the animal with younger animals likely to display signs earlier. Most lead toxicity is chronic. Lead produces gastrointestinal and neurological signs. Gastrointestinal signs typically occur earlier in the clinical course while neurological signs appear later, or in acute exposures.

  • Inappetance
  • Vomiting
  • Regurgitation
  • Hypersalivation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive drinking (polydipsia)
  • Excessive thirst (polyuria)
  • Increased sensitivity to touch (hyperaesthesia)
  • Weakness
  • An uncoordinated or wobbly gait (ataxia)
  • Lethargy/fatigue
  • Dull mental state/depression
  • Pale mucous membranes (due to anaemia)
  • Partial or total loss of sight
  • aggression
  • Tremors or twitching
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death


Lead damages cells, particularly red blood cells (leading to anaemia), reduces movement of the gastrointestinal tract and is directly toxic to the nervous system.


Blood-lead levels are used to aid in diagnosis and to guide treatment. Most affected animals require several days of chelation therapy to bind the lead in their system. Blood-lead levels and kidney function should be monitored throughout this time.



BSAVA (2012) BSAVA/VPIS Guide to Common Canine and Feline Poisons. Gloucester: BSAVA.

Poppenga (2011) Metals and Minerals. In: Small Animal Toxicology Essentials ed. RH Poppenga and SM Gwaltney-Brant. London: Wiley-Blackwell. Pp277-281.