Lead is found in fishing weights and is a base for some artists’ paints. Other sources of lead include linoleum, drywall (sheetrock), batteries, plumbing materials, putty, lead foil, solder, golf balls, old paint chips, and tar paper. The use of commercial lead-free paints has significantly reduced the frequency of lead intoxication. Poisoning occurs primarily in puppies and dogs who chew and swallow objects that contain lead. Toxicity usually requires repeated exposure. Acute lead intoxication is characterized by vomiting and a very painful abdomen. With chronic exposure, a variety of central nervous system signs can develop. They include seizures, uncoordinated gait, excitation, continuous barking, attacks of hysteria, weakness, stupor, and blindness. Chewing and champing fits may be mistaken for the encephalitis of distemper.
Treatment: If you suspect your dog has ingested lead, induce vomiting. Seek veterinary attention. Blood tests will be done to check for lead levels. Specific antidotes to bind and remove lead from the dog’s system are available from your veterinarian.