Iron is a naturally occurring chemical element that is found in all manner of places and things, including in our bodies and those of our dogs. It is an essential trace element that we all need to maintain healthy oxygenation of the blood and red blood cells, but too much iron in the body can cause real problems.
Iron can be found in a range of different common things many of us use or have at home, such as supplements, vitamins and medicines, fertilisers, and even products designed to keep moisture away from things being stored, by absorbing oxygen to prevent damp from developing.
This means that there are lots of ways that a dog might ingest iron and become ill from iron toxicity, and this is something that all dog owners should pay attention to and work to prevent.
In this article we’ll look at what iron toxicity in dogs is, how ingesting iron can affect dogs, how dogs might come to develop iron toxicity, and what symptoms might indicate a problem. Read on to learn more.
Iron is an essential mineral that can be found naturally as a trace element within your dog’s body, but it is also found within a wide number of household goods and products too.
Iron is present in supplements, multivitamins, and even contraceptive pills, as well as things like slug and snail bait, some garden fertilisers, products designed to kill moss and weeds, and some completely different products like self-heating patches and hand warmers, and deoxidation sachets that are sometimes placed in packaging to prevent moisture damage.
Your dog needs a certain amount of iron in their body for good health, but this is a very minute amount and too much iron is toxic to dogs. Overly high iron levels can cause iron toxicosis, which is very dangerous and goes through a number of individual stages, and can take many weeks to run its course.
Identifying the symptoms of the initial stages of iron toxicosis in dogs and seeking treatment promptly is vital, as when iron toxicosis progresses further it usually proves fatal, and it is highly unlikely that the damage caused can be reversed and the dog saved.
Sadly, one of the most common ways that dogs ingest additional iron and become ill is by eating multivitamins, supplements containing iron, or eating actual iron tablets, all of which can be bought over the counter and that many people take regularly.
Such products seem innocuous enough that some people forget to keep them out of the dog’s reach, which can lead to accidental ingestion.
Additionally, some slug baits and garden fertilisers contain iron too, particularly organic animal by-products like blood meal, which some dogs will find appealing to eat.
If your dog ingests too much iron by any means and this is sufficient to cause toxicity, this goes through four different stages, which can continue for weeks. However, stages one to three take place over the course of the first couple of days of the dog ingesting iron, and it is vital to act quickly if you spot the symptoms of iron poisoning in dogs, as this can lead to a protracted illness that will eventually result in death in many dogs.
The ingestion of too much iron for the body to handle causes it to attack multiple bodily systems, including the heart, gastrointestinal tract, liver and nervous system, and the dog’s body cannot eliminate it effectively from the body in the normal manner.
The symptoms of iron poisoning in dogs during the initial stage, which develops during the first six hours or so after ingestion may include:
Stage two, which tends to progress from around six hours after ingestion until anything from twelve to twenty-four hours after ingestion, can be the most misleading and problematic symptom of all; because during this stage, the dog usually appears to recover wholly or fully.
This results in owners who were taking a “wait and see” approach to think that everything is fine and that whatever was wrong with the dog, it has gone away.
This is not the case, and thinking this is very dangerous.
Anywhere between the twelfth hour after ingestion and around thirty-six hours after ingestion comes stage three, when the dog will become ill once more, and much more acutely than they did before. Symptoms of iron toxicity in a dog going through this stage will potentially include:
This stage tends to signal the onset of permanent damage to the organs, and dogs may undergo collapse and die during this stage.
For dogs that survive stage three, stage four involves damage to the major organs that can continue to develop for weeks, by which time it is too late for the dog to be saved.
Prompt intervention and treatment during stage one of iron poisoning in dogs is vital to give the dog the best chance of survival, and if you have witnessed symptoms such as described occurring during stage one and then the dog seems to recover, this is not cause for relief, but alarm.
Contact your vet immediately as a priority if you spot the symptoms of potential iron poisoning, or if your dog has ingested iron in any form, even if they seem totally fine.