Zinc Toxicity in Cats

Zinc toxicity is a fairly uncommon disorder that is caused by the ingestion of zinc-containing foreign bodies. Zinc toxicity is most commonly seen in young dogs. Zinc is directly irritating to the stomach lining so it may cause gastrointestinal irritation.

The most common causes of zinc toxicity include ingestion of:

What To Watch For

With continued exposure a potentially fatal blood disorder may arise. Zinc interferes with copper and iron utilization in the production of red blood cells. This can lead to a hemolytic anemia in which the red blood cells are destroyed by the body itself since they are abnormal. You will probably notice a pale and often jaundiced (yellow) color to the mucus membranes and skin and a brownish, orange color to the urine. High levels of zinc exposure may also cause acute kidney failure.

A toxic dose for a typical dog may be as few as 1 to 3 pennies (50-100mg/kg).

Diagnostic Tests

Diagnostic tests might include the following:


Treatment of zinc toxicity is aimed at removing the initiating cause and providing supportive care.

Home Care and Prevention

Optimal treatment requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Administer all prescribed medications, such as penicillamine, as directed by your veterinarian. If there was significant vomiting or diarrhea, you may need to give your pet a bland diet to help restore normal bowel function.

Follow up appointments may be required to monitor the blood for improvement of anemia. However, you should expect continued improvement at home. If your dog is not improving, you should contact your veterinarian to arrange for a further evaluation.

You can prevent zinc toxicity by prevent exposure to any zinc-containing objects. Put coins safely away in areas inaccessible to animals, and do not encourage or allow animals to chew on their travel cages.

If you think you cat has eaten any zinc containing items, contact your veterinarian. He or she might recommend that vomiting be induced. Prompt treatment may prevent more serious illness in the future.