What pennies are toxic?

Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra – my new puppy recently ate sometime ingested 5 pennies and a dime, which in return resulted in him having, severe copper toxicity, and he almost died. He stayed at vet hospital for two days, and I was told although he is acting normal he is still sick, his anemia level is at 19, up from when I brought him to vet which was at 13, vet said normal is 35-40, so I needed to have him rest, very hard for a puppy who thinks he is no longer sick, anyway, I was told to get some zinc supplements, and give him half of 100mg tablet 2x a day, now when I googled copper toxicity, it came up with zinc toxicity being the problem, that when the copper coating is absorbed by the dog, then zinc is released which causes zinc toxicity, my question is if zinc is so toxic, why am I giving it as a supplement, my visit to my vet isn't until this Saturday, I'm confused, I'm sure my vet knows what she is doing, I love her, but I don't know about this, I was told to do this for 1 week, then they will check his levels again.


Hi – thanks for your email. I'm sorry to hear about your puppy. I don't know everything that your vet found and did, so it is hard to comment on everything you wrote.

As you know any penny can be dangerous as they can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction in some small dogs. This means that they coin may not be able to pass trough the gastrointestinal tract.

In addition, some pennies are toxic. Specifically, pennies minted after 1983 have a high amount of zinc, which is toxic to dogs. If a penny is ingested, the stomach acids will erode the copper coating and expose the zinc center.

The zinc can then be rapidly absorbed into the system. Zinc toxicity results in a potentially fatal blood disorder in which the red blood cells are destroyed and the pet becomes anemic. Zinc toxicity in dogs may result from ingestion of as few as 1 to 3 pennies.

The treatment is removal of the penny – which often requires surgery. I don't know if this was done or not? I don't know why she has you doing zinc supplements unless there is some other problem that I don't know about.

It is hard for a veterinarian to give advice when maybe…I don't know all the facts that went behind your veterinarian's decisions. I'd try to reach your vet and find out more information.

An article that might be helpful to you is Zinc Toxicity in Dogs.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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