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D2004-03

Dear Daisy Dog

My husband leaves his pocket change on the chairs and the floor, and I’m afraid one of our dogs will eat it. Is it a problem if a dog swallows coins?

Daisy Responds

It depends on the denomination of the coin. Really.
Pennies minted since 1983 are 99.2 percent zinc and only 0.8 percent copper. The zinc is the problem. Just ask my brother Sam.

Zinc is also found in some hardware, such as the nuts and bolts that hold pet carriers together.

Stomach acid leaches zinc from pennies, allowing it to be absorbed into the blood. There, the zinc destroys red blood cells, causing hemolytic anemia (hemo = blood, lytic = break).

Anemia, decreased numbers of red blood cells, is dangerous because red blood cells are needed to carry oxygen throughout the body.

Clinical signs of hemolytic anemia may include profound lethargy and weakness, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine and a yellow tinge to the skin or whites of the eyes.

If you suspect that one of your dogs has ingested a penny, ask your veterinarian to x-ray your dog’s abdomen. Pennies and metal hardware show up clearly.

So tell your husband: A penny swallowed is anemia earned.

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