Friday, March 8, 2013

#FurbabyFridays: Paint Ball Toxicosis in Dogs

I was perusing "Doctor Google" doing additional research for topics I wish to discuss for my Fur baby feature  when I ran into one of the sites that showcase questions answered by regular Joe Schmoes. Occasionally you will see someone who has the credentials answering the questions, but more often than not it's just people giving their two cents.

This time I found a question posted from a person whose dog eats paint balls on a regular basis—a lot of them. You see, they shoot their paint ball guns in their backyard at targets. The dog would then chase those that miss the targets and gulp them down before anyone can stop it. The question this person posed to the group was "Should I be concerned?"

Well, besides the usual "are you an idiot?" answers, there were a few who tried to help. One was a veterinarian who did give the correct information, but a couple of people still weighed in after that response with totally FALSE information although it was coming from the right place and they were genuinely concerned for the dog.

What's the REAL beef with paint balls?

Besides being called "paint" balls, there isn't any actual paint in them at all. Their ingredients vary depending on the manufacturer, but they usually include polyethylene glycol, glycerol/glyerin, gelatin, mineral oil, dye, ground pig skin and water. Many also contain sorbitol. The ingredients highlighted in hot pink are what are of concern here and what can lead to the symptoms associated with paint ball toxicosis. We'll get to that in a moment, but first...

If it's not the PAINT/lead toxicity that's the problem, what is?

Polyethylene glycol, glycerin and sorbitol are all what we refer to as osmotically active agents.  In other words, they pull water from the body's tissues and into the bowels. When this happens, it throws off the electrolyte balance of the body. The most worrisome change would be hypernatremia...elevated sodium levels. It's when this occurs rapidly, like when eating large numbers of paint balls or chronically ingesting them, that we get the problems. The organ most affected by the high sodium is the brain. With rapid removal of the water from the brain cells, you will see a rapid decrease in brain volume, cerebral vessels may rupture causing hemorrhage. This in turn leads to the various neurological signs listed in the next section.

Click HERE to read about one pet owner's experience dealing with paint ball toxicosis in her beloved dog, Lilly.

Special note! The contents of the paint balls are nontoxic to humans with skin contact, BUT they are not intended for consumption by people or animals. So it's best to avoid doing that for any and all species. There are reports of many of these balls being left in wooded areas where wildlife can ingest them. The tell tale signs are the rainbow colored vomit and feces. It's imperative that these forms of "ammo" be contained and properly disposed of for all concerned.

What are the clinical signs of paint ball toxicosis?

Symptoms can occur shortly after ingestion but sometimes can take several hours to become evident. In the case of chronic ingestion of a ball or two at at time, we may not see these signs at all. The body can compensate and correct the abnormalities if there are very little in the system at a time. Unfortunately, with our fur babies, this is usually NOT the case and the amount eaten can be quite large. Some of the containers have hundreds of them. Now add in those left in yards and paint ball game areas, and the number can easily grow exponentially.

Here's the list of the most commonly seen symptoms
  1. vomiting and diarrhea with or without the technocolor
  2. weakness
  3. blindness
  4. increased heart rate
  5. fever or even low body temperature
  6. seizures
  7. coma
  8. death

How do you treat it?

The dogs must be hospitalized for a minimum of twenty-four hours. If it has been less than one hour after the ingestion, vomiting will be induced. After the first hour, there will be multiple warm water enemas. This serves two purposes. The first is to help promote the passage of the paint balls and the second is to help replace the water the balls continue to pull out of the body the longer they are present in the intestines.

Other supportive therapy will depend on the clinical signs exhibited. These include intravenous fluids, anti-nausea medications, anti-seizure medications, and close monitoring of blood gas and electrolytes. Most patients will recover within 24-48 hours if supportive care is implemented immediately. Paint ball toxicosis can be fatal, so instead of spending time online asking non-veterinary personnel if your dog's habit of eating paint balls should be of concern, call your veterinarian or a veterinary emergency hospital immediately. It could very well mean the difference between life and death for your fur baby. 

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