Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Lead poisoning

Synonym(s): Plumbism, Saturnism

Contributor(s): Nicola Bates , Prof Joe Mayhew

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Introduction

  • Cause: exposure to lead in paint, vehicle batteries, contaminated soil or plants and other sources.
  • Signs: blindness, behavioral change, head pressing, sudden death.
  • Diagnosis: blood lead concentration.
  • Treatment: supportive care, removal from source and chelation therapy, if practical.
  • Prognosis: poor in animals with neurological signs.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • Cattle can be exposed to multiple sources of lead including the following:
    • Old lead paint e.g. on buildings where the paint is deteriorating or recycled wood materials.
    • Discarded lead batteries.
    • Ash from burnt lead-containing materials.
    • Lead foreign bodies e.g. lead shot, lead solder.
    • Contaminated soils or plants in areas close to battery recycling plants or previously used for shooting (e.g. clay pigeon shooting) or mining.

Predisposing factors

General

  • Previous exposure and therefore elevated lead body burden.

Specific

  • Young age.

Pathophysiology

  • Lead has no biological role.
  • Lead has multiple biochemical effects.
  • It interferes with many enzyme systems, particularly those containing sulfhydryl groups. This produces multiple effects including impaired haem synthesis and demyelination of peripheral nerves.
  • Lead ions are similar in size to calcium ions and so can antagonize or mimic the biological action of calcium.
  • The exact nature of the effect on the central nervous system is unknown, but probably involves interference with intracellular calcium function.
  • Lead also alters vitamin D metabolism and affects cell membrane stability.

Timecourse

  • Variable, clinical signs may occur a few days after exposure but can be insidious in onset.  
  • Sudden death may be the first reported clinical sign.

Epidemiology

  • Cases of lead poisoning are common in the spring and summer following turnout into pasture.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Cowan V & Blakley B (2016) Acute lead poisoning in western Canadian cattle – A 16 year retrospective study of diagnostic case records. Canadian Veterinary Journal 57, 421-426 PubMed.
  • Payne J & Livesey C (2010) Lead poisoning in cattle and sheep. In Practice 32, 64-69 VetMedResource.
  • Sharpe R T & Livesey C T (2006) Lead poisoning in cattle and its implications for food safety. Veterinary Record 159, 71-74 PubMed.
  • Sharpe R & Livesey C (2004) Discarded lead-acid batteries: a preventable cause of lead poisoning in cattle. Veterinary Record 154 (16), 512 PubMed.
  • Rumbeiha W K, Braselton W E & Donch D (2001) A retrospective study on the disappearance of blood lead in cattle with accidental lead toxicosis. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation 13 (5), 373-378 PubMed.
  • Allen W M (1999) Environmental accidents: the assessment of the significance of an environmental accident due to the feeding of lead-contaminated feedstuffs to several hundred cattle farms. Bovine Practitioner 33, 76–79.
  • Baars A J, van Beek H, Visser I J, Vos G, van Delft W, Fennema G, Lieben G W, Lautenbag K, Nieuwenhuijs J H, de Lezenne Coulander P A, Pluimers F H, Van d Haar G, Jorna T J, Tuinstra G M T, Zandstra P & Bruins B (1992) Lead intoxication in cattle: a case report. Food Additives and Contaminants 9 (4), 357-64.

Other sources

  • Animalcare (2013) Sodium Calciumedetate 250mg/ml Concentrate for Solution for Injection Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC).

Organisation(s)

  • Nicola Bates, Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), London, UK.


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