Equis ISSN 2398-2977

Toxicity: arsenic

Contributor(s): Karyn Bischoff, Birgit Puschner

Introduction

  • Cause: arsenic; organic and inorganic arsenicals.
  • Signs: severe colic (trivalent arsenicals); neurological signs (pentavalent organic arsenicals)
  • Diagnosis: clinical signs, lesions, chemical analysis of source or tissues.
  • Treatment: supportive, including gastroprotectants.
  • Prognosis: guarded to grave.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

Inorganic arsenicals

  • Trivalent - more toxic:
    • Paris green (copper acetoarsenite), historical use insecticide.
    • Sodium arseonite: defoliant.
  • Pentavalent:
    • Lead arsenate:
      • Wood preservatives.
      • Burn piles are common source.
    • Sodium arsenate: pesticide, herbicide.

Organic arsenicals

  • Phenylarsonics (pentavalent) to promote growth in swine and poultry:
    • Arsanilic acid. 
    • Roxarsone.
    • Nitrarsone.
    • US Food and Drug Administration approval withdrawn in 2015.
  • Herbicides (pentavalent):
    • Monosodium methanearsonate (MSDMA). 
    • Disodium methanearsonate (DSMDMA). 
    • Others.
  • Heartworm treatments: melarsomine (pentavalent).

Predisposing factors

General

  • Access to burn-piles which may have contained treated wood.
  • Access to agricultural herbicides and defoliants containing arsenic.

Specific

  • Malicious poisoning or access to arsenical herbicides.

Pathophysiology

  • Trivalent arsenic interacts with sulfhydryl groups: deactivates enzymes and causes capillary damage (vascular poison).
  • Rapid elimination: urine and bile, depending on form of arsenic.

Timecourse

  • Peracute death possible.
  • Death often within 24 h.
  • Chronic arsenic toxicosis is rare in domestic animals.

Epidemiology

  • Most commonly associated with malicious poisoning.

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.
  • Kempson I M & Henry D A (2010) Determination of arsenic poisoning and metabolism in hair by synchrotron radiation: the case of Phar Lap. Angewandte Chemi (International Ed. In English) 49 (25), 4237-4240 PubMed.
  • Casteel S W (2001) Metal toxicosis in horses. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract 17 (3), 318-319 PubMed.
  • Pace L W, Turnquist S E, Casteel S W, Johnson P J & Frankeny R L (1997) Acute arsenic toxicosis in five horses. Vet Pathol 34 (2), 160-164 PubMed.
  • Selby L A, Case A A, Osweiler G D & Hayes H M (1977) Epidemiology and toxicology of arsenic poisoning in domestic animals. Environ Health Persp 19,183-189 PubMed.


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