Exotis ISSN 2398-2985

Ferrets

Paint toxicity

Contributor(s): Cathy Johnson-Delaney, David Perpinan

Introduction

  • Ferrets may get into paint while their environment is being painted, if they are allowed free reign in the household.
  • Exterior paints may still contain lead as pigments.
  • Ferret pet owners should be advised to always use paints without lead, however lead paint is not currently available to purchase in Europe, Canada and the USA:
    • Homes built prior to 1977 in the US may still have leaded paint on the walls; although it may be covered by newer layers, ferrets may scratch through exposing potential lead containing paints.
    • Paint toxicity in Europe, Canada and the USA is extremely unlikely.
  • Acrylic or latex (water-based) paints are gastrointestinal and dermal irritants; these paints may contain small amounts of ethylene glycol (usually <5%) so small ingestions are not of concern.
  • Cause: lead content in indoor paints used prior to 1977 may still exist, which could potentially expose the ferret to lead. Topical exposure to any paint can result in dermatitis or gastrointestinal disturbance if ingested during grooming. Oil based paints are more likely to cause problems than acrylic paints.
  • Signs: large ingestions may cause vomiting. Oil and solvent-based paints and stains can cause gastrointestinal upset with secondary aspiration. Inhalation of solvents can lead to CNS depression and coma (hydrocarbons can be present in some paint products). Lead toxicity may present with CNS signs including tremor, seizure, anorexia, although it may be non-specific with just lethargy: history and information about the environment may be necessary to determine the cause.
  • Diagnosis: physical examination with thorough history. Bloodwork to determine metabolic condition. Radiography may show gas/fluid within the gastrointestinal tract. If lead toxicity is suspected, a blood lead level can be taken.
  • Treatment: ingestion of acrylic based paints: provided supportive care, including fluid therapy, anti-nausea/stomach protectant treatments; ingestion of oil based paints: dilution; intestion of water based paints: emesis. Dermal exposure to acrylic/latex paints: bathe in mild shampoo/liquid dishwashing detergent or clip the coat; dermal exposure to oil/solvent based paints: removal using vegetable or mineral oil, or bathe in liquid dishwashing detergent. 
  • Prognosis: generally good.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Dunayer E (2008) Toxicology of ferrets. Vet Clin North Am Exotic Anim Pract 11 (20), 301-314 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Johnson-Delaney CA (2017) Toxicology. In: Ferret Medicine and Surgery. Ed: Johnson-Delaney C A. CRC Press, USA. pp 449-455.


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