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Coins Poisonous to Pets

Pune Draker, ASPCA

Humans aren’t the only species with money troubles–did you know that pennies can be hazardous to your pet’s health? One-cent coins minted after 1982 are made of copper plating around a core of potentially toxic zinc, which can cause kidney failure and damage red blood cells. And, according to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), zinc poisoning in pets can occur with the ingestion of a single penny.

Coins Poisonous to Pets


In one such case, a dog had been vomiting for three days and was suffering from anemia and elevated kidney values when his regular veterinarian called the APCC for help. His owner had no idea if he’d eaten anything out of the ordinary, but the APCC suspected zinc toxicosis. Sure enough, x-rays revealed a metallic object in the stomach. Unfortunately, the penny had corroded and was embedded in the dog’s stomach lining–and surgery was the only way to remove it. Reports APCC’s Jill A. Richardson, DVM, “He recovered slowly, but totally, about ten days later. And now the owner is very cautious about dropping pennies in the house!”

Although zinc toxicosis from pennies is seen more often in dogs, there have been cases involving cats and larger species of pet birds. Adds Richardson, “It’s also a common problem with large wild aquatic birds who eat pennies that people drop into ponds.” Zoo animals suffer, too–particularly sea lions, seals and sea otters who ingest the coins thrown into their tanks. Please take care when visiting a zoo, pond or anywhere wildlife could be exposed. And if you suspect that your pet has eaten a penny–or any other potentially toxic substance–call your veterinarian or the APCC’s emergency hotline at 1-888-4-ANI-HELP for round-the-clock telephone assistance.

Courtesy of
424 East 92nd St.
New York, NY 10128-6804
(212) 876-7700

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