Monday, May 21, 2012

Dog Ate My Homework: It's Legit!

My dog ate my homework excuse is really a lame one. 
But it's legit, i.e. you can now tell your teacher that your dog ate your homework, because a dog in the United States apparently chomped down some scientists' labwork and got sick.

The 1-year-old canine munched away a mixture of blood agar and Mycoplasma agar plates, which contained the toxic thalluim acetate. The amount of thallium acetate in the Mycoplasma agar plates was quite a lot, which resulted in an estimated minimum dose of 5 mg thallium acetate/kg bodyweight for the poor animal.
Thallium is highly toxic and was once used in rat poisons and insecticides. Even a slight contact with human skin is dangerous. It is tasteless and odorless, which is probably why the dog failed to notice its presence in the agar mixture. Nowadays it is being used in electronics industry and in glass manufacturing.

After indiscriminately chomping down the scientists' hardwork, the dog started vomitting, suffered from diarrhea, weight loss, alopecia, bla bla bla..... intension tremors, megaesophagus with subsequent aspiration pneumonia, and several seizure episodes. It was treated with intravenous fluids and placement of a gastric feeding tube.

The scientists tested the thallium concentrations in the dog's hair, and found that there were 8.2 µg/g in samples taken on day 19. The thallium concentration increased to 16.4 µg/g 3 months after exposure, and then slowly decreased to 13.4 µg/g in the fifth month, and finally nondetectable 7 months after exposure.

The thallium concentration in the dog's blood was 190 µg/l on day 19 and nondetec table 3 months after exposure.

But the dog continued to suffer from megaesophagus and dysphonia 10 months after exposure.  Megaesophagus is a condition where the esophagus enlarges and fails to push food down into the stomach, whereas dysphonia is an impairment of the vocal organ.
This case of thallium poisoning following ingestion of Mycoplasma agar plates demonstrates that unusual sources of thallium still exist and suggests that the risk of inadvertent thallium ingestion is high.

info: Thallium toxicosis in a dog consequent to ingestion of Mycoplasma agar plates, Puschner B; Basso MM; Graham TW, J Vet Diagn Invest, 2012 Jan 24(1) : 227-30. 

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