The Animal Poisons Helpline has recently been contacted regarding a number of pets that have been exposed to house paints. Whilst these exposures do not usually result in significant harm, each exposure should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Water based paints, which are typically used on household walls and ceilings, are the most common type of paints that the Animal Poisons Helpline is contacted about. These paints are made up of latex or other binders, biocides, plasticisers, drying agents, surfactants, and pigments; all mixed in a water base. Animals that drink water-based paints can develop mild gastrointestinal signs. The colour of the stool may change temporarily if enough pigment is ingested.
Oil-based paints on the other hand are typically used on doors, door frames, and skirting boards. Theses paints contain volatile solvents such as petroleum distillates, toluene, xylene, and other hydrocarbons. Animals that ingest oil-based paints can develop more significant gastrointestinal signs and possibly lethargy, weakness, and unsteadiness on the feet. If an oil-based paint enters the airways, it can cause serious injury to the lungs.
Lead poisoning is another consideration in pets that ingest very old paint. Prior to 1970, some paints contained up to 50% lead compounds (now limited to a maximum of 0.009%). Pets that ingest paint dust or chips that have been created during renovations of old properties can be at risk.
If your pet has been exposed to a paint or any other poison, please phone the Animal Poisons Helpline on 1300 869 738 (AU) or 0800 869 738 (NZ) for advice. The Animal Poisons Helpline is a free service for all pet owners in Australia and New Zealand.