Zinc Poisoning

Zinc Poisoning Linked to Litter

by Jeffrey R. Jenkins, DVM

Abbott, an Angora rabbit, was brought to our practice recently, acutely ill with bloody diarrhea. He died soon after he arrived despite an heroic attempt at resuscitation.

A necropsy revealed his stomach and cecum were filled with litter material. Histopathology (microscopic examination) showed that Abbott died of zinc toxicity.

We determined that eating CatWorks litter was the source of the zinc poisoning. CatWorks is manufactured by Absorption Corporation of Bellingham, Washington. Absorption Corp. also makes CareFRESH bedding, which is used as a bedding for rodents and as a rabbit litter box filler.

During a discussion with Shawn Dooley at Absorption Corp., we learned that CatWorks is made of grain milling byproducts, more specifically oat hulls (about 60%) and wheat mits (about 30%). This explains why a rabbit would be attracted to eat the product. Included, as well, is bentonite (10%) used as a binder, and zinc oxide (3%) explaining the zinc toxicity.

Mr. Dooley explained that the product is marketed as a cat litter box filler and never intended to be used by animals that would find it edible. He also claimed that this was the first known case of an animal being poisoned by the product.

As a result of this case, Mr. Dooley said that Absorption Corp. will investigate adding an adhesive label to the packaging of CatWorks warning that it should not be used as a litter or bedding for rabbits or rodents. This may take time and there is likely a large inventory of the product on the shelves of pet shops.

We offer this warning about the hazard of rabbits ingesting CatWorks to those of you who have been using it as a litter.

Reprinted with permission.

Jeffery R. Jenkins, DVM
Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital
San Diego, CA
Phone: 619 260-1412

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