Copper Toxicity in Show Animals
Guy Sheppard, DVM
In reflecting upon yet another major livestock show season in Texas, it is important to keep in mind the possibility of copper toxicity, particularly in sheep and goats. Sheep are particularly sensitive to excess copper in their diets. Although goats are not as sensitive as sheep, they can still become intoxicated with too much copper.
It is very common to provide show animals with a variety of supplements to enhance their appearance or performance. These supplements can contain a variety of substances including vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, but caution needs to be exercised when using supplements containing copper. Since copper is a heavy metal and not quickly eliminated in the body, administering multiple copper containing supplements, or giving multiple doses of individual supplements, can cause excess copper levels to build to toxic levels quickly. Signs of intoxication include discolored urine, anemia, and death. Once clinical signs of intoxication occur, treatment is not effective.
When feeding show sheep or goats, be sure to consider all sources of copper being fed to the animals and use supplements with extreme caution. If the supplement contains copper, the safest course of action is probably to avoid its use.
The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) offers several heavy metal tests in our analytical chemistry section. For more information on test recommendations or to learn more about this case, contact Dr. Guy Sheppard, veterinary diagnostician. To learn more about TVMDL’s test catalog, visit tvmdl.tamu.edu or call 1.888.646.5623.