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Wild Fish and Game Based Diets - a Potential Risk For Your Dog?

Updated: Jun 14

Lead Shot Gun For Game

Wild Game and Fish Based Diets - a Potential Risk For Your Dog?

Are you considering switching your dog to a wild game or fish-based diet? While these options may seem natural and healthy, it’s essential to be aware of potential risks of wild fish and game based diets associated with heavy metal exposure, particularly lead and mercury. In this blog post, we'll explore the potential dangers of lead and mercury intoxication in dogs, their link to wild fish and game diets, how they can trigger seizures, and what you can do to keep your canine companion safe and healthy.


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Lead Intoxication in Dogs

Lead poisoning in dogs can occur through various sources, including contaminated food, water, or environments. Research by Rosendahl (2024) suggests that trace elements and toxic metals, such as lead, could play a role in canine idiopathic epilepsy, raising concerns about the impact of lead exposure on your dog's health.

Lead and Seizures: A Potential Trigger

Studies like Arrieta et al. (2005) have shown that prolonged exposure to lead can lower the seizure threshold in rats, indicating a potential link between lead intoxication and seizure disorders. Liatis et al. (2019) reported a case where lead intoxication mimicked idiopathic epilepsy in a young dog, highlighting the importance of monitoring your pet's diet and environment for potential sources of lead contamination. For dogs, especially those prone to seizures, minimising exposure to lead is crucial to managing their condition and overall well-being.

Lead Build Up and Wild Game

If your dog consumes wild game, such as birds or deer, there is a high risk of lead exposure from lead ammunition fragments. Although the meat around the wound channel is often discarded, in the likely event that the lead bullets have impacted with the bones of the wild animal, the lead fragments can be scattered throughout the animal’s body (Iqbal et al. 2009). These fragments and the use of lead bullets to kill wild game thus leave traces of lead in the meat.

Lead Build Up and Exposure in Dogs

Unlike humans, dogs typically eat the same meal multiple times a day for months on end. This leads to a compounding effect of build up from whatever food-source the dog is eating. In the case of wild game based diets, this means a large risk of lead build up from the ammunition fragments used to kill the wild game. Rosendahl (2024) showed that dogs on game-based diets had lead concentrations that were over 2x higher that of dogs on a non game-based diet.

Lead build up in your dog’s body can lead to various health issues, including neurological symptoms such as seizures. Brauer et al. (2011) found that metabolic and toxic causes, including heavy metal exposure, accounted for a significant number of canine seizure disorders, emphasising the need for proactive measures to reduce lead exposure in dogs.


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Mercury Intoxication in Dogs

Similar to lead, mercury can accumulate in your dog's body over time, leading to adverse health effects. Mercury, particularly methylmercury found in certain fish species, poses a potential risk to canine health. Research by Yuan (2012) suggests that methylmercury exposure could contribute to epileptogenesis, raising concerns about the safety of feeding big wild fish to your dog.

Mercury and Seizures: A Potential Trigger

Continuous low-dose exposure to organic and inorganic mercury during development has been linked to epileptogenicity in rats (Szász et al., 2002). This indicates a potential correlation between mercury intoxication and seizure susceptibility, highlighting the importance of considering the mercury content in your dog's diet.

Mercury Build Up From Big Wild Fish

While fish is often considered a healthy protein source for dogs, certain species, particularly big wild fish like tuna and swordfish, may contain higher levels of mercury. Including these fish as a regular staple in your dog's diet could increase their risk of mercury exposure and associated health problems. If you would like to include fish as part of your dog’s diet, consider using fish such as salmon, which contain significantly lower mercury levels and risk factors.


While wild fish and game-based diets can provide nutritional benefits for your dog, it's crucial to be mindful of potential risks associated with heavy metal exposure, particularly lead and mercury. By staying informed, monitoring your dog's diet, and minimising exposure to contaminated sources, you can help safeguard your dog's health and well-being.


  • Rosendahl, Sarah. "Trace Elements and Toxic Metals in Canine Idiopathic Epilepsy." (2024).

  • Arrieta O, Palencia G, García-Arenas G, et al (2005) Prolonged Exposure to Lead Lowers the Threshold of Pentylenetetrazole-induced Seizures in Rats. Epilepsia 46:1599–1602

  • Liatis T, Monti P, Latre AR, et al (2019) Lead intoxication mimicking idiopathic epilepsy in a young dog. Vet Rec Case Rep 7:e000703.

  • Brauer, Christina, Melanie Jambroszyk, and Andrea Tipold. "Metabolic and toxic causes of canine seizure disorders: A retrospective study of 96 cases." The Veterinary Journal 187.2 (2011): 272-275.

  • Balali-Mood, Mahdi, and Mahmood Sadeghi. "Toxic mechanisms of five heavy metals: mercury, lead, chromium, cadmium, and arsenic." Frontiers in pharmacology 12 (2021): 643972.

  • Sires RA, Fascetti AJ, Puschner B, Larsen JA (2019) Determination of Total Mercury and Methylmercury Concentrations in Commercial Canine Diets. Top Companion Anim Med 35:6–10

  • Szász, András, et al. "Effects of continuous low-dose exposure to organic and inorganic mercury during development on epileptogenicity in rats." Neurotoxicology 23.2 (2002): 197-206.

  • Yuan, Yukun. "Methylmercury: a potential environmental risk factor contributing to epileptogenesis." Neurotoxicology 33.1 (2012): 119-126.

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