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Poisoning of dairy heifers by mercurous chloride
  1. V. R. Simpson, BVSc, DTVM, MRCVS1,
  2. N. C. Stuart, MSc, BA, BSc, MRCVS2,
  3. R. Munro, BVMS, MSc, DVM, MRCVS3,
  4. A. Hunt, MIBiol, MPhil4 and
  5. C. T. Livesey, BVSc, MSc, MRCVS5
  1. 1 Veterinary Investigation Unit, Polwhele, Truro TR4 9AD
  2. 2 Head and Head, Water-Ma-Trout, Helston TR15 OLW
  3. 3 Lasswade Veterinary Laboratory, Bush Estate, Penicuick, Midlothian EH26 OSA
  4. 4 Veterinary Investigation Centre, The Elms, College Road, Sutton Bonington, Loughborough LE12 5RB
  5. 5 Central Veterinary Laboratory, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB


Mercury poisoning was diagnosed in four dairy heifers, three of which died. The clinical signs were variable and included salivation, excessive thirst, extreme depression and severe diarrhoea. Postmortem examinations revealed inflammation and ulceration of the alimentary tract, pulmonary and cardiac haemorrhages, pallor of the kidney cortices and perirenal oedema. The kidney mercury concentrations were in the range 58 to 91 μg/g wet tissue. It is believed that the animals were poisoned by the ingestion of soil contaminated with mercurous chloride.

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