Lead Poisoning in Cattle Held in a Military Training area


  • Fábio de Souza Guagnini M. V. Empresa Rumitec Serviços Veterinários Ltda. Carlos Barbosa, RS, Brazil.
  • André Correa M. V. Fiscal Estadual Agropecuário da Secretaria da Agricultura, Pecuária e Irrigação (SEAPI - RS), Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil.
  • Caroline Argenta Pescador Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso (UFMT), Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária (FAVET), Laboratório de Patologia Veterinária, Cuiabá, MT, Brazil.
  • Edson Moleta Colodel Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso (UFMT), Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária (FAVET), Laboratório de Patologia Veterinária, Cuiabá, MT, Brazil.
  • Welden Panziera Setor de Patologia Veterinária (SPV).
  • André Dalto Setor de Grandes Ruminantes (SGR), Faculdade de Veterinária (FaVet), Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, (UFRGS), Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil.
  • David Driemeier Setor de Patologia Veterinária (SPV).




Background: Lead poisoning is one of the major toxic diseases of cattle. Contamination occurs with ingestion of products containing lead, especially batteries, or through contaminated pastures and water sources. Clinical signs are neurological and necropsy findings and histopathological changes may vary depending on the clinical presentation. Although the disease
is widely reported in the literature, there are rare descriptions of intoxication in cattle raised in military training areas. This work describes the epidemiological, clinical and anatomopathological features of an outbreak of lead poisoning in cattle kept in a military artillery training camp.
Case: Fifteen cattle out of a herd of sixty 4-6 year-old, mixed breed castrated males were affected. The cattle were held in a 100 ha of native pasture used for military artillery training. After three weeks in this area, the affected cattle had predominantly neurological clinical manifestations, characterized by somnolence, ambulatory incoordination, muscle tremors,
bruxism, aimless walking, blindness and decubitus. The clinical course was 24-72 h. Eight of the 15 affected cattle died and two were necropsied. Necropsy finds were non-specific and the histological lesions of both necropsied cattle were restricted to the brain and kidneys. Laminar neuronal necrosis, neuropil vacuolization (spongiosis) and vascular endothelial hypertrophy were observed in the telencephalic cortex. Additionally there was astrocytic degeneration and neuronophagia.
There was degeneration and necrosis of renal tubular epithelium and in one bovine there were intranuclear inclusion bodies in the renal epithelial cells; these inclusion bodies were highlighted using both modified Ziehl-Neelsen and periodic acid Schiff (PAS) stains. The levels of lead found in the kidneys and livers of the two necropsied cattle were respectively
51.7 μg/g and 41.00 μg/g for one of the necropsied cattle; and 431μg/g and 39.0 μg/g for the other. After the diagnosis of intoxication, cattle were removed from the area and the remaining seven affected bovines recovered.
Discussion: The diagnosis of lead poisoning in cattle in the current study was based on epidemiological, clinical, anatomopathological data and in the determination of lead levels in the kidney and liver. The association of these data provides an invaluable aid in confirming a presumptive diagnosis of lead poisoning. Pasturing on military artillery training fields
is a rarely described form source of lead for the intoxication in bovine species. In such cases, cattle may ingest the lead directly from the soil or through contaminated pastures containing lead dust on the surface of the leaves. Histologically, laminar neuronal necrosis in the telencephalic cortex, associated with tubular necrosis and intranuclear inclusion bodies in
tubular epithelial cells, are characteristic features of the intoxication. These changes are usually associated with ischemic anoxia in the nervous system and alteration in nuclear function which interferes in gene expression in the kidney. Lead poisoning in cattle should be differentiated from other neurological conditions, especially rabies, hepatic encephalopathy
and several causes of polioencephalomalacia. Areas of military artillery training are unfit for the development of agricultural exploitation activities, as they represent potential sources of contamination for livestock.

Keywords: diseases of cattle, toxicology, heavy metal, polioencephalomalacia.


Download data is not yet available.


Baker J.C. 1987. Lead poisoning in cattle. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice. 3(1): 137-147.

Barbosa J.D., Bomjardim H.A., Campos K.F., Duarte M.D., Bezerra Júnior P.S., Gava A., Salvarani F.M. & Oliveira C.M.C. 2014. Lead poisoning in cattle and chickens in the state of Pará, Brazil. Pesquisa Veterinária Brasileira.

(11): 1077-1080.

Barros C.S.L., Driemeier D., Dutra I.S. & Lemos R.A.A. 2006. Intoxicação por chumbo. In: Doença do sistema nervoso de bovinos no Brasil. Monte Carlos: Vallée, pp.125-129.

Bates N. & Payne J. 2017. Lead poisoning in cattle. Livestock. 22(4):192-197.

Braun U., Pusterla N. & Ossent P. 1997. Lead poisoning of calves pastured in the target area of a military shooting range. Schweizer Archiv Fur Tierheilkunde. 139: 403-407.

Cantile C. & Youssef S. 2016. Nervous system. In: Maxie M.G. (Ed). Jubb, Kennedy, and Palmer’s Pathology of Domestic Animals. v.1. 6th edn. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier, pp.316-317.

Cowan V. & Blakley B. 2016. Acute lead poisoning in western Canadian cattle – a 16 year retrospective study of diagnostic case records. Canadian Veterinary Journal. 57: 421-426.

Fowler B.A. 1992. Mechanisms of kidney cell injury from metals. Environmental Health Perspectives. 100: 57-63.

Humphreys D.J. 1988. Lead. In: Veterinary toxicology. 3rd edn. London: Bailliere Tindall, pp.49-58.

Lemos R.A.A., Driemeier D., Guimarães E.B., Dutra I.S. & Barros C.S.L. 2004. Lead poisoning in cattle grazing pasture contaminated by industrial waste. Veterinary and Human Toxicology. 46(6): 326-328.

Marçal W.S. 2005. Intoxicação por chumbo em gado bovino em zona rural próxima a indústria metalífera. Veterinária Notícias. 11(1): 87-93.

Payne J. & Livesey C. 2010. Lead poisoning in cattle and sheep. In Practice. 32: 64-69.

Radostits O.M., Gay C.C., Hinchcliff K.W. & Constable P.D. 2007. Diseases associated with inorganic and farm chemicals. In: Veterinary Medicine: a textbook of the diseases of cattle, horses, sheep, pigs and goats. 10th edn. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier, pp.1799-1888.

Summers B.A., Cummings J.F. & Lahunta A. 1995. Lead poisoning. In: Veterinary neuropathology. St. Louis: Mosby, pp.250-252.

Traverso S.D., Loretti A.P., Donini M.A. & Driemeier D. 2004. Lead poisoning in cattle in southern Brazil. Arquivo Brasileiro de Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia. 56(3): 418-421.



How to Cite

Guagnini, F. de S., Correa, A., Pescador, C. A., Colodel, E. M., Panziera, W., Dalto, A., & Driemeier, D. (2018). Lead Poisoning in Cattle Held in a Military Training area. Acta Scientiae Veterinariae, 46, 5. https://doi.org/10.22456/1679-9216.85149

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 > >>