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Lead exposure in dogs fed game meat and offal from culled invasive species in El Palmar National Park, Argentina


This is the first field study to evaluate lead exposure in dogs fed game meat and offal and, to our knowledge, the first study exploring associations between game consumption and dog health status. We quantified lead concentrations in blood and hair and haematological parameters of 31 dogs fed game meat and offal from wild boar (Sus scrofa) and axis deer (Axis axis) culled with lead ammunition in El Palmar National Park, Argentina. Despite variable weekly frequency in game consumption, dogs had detectable blood and hair lead levels, demonstrating recent and chronic exposure. Lead geometric mean and SD were 18.91 ± 346.85 μg/dL w.w. in blood (range = 0.53–216.58), and 0.721 ± 6.444 μg/gr d.w. in hair (range = 0.007–34.800). Hair lead levels were relatively low in most samples, except for the oldest dog which had an atypically high value concurrent with anaemia, a common outcome of chronic lead exposure. Dog’s owner was significantly predictive of both blood and hair lead levels, which reflects the same feeding patterns for all dogs owned by the same person. Body condition was associated with hair lead, with dogs in good condition presenting higher lead levels. This could be related to greater game consumption by those dogs, resulting in higher lead ingestion. Dogs fed game meat and offal at very low or low frequency (≤4 times per week) showed higher blood lead levels, suggesting there might not be a risk-free frequency for game provision to dogs. Considering the risks of dietary lead exposure, avoiding feeding dogs lead-killed game and replacing lead ammunition with non-toxic alternatives are recommended. This would allow using hunted game as a valuable food resource without unnecessary risk for the health of consumers and the environment.

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We wish to express our gratitude to the dogs’ owners, who voluntarily agreed to participate in this study. Special thanks are due to the hunters and park rangers, especially L. Loyza, E. Munich, E. Perrón, I. Ovelar, J. Zermathen, E. Bouvet, J. Ballay, J. Yone, R. Achilli, and A. Maranta. We are also thankful to C. Lipuma, manager of El Palmar National Park. Delegación Centro-Este de la Administración de Parques Nacionales provided research permits (IF-2019-46151534-APN-DNC#APNAC). We gratefully acknowledge funding from WWW Foundation and Secretaría de Políticas Universitarias (Ministerio de Educación, Cultura, Ciencia y Tecnología, Argentina) which made this study possible. We value the One Health framework provided by the Community Territory Conservation Program (UNICEN) and commend their biodiversity education and participatory conservation approach. We thank B. Resler for collaboration during fieldwork and J. P. García for advice on blood smear analysis and manuscript revision. G. Fernández and P. Ichinose made useful contributions during translation.


The study was funded by WWW Foundation and Secretaría de Políticas Universitarias of the Ministerio de Educación, Cultura, Ciencia y Tecnología of Argentina (reference number IF-2019-51074878-APN-DNDUYV#MECCYT).

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Fieldwork and sampling were done by VF, AT, WEC, AD, and CS. Data review and analyses were performed by VF, AC, RETV, and MMU. Statistical analyses were designed and executed by RETV. The first draft was written by VF, AC, and MMU, and all authors commented and contributed on successive versions of the manuscript. All authors read, edited, and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Valentina Fernández.

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Ethics approval and consent to participate

Ethical approval was granted by the Bioethics Committee of the School of Veterinary Sciences of Universidad Nacional del Centro de la Provincia de Buenos Aires (according to Animal Welfare Act, Academic Council resolution no. 087/02). Informed consent to participate was obtained from all dogs’ owners prior to sampling.

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Informed consent was obtained from all dogs’ owners prior to sampling.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Fernández, V., Caselli, A., Tammone, A. et al. Lead exposure in dogs fed game meat and offal from culled invasive species in El Palmar National Park, Argentina. Environ Sci Pollut Res 28, 45486–45495 (2021).

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  • Diet
  • Domestic dogs
  • Haematology
  • Hunting
  • Lead ammunition
  • Toxicity