Lead poisoning (see Lead Poisoning) may be seen in mink that have ingested lead-containing paint from wire or other equipment. Affected mink gradually lose weight and die within 1–2 mo with clinical signs consistent with either gastroenteritis or CNS disturbance. Individual mink may be treated with calcium edetate as a chelating agent. All sources of lead should be removed.
Insecticides other than pyrethrum, piperonyl butoxide, and rotenone may be highly toxic to mink. Even these insecticides should not be used on mink <8 wk old, or where such mink can contact them (eg, nest boxes). Other insecticides should be avoided whenever possible. (See also Insecticide and Acaricide (Organic) Toxicity.)
Wood preservatives (chlorinated phenols, cresols) can cause death of kits in the first 3 wk of life and occasionally of older mink. They should not be used where mink can chew on treated wood (pens, nest boxes, or nest litter). Shavings used as nest-box litter should not contain wood preservatives.
Diethylstilbestrol causes reproductive failure and a high incidence of urinary tract infections in mink and should not be included in the ration. Similarly, thyroid and parathyroid glands included in meat trimmings fed to mink may result in reproductive failure if present at high levels.
Chlorinated hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls contained in the ration can cause reproductive failure. Mink appear to be exquisitely sensitive to polybrominated biphenyls; 1 ppm in the ration has caused litter size and offspring viability to decrease. (See also Persistent Halogenated Aromatic Poisoning.)
Dimethylnitrosamine (DMNA) is hepatotoxic in mink. In the past, addition of sodium nitrate as a preservative to herring meal resulted in formation of DMNA, which causes hepatic degeneration, ascites, and extensive internal hemorrhage.
Sulfaquinoxaline upsets normal blood-clotting mechanisms of mink and causes extensive internal hemorrhage. Streptomycin is toxic to mink.
Salt toxicity is seen in young kits starting on solid food. Affected kits become dehydrated and show CNS signs such as tremors or seizures. The most common cause is increased salt levels in feedstuffs. By-product from the cheese, poultry, fish, and processed sandwich meat industries contain higher than expected salt concentrations. Prevention is accomplished by testing feed and ingredients for salt levels and removing ingredients with high salt concentrations and supplemental salt.
Last full review/revision October 2014 by Hugh Hildebrandt, DVM