Rapid antigen tests for dogs can poison them

NEWS AND COMMENT-AUSTRALIA: Millions of rapid antigen tests are being distributed to Australian households. There is a danger that they can harm dogs. The new media reporting is not completely clear as to why, so I did my own research. I think I understand the problem.

RAT test for Covid

RAT test for Covid. Image: Animal Poisons Helpline on FB.

Rapid antigen test kit for pets

Rapid antigen test kit for pet dogs for another virus. Pic in public domain.

Self-help rapid antigen tests appear to have become quite popular. You use them to test for viruses. They can be used on people and on pets. In fact, there is a Covid-19 rapid antigen test. It is the lateral flow test which has been so extensively used. Covid is a virus.


? The Animal Poisons Helpline has recently received a number of calls regarding dogs ingesting COVID-19…

Posted by Animal Poisons Helpline on Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Dogs can suffer from a wide range of viral infections. You can test for them using a self-test kit which is this rapid antigen test kit that I’m referring to. The Animal Poisons Helpline state that they have seen an uptick in the number of requests for help after using the test as their dogs had ingested the buffer solution.

Accordingly, they have issued an urgent warning on their Facebook page and asked dog owners to spread the message throughout Australia and New Zealand. They state:

“As millions of these tests are now being dispersed, we anticipate that calls to the Helpline regarding pets ingesting them will continue to rise.”

So, what’s the problem? Apparently, it is the buffer solution which contains a chemical called sodium azide. This is toxic to dogs. The way you test your dog with this self-testing kit is that you take a swab from your dog, and I presume this is saliva and/or nasal mucus, and mix it with the buffer solution which comes in a vial. This is then applied to the sample well of the test device.

One of 40 dogs saved from an alleged puppy mill

Dachshund being comforted. Photo in public domain.

It appears that dogs occasionally ingest the buffer solution while the owner temporarily stops supervising the process. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem if the dog is a standard size and a small amount is adjusted.

However, if a small dog ingests a number of vials of buffer solution it could poison them. That, then, is the root cause of the problem. I hope that I have explained it reasonably well. The news media reporting does not get to the bottom of the problem. I hope I have.

News media reports that this test is called a RAT test (it is an acronym). The reporting comes from Australia but I presume the story applies to any country where the RAT test is available.

The telephone number of the Animals Poisons Helpline is 1300 869 738.

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