Pet owners will do well to observe the behaviors and health of their pets as they assess the health of their home. What can we learn about pets and the environment?
The link between environmental exposures and animal health is not new.
More than a hundred years ago, miners took caged canaries into the coal mines to warn them of toxic gasses. In the 1950s when thousands of people in Japan died or were injured by mercury-poisoned fish, animals provided the first clue when cats were seen dancing in the streets before collapsing and dying.
Today, professional dog trainers encourage veterinarians to address “factors in the physical environment that have a potential to impact the dog’s health, nutrition, and physical condition.”
Pets and Toxic Mold
I wish we had known to consider our indoor environment when we moved into our toxic home in 2000. (Read our family’s story here.)
Our parakeet, Gabriel, died soon after moving into the home. We continued to buy parakeets, and each one died within months. One of them developed a strange fungus all over his body and even chewed off his foot!
Our two cats became sick with bladder infections. Our Bichon Frise, Pippen, became insulin dependent within the first two years. After our botched remediation, when our family’s health declined rapidly, Pippen, already blind, developed red eyes, became disabled, and repeatedly chewed on his fur.
Interestingly, and certainly not coincidentally, the parakeet we purchased soon after leaving our home is still thriving seven years later.
Florida veterinarian Douglas Mader discovered a connection with toxic mold when two cats died of a pulmonary hemorrhage after a routine dental procedure. (View his study here.)
Further reading on toxic mold and pets:
Pets and Chemicals
Pets are especially vulnerable to lawn, garden, and household chemicals. Chemicals quickly accumulate on lawns outdoors and in dust or carpeting indoors. Research suggests that lawn-care chemicals may increase the risk of canine lymphoma and bladder cancer. Hypothyroidism has been closely linked with exposure to flame retardants used in furniture and electronics, and also ingested via cat food. Clearly, the fewer chemicals we use in the home, the better for our pet’s health (and ours).
- Case-Control Study of Canine Malignant Lymphoma: Positive Association with Dog Owner’s Use of 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid Herbicides
- Epidemiologic Study of Insecticide Exposures, Obesity, and Risk of Bladder Cancer in Household Dogs
- Higher PBDE Serum Concentrations May Be Associated with Feline Hyperthyroidism in Swedish Cats
Pets and Wireless Radiation
A surprising environmental issue may be your pet’s exposure to wireless radiation. Many people do not associate their own health with electronic devices, let alone the health of their pet. However, one professional dog trainer does. In the July/August 2015 issue of The Scoop, a newsletter for dog trainers, Jennifer Berg, BA, BEAD, CPDT‐KA, points to the BioInitiative Report 2012, which closely links adverse health effects with radiation frequency (RF) exposure:
These studies support the consideration of wireless devices as a factor when trainers are addressing behaviors such as hyperactivity; learning/training difficulties due to memory, cognition, and/or attention deficits; behaviors related to stress and anxiety (e.g. restlessness, reactivity, separation anxiety, aggression); and because of the effect of RF/MWR on the digestive system, house soiling, excessive licking, fussy eating, or eating everything (including non‐ food items).
What can pet owners do to reduce exposure?
The easiest way to reduce a pet’s exposure is to choose wired devices instead of wireless. Cordless DECT phones are one of the worst sources because they continuously emit, even when not in use (as do wireless baby monitors). Ethernet cords and cables provide superb quality Internet and TV without the RF/MWR. If removing wireless devices from the home is not an option, the wireless can be turned off when not in use, especially at night and when no one but the pet is home. This can be as simple as unplugging the router (or entire device) or disabling the wireless in the settings. Cell phones emit constantly and should be put into Airplane Mode whenever possible.
Whether we’re protecting our pets or ourselves, it behooves all of us to reduce our exposure. For more, see Sleep, Melatonin and Electronic Devices.
When it comes to assessing the safety of an indoor environment, it makes sense to consider your pet’s health. The connection may prove life-saving, not only for your pet but for you as well!