As any loyal follower of Hybrid Rasta Mama knows, Jennifer and her family have been going through months of virtual hell after discovering their family home contained toxic mold. They discovered that their health problems were almost all caused by the mold present in their walls, and they are on the long, hard road to physical and emotional recovery. Several years ago, it was thought that toxic mold did not have an affect on pets, but we now know that is false. Toxic mold can cause terrible health problems for household pets, even more so than humans, depending on the specific case.
Jennifer's family includes multiple cats and a rabbit who are now all safely out of the home and thriving. They got lucky.
Discovering that toxic mold is a health risk for pets
It was a 2007 press release from the American Veterinary Medical Association that really brought the effect of toxic mold on pets to light. Douglas Mader, a Florida veterinarian, was performing a dental procedure on two sibling cats. Soon after beginning the procedure, he noticed frothy blood in the anesthesia tubes. Alarmed, he stopped the procedure. Sadly, the cats both passed away within two days, and blood samples indicated that there was black mold in their lung capillaries. A hemorrhage exacerbated by the procedure was the cause of death. The cats showed no prior symptoms, and the family only discovered after the cats' blood test that there was mold in their home.
Symptoms of toxic mold exposure in pets
People discover that they have been exposed to toxic mold in a variety of ways. Sometimes they develop health problems that lead to the discovery, sometimes they physically see the mold in their homes, and sometimes the family pet falls ill. Prior to the 2007 press release, pets' symptoms were often attributed to other ailments. The following is a list of the most common symptoms pets exhibit when exposed to toxic mold:
- Severe scratching and chewing when fleas or other pests are not present
- Runny nose
- Runny eyes. wheezing
- Nose bleeds
- Change in eating habits
It's easy to see why these symptoms were often assigned causes other than toxic mold exposure. They are common to a wide array of health problems that can affect our pets. The severity of the symptoms depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the mold issue and the type, size, and general health of the pet. Sometimes symptoms are so mild that they go unnoticed, and sometimes they lead to death even before the source of the problem is discovered.
Why is toxic mold so dangerous to my pet?
Respiratory problems are the most common health issues pets develop as a result of toxic mold exposure. They are also the most concerning. When mold is inhaled by your pet, capillaries in the lungs are weakened by the mold spores. Over time, the capillaries can rupture and hemorrhage. If left untreated, this condition will eventually lead to death. These issues typically progress faster in animals than in humans due to their smaller size.
What to do if you suspect your pet may be suffering symptoms due to toxic mold exposure
If you've been following Jennifer's “moldaggedon,” you already know that toxic mold exposure is no joke. It's better to be safe than sorry. If you suspect your pet has been exposed to toxic mold, take all pets in the household to the veterinarian as soon as possible, even if they are not exhibiting symptoms. It is common in multi-pet households that one pet will display symptoms before the others. Typically smaller animals are more quickly and severely affected.
If the veterinarian determines that your pet is suffering as a result of toxic mold exposure, do not bring your pets back to your home where the mold exists. You may need to board them or find a family member or friend who is willing to take them in while you eliminate the mold problem, a lengthy process.
The veterinarian may prescribe medications to help your pet's symptoms and may also suggest that your pet take an antibiotic to prevent or treat a secondary condition that may occur as a result of your pet's weakened system.
If your pet will be temporarily staying in a home where there are other pets, it is important to verify with your veterinarian that all of the pet's symptoms are attributed to toxic mold exposure and not another underlying condition. While health issues from mold exposure are NOT contagious, other conditions with the same symptoms may be. In order to protect all of the animals in the house your pet will be staying, make sure the animal is in good health, otherwise.
The bottom line
If you suspect your pet has been exposed to toxic mold, don't hesitate to seek veterinary assistance. You may safe your pet's life, and your own.
Are you a pet parent who has dealt with toxic mold? Please share your story.
For more information, please visit this resource – Beware: Toxic Mold and Pets, Pets and Mold, New Findings Show Toxic Mold May Affect Dogs.