When you think of toxic mold you likely think of how it effects humans. But did you know that mold can cause terrible health problems for animals? In fact, household mold affects pets even more virulently than humans – dogs, cats, and other small animals are more susceptible to mold-related illness than people due to their less advanced immune systems.
Let’s take a look at how toxic mold affects pets and how to help them recover.
The Discovery – How Toxic Mold Affects 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. We now know that animals can react to inhaled mold spores, ingested mold spores, and mold spores that come in contact with their skin.
The following is a list of the most common symptoms pets exhibit when exposed to toxic mold:
- Severe scratching, licking, biting, and chewing when fleas or other pests are not present
- Hair loss
- Runny nose
- Runny eyes
- Rapid breathing
- Nose bleeds
- Change in eating habits
- Stool changes
- Weight loss
Some types of toxic mold also affect the nervous system, which can cause tremors and seizures. These are less common symptoms of mold exposure however.
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 Mold Dangerous For 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 Sick From Mold Exposure
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.
Regardless of how your pet is exposed to toxic mold, if you don’t get veterinary help as soon as possible, it can damage the liver, kidneys, bones, spinal cord and brain.
Veterinary treatment for mold inhalation or ingestion is generally focused on supportive care, including the management of respiratory symptoms, vomiting, and the administering of IV fluids for dehydration from gastric distress.
The veterinarian may prescribe medications (like antifungals or steroids) to help your pet’s symptoms and lesson the immune system’s response to the mold. He or she 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 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.
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.
Natural Ways Cats and Dogs Can Detox From Mold Exposure
Since I am not a veterinarian, I am not going to discuss a specific treatment plan. I will share you with several natural ways a cat or a dog can detox from mold exposure and you can then consult with a trusted animal practitioner as to the best way to move forward. I have linked each product to the ones I use and trust.
Natural supplements cats and dogs can take to support them during and after a mold exposure include:
- Activated Charcoal
- N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC)
- Artichoke extract
- Milk Thistle
- Detox Gold
There are also several pet safe products offered by MicroBalance Health Products. Give them a look over.
Clean eating is important!
Your dog or cat should follow a grain free diet during recovery and beyond. Pet food made with grains are notoriously filled with mycotoxins. You can read more about that here. I suggest you feed your cat or dog the I and Love and You brand of pet food. It is super clean and very nourishing.
If you have a rabbit, gerbil, hamster or other small omnivore, be sure you are feeding them an organic diet. In addition, inspect their hay carefully. Hay is a huge carrier of mold spores and mold.
Remediate Your Pets
Yep – you read that right. Just like you would remediate your home or your car from mold, you need to get mold OFF of your pet. Check out my post on How To Remove Mold From Your Pet’s Fur for those details.
How To Keep Your Pets Safe From Mold
- Keep pet food in sealed containers and store them in a cold, dry area
- Wash food and water bowls every day with vinegar and water
- Wash pet toys once a week
- Wash your pet’s bedding in EC3 Laundry Additive once a week
- Clean cages, litter boxes, and accessories on a regular basis
- Don’t give your pet access to the trash or any area where there might be moldy food
- Keep your pet away from moldy environments – crawl spaces, basements, flooded areas, swamps, river banks, etc.
- Practice good mold prevention techniques like these
The Bottom Line On Mold And Pets
If you suspect your pet has been exposed to toxic mold, don’t hesitate to seek veterinary assistance. You may save your pet’s life, and your own.
Are you a pet parent who has dealt with toxic mold? Please share your story.