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Toxic Mold May Pose Health
Threat To Pets
Sept. 7, 2007.
The deaths of two
cats from what is believed to be the first documented case of toxic
black mold poisoning in pets point to a new health concern for pet
owners, according to a veterinarian who co-authors a report in the
Sept. 1, 2007, issue of the
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Douglas Mader, a veterinary specialist in Marathon, Fla., was performing
routine dental procedures on two cats when he noticed frothy blood
within endotracheal tubes used to supply anesthesia to the animals. The
veterinarian immediately stopped the procedures, but both animals died -
one the following day, the other about two weeks later.
"The circumstances of these cases are just not heard of," Mader said.
"Anesthesia doesn't cause pulmonary hemorrhage [bleeding from the
lungs.]" These were healthy, indoor cats. Examinations conducted prior
to the dental cleanings showed no indications of illness. Blood
collected prior to the cats' death was tested and demonstrated the
presence of the toxin produced by Stachybotrys chartarum, also known as
"toxic black mold." Exposure to the mold can cause respiratory-related
health problems, pulmonary hemorrhage and death in people.
It had not previously been associated with disease in pets, Mader said.
The toxin from the black mold causes a weakening of the capillaries in
the lungs. When the capillaries are stressed, they burst and bleed. The
cats died from complications arising from the pulmonary hemorrhage.
The cats lived in a home that sustained water damage during a hurricane
in October 2005, seven months prior to the development of pulmonary
hemorrhage. After Mader discovered the presence of the toxins, he urged
the cats' owners to check their home for mold. "Sure enough, they had
very severe mold contamination in their walls," Mader said. Mader hopes
the report will raise awareness that illnesses associated with mold can
also affect pets, particularly those living in flood-prone areas. He
also suggests pet owners share more information with their veterinarian.
"I think the most important thing is for clients to be aware of things
in their environment that could potentially impact the health of
animals," Mader said. "They need to let their veterinarian know."
The AVMA and its more than 75,000 member veterinarians are engaged in a
wide variety of activities dedicated to advancing the science and art of
animal, human and public health.
Pet Health & Mold
Q. In less than a year we have had 2
dogs contract Blastomycoses mold fungus. One has died and the other is
very sick. They both slept in our basement. I am worried that this mold
may be in our basement and since we are "finishing it out" I am concerned
for my family's health. I live in Middle Tennessee and there is a
landfill not even a half of a mile away ( I can see it clearly from my
deck). What should I be looking for in my basement? Could the landfill
pose a threat. What advice can you give me? [March 5, 2005]
Read the information about how indoor Blastomycoses mold fungus endangers
cats, dogs, and humans in the Blastomycoses section below on this page. Sorry
about the death of your dog and the illness of your second dog. Small
mammal pets are often the first to experience the symptoms and health
ravages of living in a mold-infested home. Like the famous canaries in the
mines to warn miners of a lack of oxygen in the mines, so are dogs and
cats bearers of mold infestation warnings to their masters. If there is a
mold problem in your basement, the mold problem is likely to be all-around
your home, including inside the heating/cooling equipment and ducts. You
would be wise to mold test your entire house, including the outward air
flow from each heating/cooling duct register, for elevated levels of
airborne mold spores with the use do it yourself mold test kits available
from a large hardware, home improvement, or safety store. Your living close to the local landfill is very
hazardous to your family’s health. Mold obviously grows in huge amounts in
a landfill, and the mold growth continually pumps millions of airborne
mold spores into the environment to travel in air currents to mold
contaminate any homes or buildings which the air movements can carry the
mold spores to. You would be wise to operate several electronic air
cleaners to remove airborne continually mold spores from your home's
breathing air. Learn the 25 steps for safe and effective
Q. My dog has been sick and after a long period of time the
vets finally figured out she had a fungi-they took a urine sample and
found out she had Alternaria. She went on a medication for 30 days and
we tested again-now the vet says that the REAL fungi they found is
called: Aspergillus Fumigatus. He said that mold could kill a room
full of chickens in a day or two-coughing, etc. We learned there is a
fungi in the house-how does this fungi grow/live and what should we do
about it? We lost 2 other young dogs to it and we have one now that is
10 months and are worried about him and us. [March 18, 2004]
A. Pets, infants,
senior citizens, and persons with immune deficiencies are the first to
suffer from living in mold infestation. Both Alternaria and
Aspergillus cause serious respiratory and other health problems, with
Aspergillus having the extra distinction of being the only mold known
to be cancer causing. If your pets are being killed or harmed
health-wise by mold infestation, then your health is obviously also at risk. You need to
move your family and your pets as soon as possible to a mold-safe
place to live until you have had your home completely mold inspected,
mold tested, and mold remediated. Your next step is to find and fix
the high humidity problem [e.g. 60% or higher indoor humidity part or all of
the year], roof leak, siding leak, basement/foundation leak, or plumbing
leaks that enables mold to grow so well in your home. Your next step should
be to mold test the air of each room, attic, basement, crawl space, and the
outward air flow from each heating/cooling duct register for the possible
presence of elevated levels of airborne mold spores, in comparison to an
outdoor mold control test which you should also do. You can use mold test
from a large hardware, home improvement, or safety store.
Learn the steps required for effective
mold inspection and
mold testing. Learn the steps
required for safe and effective
Blastomycoses: A Dangerous Pet and Human Fungus Among Us
Pet Column for the week of November 1, 2004
by Kim Marie Labak
University of Illinois
College of Veterinary Medicine
When your dog is coughing and has a fever, it could have pneumonia.
Unbeknownst to many, pneumonia is not caused only by bacteria and
virusesit can also be caused by fungi from the environment.
Blastomyces dermatitidis, or "Blasto," is a disease-causing fungus
that can cause skin and respiratory infections in dogs, humans, and
occasionally cats. In some individuals it can spread to infect other
Blasto is natural part of environment. According to Dr. Thomas Graves,
veterinary internist at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching
Hospital in Urbana, it is very common in acidic soils of the Midwest and
central south. The fungus exists as a mold in the environment and
becomes a yeast at body temperature.
According to Dr. Karen Campbell, a veterinary internist and veterinary
dermatologist at the teaching hospital, animals can get infected only by
direct contact with mold spores: spores can be inhaled or enter through
broken skin when a person or animal rolls in contaminated soil. An
infected animal cannot spread the disease, since the yeast form is not
Signs of blasto infection depend on the body system infected. The three
forms of blastomycosiscutaneous, respiratory, and disseminatedoften
occur at the same time.
Cutaneous infection appears as skin lesions, resulting from spores
entering the skin directly through a sore or cut or as part of a
disseminated infection that originated in the lungs. The lesions are
very itchy and wet. Although these infections can stay contained,
according to Dr. Campbell, they can seriously damage nearby muscle and
bone tissue if untreated.
The most life-threatening (and most common) form of blasto is pneumonia,
since respiratory infection, if left untreated, can lead to severe
inflammation of the lungs and eventual death. As with other respiratory
diseases, infected dogs often cough, lose their appetite, become
lethargic, and have difficulty breathing.
In some individuals, especially those with weakened immunity, the
respiratory infection can disseminate to the kidneys, eyes, or skin, and
occasionally the spinal cord and brain.
Blastomycosis is very treatable with antifungal drugs, and improvement
is usually seen within a few days, but the treatment can take a long
time (up to six months) and gets expensive. Treatment is most effective
when the disease is caught early, however, so proper treatment requires
Dr. Graves explains that when an animal is misdiagnosed with a bacterial
infection and receives antibiotics, the fungal infection is allowed to
progress, and by the time the animal is properly diagnosed with blasto,
it may be too late, especially in pneumonia cases.
He explains that the best way to diagnose blasto is to look for
blastomyces organisms in the body. Discharge from a skin wound can be
swabbed, the trachea or lungs can be rinsed with saline, or fluid from
organs such as lymph nodes can be extracted with needle; these fluids
can be then examined under a microscope to identify blasto yeast cells.
Blasto is more common in larger dogs, males, young dogs, and sporting
and hunting breeds. Dr. Campbell and Dr. Graves suspect that these
correlations may be due to certain behaviors, since these dogs may spend
more time outdoors, sniffing soil. Disease signs may not show until 5 to
12 weeks after exposure to blasto.
While blasto infection is virtually impossible to prevent since the
fungus is a natural part of the environment--"You can't ask people to
keep their dogs indoors all the time," says Dr. Graves--blastomycosis
can be overcome if diagnosed and treated early.
For more information about blastomycosis, consult your veterinarian.