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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.

Posted on

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]
        A. 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 mold remediation.

        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]
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 kits
available 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 mold remediation.

Blastomycoses: A Dangerous Pet and Human Fungus Among Us

Pet Column for the week of November 1, 2004

by Kim Marie Labak
Information Specialist
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 organ systems.

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 contagious.

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 proper diagnosis.

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.

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