Is Mold Harmful to Pets?
The answer is yes! Just like with humans, mold is very harmful to your pets. Mold is a biotoxin that breaks down decaying or damp organic matter; it grows into mold colonies by releasing microscopic biological-aerosols called mold spores. These reproductive cells glide through the air, & eventually settle on various surfaces. If they land on a damp or wet surface, they will quickly grow into a mold colony within 24-48 hours. Some mold species naturally produce toxic compounds called mycotoxins.
Mycotoxins are poisonous biological-aerosols that attach to mold spores & travel through the air. They’re very inflammatory to the immune system & may cause severe health issues in humans & animals. You can be exposed to these harmful mycotoxins through ingesting, absorbing them through the skin, or breathing them in, & even a small amount of mycotoxins inhaled, eaten, or absorbed through the skin can be damaging & even lethal for humans & animals.
Keep reading to understand how to protect your pet from harmful black mold.
A Brief History of Mold In Animals
Mold was originally discovered to be dangerous in humans in the early 1900’s, when Bernardino Ramazzini, the Father of Occupational Medicine, discovered that local farmers were suffering severe health problems due to inhaling mold when handling crops.
In the 1930’s, an unknown disease severely affected horses in the Ukraine. They were attacked with symptoms characterized by lip edema, stomatitis, oral necrosis, rhinitis, & conjunctivitis, eventually leading to hemorrhage, neurologic compromise (gait disturbance & blindness) & finally death. Pathologic examination of tissue from affected animals revealed diffuse hemorrhage & necrosis, with involvement of the entire alimentary tract. Pulmonary changes consisted of lung congestion & edema.
Turns out, horses weren’t the only animals affected & by 1938, it was discovered that this unexplainable animal disease was associated with Stachybotrys (black mold) species found in straw fed to horses, causing the characteristic equine illness. By 1940’s, the disease had been named “Stachybotryotoxicosis” & similar outbreaks had affected livestock-not just horses- all over the USSR, Europe, & the USA.
The toxic organism is produced by black mold & found in hay, straw, grain, hemp, plant debris, dead roots, wood pulp, cotton, fabrics, paper, book bindery glue, plant fiber-processing plants, & many other organic matter.
Studies found that black mold releases a biochemical toxin called Trichothecene Mycotoxin that damages cells & any other body tissue it comes in contact with; it especially focuses on the liver.
Mold Can Be Fatal To Your Pet
As mentioned before, black mold releases poisonous biological-aerosols called mycotoxins that attach to mold spores & travel through the air. Mycotoxins are very inflammatory, & when circulated in the bloodstream, they can cause cell death, liver damage, & according to the World Health Organization, there’s evidence that mycotoxins can cause liver cancer in humans.
Similar to humans, some pets can be affected differently by toxic mold than others. Smaller animals tend to be at higher risk for toxic mold poisoning because they spend more time in areas impacted by mold growth. They’re also able to fit in smaller areas where mold may be hiding. The closer your pet can get to the source of the mold growth, the higher the mold spore count is; this allows them to inhale higher levels of mold spores at a much higher rate than humans.
In 2007, two Himalayan cats unexpectedly died from pulmonary hemorrhages linked to toxic black mold exposure. This event raised awareness of the health dangers mold has on pets, & pet owners have since been encouraged to discuss potential hazards with their vet.
Pets are more susceptible to mold illness because their respiratory systems are more sensitive, & black mold affects pets quicker than humans after they come in contact.
3 Ways Mold Poisoning Can Occur In Pets
1. Ingestion (eating mold)
- Grooming themselves – mold spores can collect on fur & pets ingest them when grooming
- stinky, smelly, chew toys that haven’t been properly cleaned
- their favorite bed/towel/blanket that isn’t cleaned regularly
- Moldy refrigerator food
- Hot tubs
- Leaky pipes/drips from condensation
- Pool toys/places where pool toys are stored
- pet food that’s not stored in airtight containers
- Consider grain-free dry dog food-less likely to develop mold or contain mycotoxins
- Always check food before feeding
- Keep pet food in dry places (like airtight plastic containers)
Symptoms of mold poisoning from ingestion:
- Loss of appetite
- Stool changed sometimes with blood
- seizures – if a significant amount is ingested
2. Inhalation (breathing in mold spores)
- Mold spores are all around indoors & out so if you have visible mold growth in your home, or if you smell mold, this poses a health risk for your pet
- Pool houses are a breeding ground for mold colonies
- Snooping under sinks & cabinets
- Difficulty breathing
- Nasal discharge
- Nose &/or mouth bleeding
3. Mold Allergy:
- living in a moldy house/environment
- They may develop an irritating skin rash that doesn’t want to go away
- Unlike seasonal allergies, mold allergies will affect your pet year round
- Symptoms may come & go without any pattern
- Excessive scratching, licking, biting, or chewing
- inflamed / irritated skin
- Skin dryness & scaliness
- Fur loss
- Unnatural skin color
- cats will show high anxiety if suffering from allergies
- birds will pluck out feathers/damage feathers to try & ease skin irritation
Long term exposure symptoms:
- Intestinal parasites
- Kidney problems
- Liver problems-difficulty clotting blood, and experiences nosebleeds, blood in bodily waste or fatal hemorrhages from the lungs.
What To Do If Your Pet Shows Signs Of Mold Poisoning?
The first thing you should always do is take your pet to a licensed vet right away. Your vet can run tests & review symptoms to know which quick plan of action is best.
The best thing you can do for your pet is to eliminate exposure. If your pet is suffering from mold poisoning, your next step should be having your home tested for mold by a licensed mold inspector. (link to our inspection blog)
To help your pet detox from mold, be sure to remove them from the moldy environment until it has been completely remediated, & avoid taking any items that may have been exposed like beds, toys, blankets, etc…Before allowing your pet to be around those items, be sure to remove the mold & sanitize them with a pet-friendly, professional-grade biocide or mold laundry detergent first.
Here are some other things you can do to help eliminate mold growth in your home:
- Revolve any moisture problems &/or water leaks asap
- If you see mold growth be sure to remove it immediately
- Check humidity levels-no more than 50-60% EPA recommends: between 30% & 50%
- Check for musty damp smells
- Wash food containers & water bowls every day with vinegar & water
- Wash pet toys at least 1/week
- Wash pet’s betting 1/week
- Clean cages, litter boxes, & accessories regularly
Illness associated with mold affects pets as well as humans, especially those who suffer from autoimmune conditions, &/or live in flood-prone areas. It is vital for the safety of your pet that you are aware of any mold concerns in your home.
Mold Remediation • Mold Removal • Black Mold • Toxic Mold • Mold Testing • Mold Inspection