Aluminum And Dogs – What Are The Dangers?

Dog laying on floor

Did you know that aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth’s surface?

And although it is naturally occurring, did you know it can be harmful to your dog?

The form of aluminum found in soil is aluminum silicates. It is not immediately harmful to trees, animals and fish. But because of industrialization and acid rain, a neurotoxic form of aluminum is released from the soil, flows through the watersheds leading to the weakening and death of Fish and animals.

Aluminum is also a concern for our domestic dogs (and for us).  There is no known role for aluminum within the body and it builds up with exposure; so it is important to avoid aluminum whenever possible.

Dogs are exposed to aluminum, most commonly, through food, water and pharmaceuticals. Here is a list of potential sources of aluminum:

Urban Areas

Atmospheric aluminum is greater in urban areas.

Food Sources

Aluminum is transferred from soil to food supplies when the food is grown in acidic condition.  Foods naturally high in aluminum include potatoes and spinach. Processed foods and dairy products may be high in aluminum if they contain aluminum-based food additives.  The use of aluminum cookware, utensils, and wrappings can also increase the amount of aluminum in food.  Fortunately, aluminum is poorly absorbed through digestion (0.1% absorbed).

Water Sources

Aluminum salts are widely used in water treatment to reduce organic matter, color and microorganism levels.  Acid rain can cause an increase in the dissolved aluminum content of the surrounding waters.

Kidney Disease

It is important for dogs suffering kidney disease to avoid aluminum.  Poorly functioning kidneys will not have the ability to effectively excrete aluminum through the urine, so it remains in the body.  This can also happen with some gastrointestinal disorders.


Aluminum-containing adjuvants are used in certain vaccines to promote an immune response. Veterinary vaccines that contain aluminum include rabies, leptospirosis and Lyme. There is, however, research that shows aluminum can cause such health concerns as:

In humans, the vaccines that contain aluminum adjuvants are: DTP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine), DTaP (diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis vaccine), some but not all Hib (Haemophilus influenza type b) conjugate vaccines, Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, Hepatitis B vaccines, all combination DTaP, Tdap, Hib, or Hepatitis B vaccines, Hepatitis A vaccines, Human Papillomavirus vaccine, Anthrax vaccine and Rabies vaccine.

How Aluminum Can Harm Your Dog

The lungs, bones, and central nervous system are the primary targets of aluminum. The probability of noticing the effects of aluminum exposure increases with the age of exposure.

When aluminum is injected with vaccines, is bypasses the usual biological barriers and so nearly all of it is exposed. Aluminum targets the brain and endocrine system and in addition to the desired immune reaction to the vaccine, it will trigger a cascade of events leading to inflammation, neurotoxicity and disease.  Vaccines may contain up to 850 ug of aluminum.  In aluminum sensitive species, concentrations of aluminum above 4 ug/g will cause clinical and pathological symptoms.

Aluminum deposits in the pituitary, parathyroid and adrenals has been demonstrated to interfere with parathyroid hormone secretion, insulin like growth factor and T3 levels, and the reproductive system. It is thought that inflammation resulting from aluminum exposure may induce learning and memory deficits, thyroid disease and may affect immune-modulation and produce a pro-inflammatory cascade that responds to targeted aluminum deposition in the hippocampus with resultant neurotoxicity.

The brain is a main target of aluminum exposure and the aluminum causes degeneration of the brain and neural tissue.   At high levels, aluminum has been demonstrated to inhibit prenatal and postnatal neurodevelopment in humans and animals. Aluminum exposure in human populations has been associated with deficits in cognitive function and manifests symptoms of verbal impairment and regression in children.

Vaccine-associated sarcomas have been mostly associated with vaccines containing aluminum adjuvant. Tumors that develop at vaccination sites are morphologically different from those that develop at non-vaccination sites and are most commonly expressed as fibrosarcomas and osteosarcomas.  Because of the high rate of sarcomas developing at vaccine sites, most vets opt to inject dogs below the shoulder to make amputation of the limb easy and cats are often vaccinated in the tail for the same reason.

As the amount of aluminum in the environment increases with industrialization, it is important to avoid additional sources of aluminum.  This is especially true in pregnant dogs as aluminum passes the blood/brain barrier and directly affects fetuses.  Aluminum exposure is one more reason to avoid unnecessary vaccination, especially rabies, lepto and Lyme. For more information on how to avoid over-vaccination, click here.

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