Do you have mold in your home?
It’s an important question you need to answer because, left unchecked, mold exposure can cause serious health problems for your dog (and you too).
Your dog is continuously exposed to mold spores in the air. Like humans, some dogs are more susceptible to mold spores than others. By understanding how to spot and address mold exposure, you can protect your dog from the harmful effects of mold.
Any area of your home that gets damp and retains moisture for any reason at all can not only damage the structure and create costly repairs, but can impact the health of the people and pets who live there.
Every home has moisture issues, whether from condensation, high humidity or water leaks. And every home has the elements that are required for mold growth.
The health risks of human exposure to mold are well documented. According to the CDC (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), symptoms of mold exposure can include nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. More severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. People with chronic lung illnesses may develop mold infections in their lungs.
And it’s not just people who can get sick from mold. Your dog can be affected too.
Dogs And Mold Exposure
Pets who are exposed to mold can experience adverse health effects, including:
- lung and respiratory issues.
- damage to the gastrointestinal tract
- serious digestive problems
- allergic reactions
- neurological issues, including tremors and seizures
While the immediate impact of mold is often treatable in the short term, longer term exposure can be more serious and more difficult to manage. When left untreated, mold exposure can lead to organ damage, creating more severe complications.
The dangers of mold exposure for pets came to light in 2007, when a veterinarian found pulmonary hemorrhages in two cats during pre-op procedures. Both cats died after complications. According to the report, the home was contaminated with mold, due to flood damage.
So what should you be looking out for?
Symptoms Of Mold Exposure In Dogs
Signs of mold inhalation in your dog include:
- Respiratory distress (rapid breathing or breathing that takes more effort than usual)
- Nasal discharge
- Coughing, wheezing, sneezing
- Bleeding from the mouth and/or nose
Some dogs will have an allergic reaction with excessive scratching, chewing or licking that can lead to fur loss and the development of painful sores.
If your dog eats mold, it can cause reduced appetite, vomiting and changes in stool.
Signs and symptoms of mold exposure can mimic other health conditions. If your dog is showing any combination of the above symptoms, take him or her to a holistic veterinarian for an evaluation. You can also use holistic formulations to help to relieve respiratory discomfort and skin irritation.
As for long-term consequences of mold exposure, dogs can experience aspergillosis, an opportunistic fungal infection. This condition either occurs in the dog’s nasal passages (nasal aspergillosis) or throughout the entire body (disseminated aspergillosis), weakening the dog’s immune system.
Symptoms of nasal aspergillosis include
- nasal pain
- bleeding from the nose
- nasal swelling
- reduction in appetite
- nasal discharge
Animals with disseminated aspergillosis may experience spinal pain, bone inflammation, fever, vomiting, and weight loss. These symptoms generally develop more gradually.
<Related: Want to help boost your dog’s immunity to keep him healthy? Here are 5 natural boosters>
Mold’s Favorite Things
Because of its location underground, most people recognize that the basement is a prime spot for water leaks and mold. A recent survey found that 55% of homeowners and renters have lived in a home with a wet basement. But water has ways of getting in that are not immediately obvious and those are the places where mold can thrive. Check these less obvious places for mold in your home:
1. Cluttered Places
When airflow is blocked by clutter, your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can’t properly circulate the air.
Condensation can build up on your curtains and vents, creating a moist environment where mold can grow.
2. Steamy Spaces
Your kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room and other areas that get steamy and humid are problem areas that need proper ventilation fans to remove the damp air.
3. Dripping Water
Leaky pipes and drips from condensation that forms on pipes and windows create conditions for mold to grow.
4. Refrigerator Drip Pan
The drip pan is a place where standing water goes unnoticed and undisturbed — the perfect environment for mold growth.
5. Air Conditioning Ducts
Mold can grow in organic matter, standing water or condensation in your air conditioning ducts. Preventative maintenance can keep mold from growing in your air conditioning system.
Prevention is the Best Cure
To keep your dog and your family safe from mold, it’s important to remove existing mold and take steps to prevent mold growth.
- Check the underside of hidden areas such as ceiling tiles, drywall, carpets, and wallpaper for mold, since these places can attract and retain moisture. You may be able to remove small areas of mold from solid surfaces with vinegar or baking soda. Be sure to wear gloves and goggles and avoid breathing in mold or mold spores.
- Keep your home’s interior as dry as possible. Repair your leaky basement, roof, pipes, windows, and other areas where water is getting in or accumulates from drips or condensation.
- Ensure that your bathroom and kitchen fans and all ventilation systems are working as they should.
- If water does get in, clean and thoroughly dry the area as soon as possible.
- If you find large areas of mold, you may want to hire professional help to take care of the clean up.
By taking the above steps you can keep your home a healthy place for you and your furry friend.
The Truth About Black Mold
Maybe you’ve heard that black mold is the most dangerous type of mold, but this isn’t really accurate. In reality, there are over 10,000 species of mold, many of which look quite similar. These species of mold come in a variety of colors and shapes, so you usually can’t identify it just by looking at it.
Remember that any color of mold can be dangerous.
When Should You Call A Pro?
It’s important to remember that mold infestation often involves more than what meets the eye. If you suspect you have hidden mold, or if the moldy area is too large to clean up with vinegar or baking soda, your safest course of action is to call a professional.
A general contractor or handyman won’t necessarily have the expertise to manage the job. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends you “make sure the contractor has experience cleaning up mold.” Be sure that the professionals you hire have experience, can provide references (do check the references!) and are bonded and insured.
What Will The Pros Do?
When you hire a professional to assess the situation and remove mold from your home, expect the process to look something like this:
- First, the company should inspect your home and advise you of the extent of your mold problem. Ask them to provide you with a written schedule (including how much time areas of your home will be unavailable to you), instructions on how to prepare and what to expect. For your own safety, your family will not have access to rooms or areas where the mold cleaning team is working.
- To prevent the mold spores from dispersing into the air, the mold removal specialist will seal off the work area with plastic sheeting. You may have to turn off your heating or air conditioning systems.
- The will remove and discard mold-damaged building materials (drywall, insulation, baseboards, carpeting etc.). Restoration is not typically included as part of the mold clean up.
- In addition to fans and high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuums to remove mold spores, most services use antimicrobial chemicals to clean the mold and the stains. Some services use “green” cleaning solutions but even “green” cleaning product can contain dangerous ingredients. A recent study found that 100 percent of goods labeled “natural,” “organic,” “non-toxic,” or certified as green gave off at least one potentially toxic chemical.
The mold removal service should show you where and how the water is getting in. Remember that moisture is what allows the mold to grow so you will need to take steps to keep the water out in future. Your mold removal company may offer this service or should be able to recommend a provider.
If you suspect your dog is ill due to mold exposure, mention the possibility to your holistic vet. She may not consider the possibility that your dog’s symptoms are due to mold. In addition to treating your dog’s symptoms, be sure to check your home for hidden mold and call a professional if you’re unable to manage the clean up on your own.