When you come home, your dog greets you at the door with a wagging tail and adoring gaze. Even the most reclusive cat has a grudging love for its owner. But anyone who shares their home with pets knows that dogs can be trusted to eat anything and everything in sight, and cats can be counted on to get into all of the dirty, neglected corners of your house. From "hidden" leftovers to scraps from the table, it's one of the most endearing qualities that make dogs and cats the two most popular pets in America. But if your home is older, you may need to see if lead paint removal is needed.
Sometimes this adventurous tendency can lead to severe consequences for animals. Among the most dangerous substances for house pets is lead. The dangers of lead to pets, especially dogs, is well documented. Many older homes with lead paint chipping and dust are potentially dangerous environments. These effects are mostly related to the gastrointestinal and central nervous systems. And though dogs are more often affected by paint chips, cats can suffer from many of the same effects if lead dust gets in their food or fur. Symptoms of lead poisoning include digestive issues or abdominal pain, vomiting, severe anxiety, blindness, unsteady walking, tremors, seizures, and lethargy. Consult your veterinarian if you are concerned about lead exposure. Treatment will depend on the timing and severity of exposure.
How prevalent is lead in the environment?
Lead exposure varies depending on your surroundings. If you live in an area with older homes, even if you've proactively addressed lead paint on your own property, peeling paint on neighborhood homes or fences can contaminate soil or nearby water sources. Your dog can inadvertently consume lead from paint while rooting around in the grass or drinking from a puddle. Lead dust can stick to paws, and it can be ingested by licking.
The variety of animals affected is larger than just cats and dogs. Some of the most vulnerable pets are birds. Since most pet birds weigh very little, a small flake of lead paint can have a drastic effect on avian health. Birds can even harm themselves by chipping away newer coats to get at toxic paint underneath. But no matter what kind of pet you own, a heart wrenching trip to the vet is best avoided by taking a proactive approach to lead treatment.
If you are a dog owner, you know that dogs are members of our families. They are also often undiscerning consumers of all things edible and inedible, and their natural curiosity can sometimes get them into trouble. We already know how to keep our dogs safe from chocolate, but do we know how to protect our dogs from lead?
How can we protect our dogs?
Be aware of likely sources of lead paint, and keep your dog away from it, staying especially mindful of properties and structures undergoing renovation. Active construction can significantly increase lead contamination if vigilant efforts are not made to contain dust and debris. Wash your dog's paws after walking in areas where lead contamination is likely. Elevated lead levels can also exist around industrial structures, such as water and high transmission towers. For more information on how lead impacts our environment, you can read the EPA article “Protect Your Family from Exposures to Lead”, click here.
If lead paint is an issue in your home, keep your dog away from renovation projects, and make sure water and food dishes are removed from places where paint could contaminate them, such as peeling windowsills. Consider treating existing lead paint areas with products for removing lead paint in a paint on leave-on application intended for this purpose.
Even if lead paint is not an issue in your neighborhood, everyday household items sometimes contain lead and should be kept away from dogs. Such items include:
- lead sinkers for fishing
- lead ammunition, especially in the form of pellets
- some imported toys
For more information about common household sources of lead, as well as what to do if you suspect lead poisoning in your pet, click here to read the article, “Lead Poisoning in Dogs and Cats” from Pet Health Network.
With awareness, we can identify potential lead hazards to our dogs, and with a little extra vigilance, we can keep our four-legged family members safe from lead!
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