Can Mold Affect My Pets?
Whether it’s condensation, high indoor humidity levels, leaking pipes, or a recent flooding disaster, most homes have some moisture issues. And every home contains plenty of organic materials, such as wood, paper, fabric, leather, grout, drywall, insulation materials, etc. So, since mold spores exist everywhere in the environment, all the requirements for mold growth are met and the harmful microorganisms start developing. The mold spreads quickly and affects large areas of the building, causing costly structural damage and serious health hazards to everyone in the home – people and pets alike.
The effects of mold on humans are well known (allergic symptoms like sneezing, nasal congestion, skin and eye irritation, etc., aggravated respiratory diseases, inflammation of the lungs), but the danger it poses to pets has not been recognized until recently. In fact, household mold affects pets even more virulently than humans – dogs, cats, and other small animals are more susceptible to mold-related illness than people due to their less advanced immune systems. When continually exposed to the harmful microorganisms, pets may experience severe health problems and even die unless they receive proper (and timely) medical care.
How Does Mold Affect Pets?
Mold spores can enter your pet’s body through inhalation (if the animal inhales floating spores released by mold colonies) or ingestion (when the pet eats moldy food):
- When inhaled, mold causes fever, lethargy, and different respiratory issues. The typical symptoms include difficult or rapid breathing, coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, lethargy, and bleeding from the nose and/or mouth;
- When eaten, mold leads to digestive problems and damage to the gastrointestinal tract. The most common symptoms include loss of appetite, vomiting, and stool changes.
What’s more, close contact with mold for a prolonged period of time may result in various allergic reactions and neurological issues, such as tremors and seizures.
Some animals are more susceptible to mold spores and may experience more adverse health effects than others. Besides, some types of mold are much more dangerous than others and pose greater health risks.
Toxic mold species (such as the infamous black mold) are the most virulent ones – they produce mycotoxins that can cause cell death and damage the liver. Pets exposed to the spores may suffer from pulmonary hemorrhage, a deadly condition characterized by heavy bleeding in the animal’s lungs.
Unless mold sickness is treated in a timely and effective manner, it may lead to organ damage (or even organ failure) and seriously affect your pet’s nervous system. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that you watch out for mold exposure symptoms in your animal friend and get veterinary help as soon as possible if you notice any signs of mold poisoning.
Mold Exposure Symptoms in Pets
Black mold symptoms in dogs, cats, and other pets can range from excessive scratching and sneezing to joint pain and blood clotting problems:
- Runny nose
- Runny eyes
- Excessive scratching
- Excessive licking
- Skin rashes and sores
- Fur loss
- Loss of appetite
- Bleeding from the nose or/and mouth
- Changes in behavior
Keep in mind that many of the signs and symptoms of mold exposure can resemble other health conditions. So, if your pet exhibits any of the above symptoms or if you have any reason to suspect that your animal friend may be suffering from mold sickness (in case your home was recently flooded, for example), take them to the veterinarian immediately.
Your vet may prescribe detoxifying drugs, steroids, or other medications, depending on the animal’s condition. The treatment may involve a blood transfusion (if the pet bleeds unduly) and antibiotics to fight secondary infections. Blood tests will be made several times to monitor liver function and if your pet is very ill, they may need to stay at the vet’s office for round-the-clock care.
Most pets that receive quick medical help after toxic mold exposure make a full recovery. Yet, you should not bring your animal friend back home until you determine the cause of the mold problem and remove the fungi from your property – continued exposure to mold can aggravate your pet’s condition and result in permanent organ damage or even death.
To protect your pet (as well as yourself and your family), you need to ensure that the living environment in your home is healthy and free of mold. Professional mold removal and cleanup is your best bet as the experienced mold remediation specialists will discover and remove all the mold in your home (including hidden and dormant mold spores), clean and disinfect the affected areas, repair any sustained damage, remove mold odor, and prevent mold growth in near future. Your pet will be safe, but you need to be careful to avoid mold exposure henceforward.
How to Keep Your Pets Safe from Mold
- Keep pet food in sealed containers and store them in a cold, dry area;
- Wash food and water bowls every day;
- Wash pet toys once a week;
- Wash your pet’s bedding in hot water frequently (immediately, if it gets damp);
- Clean cages, litter boxes, and accessories on a regular basis;
- Don’t give your pet access to the trash or any area where there might be moldy food;
- Keep your pet away from moldy environments – crawl spaces, basements, flooded areas, swamps, river banks, etc.;
- Keep the indoor humidity levels low – open the windows to allow plenty of sunlight inside and ensure good air circulation in your home, run dehumidifiers, etc.;
- Inspect your home for mold at regular intervals (immediately, if your home sustains any kind of water damage or if you have any reason to suspect mold growth) – check for signs of mold growth on drywall and baseboards, on ceilings and around windows, etc.
- Get rid of household mold as soon as possible.
If the affected area is small and easy to clean, you may be able to remove the mold with baking soda, vinegar, or a specialized mold cleaner. If mold covers an area greater than 10 square feet, however, or if the spores have spread into the heating and air conditioning ducts or contaminated materials that are difficult to clean or places that are difficult to reach, or if you have health problems that may be made worse by contact with mold, you are strongly advised to hire professional help.
The experienced mold remediation experts will inspect your home, assess the level of mold damage, seal off the affected area, remove and discard damaged household materials, remove mold spores and mold odor, clean and disinfected the premises, and perform any necessary repairs and mitigation procedures. Your home will be mold-free and safe for you, your family, and your pets. Just make sure you take all the necessary precautions to keep your animal friends from contact with mold in the future.