(Beyond Pesticides, January 2, 2009) Household pets and other animals are commonly exposed to toxic pesticides in lawns and parks, from homeowner use of bug sprays, in contaminated air or water, or from flea and tick control products, potentially poisoning the animal and causing acute and chronic health effects. A new website has been designed for veterinarians to help track these pesticide poisoning incidents.
The incident reporting website is part of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) webpages. It was developed by the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) with input from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Pesticide Program, AVMA’s Clinical Practitioners Advisory Committee and Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents “to capture the optimal amount of relevant information using a form that is quick for busy practitioners to fill out.” The data is to be evaluated by EPA.
According to EPA, “Most of the reports of more severe pesticide-related incidents EPA receives are neurological or dermatologic in nature. The reports from veterinarians will help improve the quality of all animal incident data.”
Numerous studies have documented the risk of pesticides to pets over the years. A 1991 National Cancer Institute study, finds that dogs whose owners’ lawns were treated with 2,4-D, four or more times per year, are twice as likely to contract canine malignant lymphoma than dogs whose owners do not use the herbicide. Exposure to herbicide-treated lawns and gardens increases the risk of bladder cancer by four to seven times in Scottish Terriers, according to a study by Purdue University veterinary researchers published in the April 15, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Research published in the December 1988 issue of Preventive Veterinary Medicine links hyperthyroidism in cats to flea powders and sprays, lawn pesticides and canned cat food. Allethrin, a common ingredient in home mosquito products (coils, mats, oils and sprays) and other bug sprays, has been linked to liver problems in dogs, according to a 1989 study by the World Health Organization. The 1989 edition W.C. Campbell Toxicology textbook reports that chronic exposure to abamectin, an insecticide often used by homeowners on fire ants can affect the nervous system of dogs and cause symptoms such as pupil dilation, lethargy, and tremors. According to 2004 statistics compiled by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Animal Poison Control Center, 22% of approximately 880 cases of pet birds being exposed to common household items involved pesticides (including rat bait and insecticides).
“I can think of numerous cases over the years of abnormal neurologic signs in dogs after exposure to ”˜benign’ herbicides and a pretty severe contact dermatitis in a cat after exposure to a pesticide,” states an ER vet in California. “I will try to encourage my colleagues to report any questionable adverse event in the future.”
If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, contact the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. Encourage your veterinarian to document the pesticide poisoning through the new AVMA website. To be sure the incident does not go undocumented, complete Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Incident Report.
For more information on how your pet may be poisoned, what pesticides do to pets, and alterative pest management strategies for your home and pet pest problems, see Beyond Pesticides factsheet Pesticides and Pets: What you should know to keep your pets safe.