The Dangers Of Mold Exposure In Dogs
Do you have mold in your home?
It’s an important question you need to answer because, left unchecked, mold exposure in dogs can cause serious health problems (and it’s true for 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.
What Is Mold?
Mold is a fungus that grows anywhere there’s moisture. Outdoors, mold typically grows in damp shady areas. Indoors, mold can grow anywhere in your home that gets damp and retains moisture. Mold spreads by releasing spores into the air … and the spores can grow on just about any surface.
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 … moisture, oxygen and organic material. Mold can damage your home structure and create costly repairs … but worse, mold can damage the health of the people and pets who live there.
The health risks of human exposure to mold are well documented. According to the CDC, 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 … it can harm your dog too. So here’s a closer look at mold exposure in dogs …
Is Mold Bad For Dogs?
Yes, mold is bad for dogs (as well as people). Mold exposure in dogs can cause adverse health effects like …
- 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 serious complications.
The dangers of mold exposure in pets came to light in 2007, when a veterinarian found pulmonary hemorrhages in two cats during pre-op procedures (1). Both cats died after complications. According to the report, the home was contaminated with mold from flood damage.
The Truth About Black Mold
Do dogs get sick from black mold? You may have 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.
Any color mold exposure in dogs can be dangerous. So what should you be looking out for?
Dog Mold Exposure Symptoms
Symptoms of mold exposure in dogs include:
- Respiratory distress (rapid or labored breathing)
- 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, it’s a good idea to take her to your vet.
Long-Term Mold Exposure In Dogs
Over time, mold can cause other problems. One of the long-term consequences of mold exposure in dogs can be aspergillosis, an opportunistic fungal infection. Aspergillosis usually occurs in the nasal passages (nasal aspergillosis).
Symptoms of nasal aspergillosis include
- Nasal pain, swelling, discharge
- Nose bleeds
- Reduced appetite
Note: There’s a systemic type of aspergillosis called disseminated aspergillosis (2). Animals with disseminated aspergillosis may experience spinal pain, bone inflammation, fever, vomiting, and weight loss. These symptoms generally develop more gradually after mold exposure. However, disseminated aspergillosis isn’t common … according to the Merck Veterinary Manual, it’s seen most often in middle-age, female German Shepherds. Dogs with compromised immune systems are also at higher risk.
Where To Find Mold
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:
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.
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.
Leaky pipes and drips from condensation that forms on pipes and windows create conditions for mold to grow.
Refrigerator Drip Pan
The drip pan is a place where standing water goes unnoticed and undisturbed — the perfect environment for mold growth.
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.
How To Prevent Mold In Your Home
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.
When Should You Call A Pro?
It’s important to remember that mold infestation often involves more than 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 (be sure to 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.
- They’ll 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 2015 Australian study found that 100 percent of goods labeled “natural,” “organic,” “non-toxic,” or certified as green gave off at least one potentially toxic chemical (3).
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, talk to your vet. She may not consider the possibility that your dog’s symptoms stem from 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.
- Mader DR, Yike I, Distler AM, Dearborn DG. Acute pulmonary hemorrhage during isoflurane anesthesia in two cats exposed to toxic black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2007 Sep 1;231(5):731-5.
- Lim YY, Mansfield C et al. A retrospective multi-center study of treatment, outcome, and prognostic factors in 34 dogs with disseminated aspergillosis in Australia. J Vet Intern Med. 2022 Jan 27.
- Anne Steinemann. Volatile Emissions from Common Consumer Products. Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, March 2015.