The contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan, has taken the country by storm.
But as many hear about, discuss and even attempt to help the residents – especially the young ones – of the city, there is one vulnerable group we have heard little about: the pets.
The animals living in the state’s seventh largest city likely have been consuming the same lead contaminated water as their owners. And now, the state veterinarian is reporting that two dogs in the area have tested positive for lead toxicity, reports the Detroit Free Press.
Dr. James Averill, state veterinarian and Animal Industry Division Director for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, told the Free Press the mixed-breed dogs are both still alive; one is a pet, the other a stray. Reportedly their results were confirmed last October and last month. The dogs are from Genesee County, which is where Flint is located, but officials refused to provide any other details about the cases or the animals themselves. This included whether the dogs live in the city, their symptoms and their age.
“The confidentiality of the owners is like medical information in humans,” Averill explained.
Officials also wouldn’t disclose if it was Flint water the dogs drank or how much lead was in their system. State records show the two pups are the first to be confirmed with lead toxicity in the past five years, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“(The state) does provide reportable disease/condition case information down to the county level, but cannot provide the specifics of those individual cases,” Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development spokeswoman Jennifer Holton wrote in an e-mail to the newspaper.
State vet Averill said if people notice their pets acting unusual, they should see a veterinarian. If the animal does show signs of having lead toxicity, he added, lab testing will be provided free of charge. However, it may not be that simple.
“The thing with lead toxicity in animals, their clinical signs, they’re so similar to so many other diseases,” Averill said, adding it is OK to bathe pets in Flint’s tap water, but people only should give pets filtered or bottled water.
Dr. Lawrence Ehrman, who works at Veterinary Medical Hospital in Flint Township, told the Free Press he hasn’t noticed any infected patients, but determining this type of poisoning can be challenging.
“What we’re dealing with here is not like an acute poisoning. It’s more a chronic sort of thing,” the veterinarian of 30-plus years said. “It can cause brain and mental issues, blood issues and even some digestive and kidney issues, though they’re much less common.”
Ehrman added signs of weakness or a change in the pet’s attitude could be symptoms of lead toxicity.