Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS or “forever” chemicals, constitute a multibillion-dollar family of some 14,000 different chemicals that are widely used to make water-, grease- and stain-repellent coatings. They are also used in a vast array of consumer goods, clothing, carpets, upholstery, cookware and in industrial applications. 3M, a major manufacturer of these chemicals, has recently agreed to pay up to $12.5 billion to settle claims over PFAS polluting municipal drinking water systems around the country and to clean them up.
(For an extensive review of these chemicals, see Heather D. Brake et al, Current per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) research points to a growing threat for animals. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, July 2023, vol. 261, pp. 952-958 (doi.org/10.2460/javma.22.12.0582).)
Liver toxicity, reduced postnatal survival, depressed immune function and altered thyroid function in both humans and animals are documented. These chemicals are omnipresent in the environment in foods, food packaging, cosmetics, drinking water and in-home dust and carpeting, and may contribute to hypothyroidism and obesity in cats living in such contaminated environments.
It has been widely known for decades that, like the canaries down in the mines that warned of poisonous carbon monoxide gas, canaries and other caged birds have died in homes where Teflon-coated nonstick cookware was overheated. In my opinion, we ignored these early warnings of the potential health risks of PFAS.
It is estimated that at least 45% of drinking water in the U.S. is contaminated with these “forever” chemicals, along with some heavy metals, all of which are a health hazard to us and our companion animals.
I have used a ZeroWater filter for several years in our home, and the manufacturers of this low-cost filter system have posted this announcement: “Our 5-Stage water filters remove 99.6% of total dissolved solids (TDS). ZeroWater is the only pour-through filter NSF-certified to reduce lead, chromium and the forever chemicals PFOA and PFOS, giving you peace of mind in addition to delicious water.”
I have no vested interest in this company. The nonprofit organization the Environmental Working Group has tested various water pitcher filters and recommends four that remove close to 100% of toxic contaminants: Travel Berkey Water Filter, Clearly Filtered, ZeroWater and Epic Water Filter.
PERSISTENT CHEMICALS FOUND IN BLOOD OF DOGS, HORSES
Researchers found at least one of 20 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in the blood of every horse and dog tested and identified biomarkers of liver and kidney dysfunction, according to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology. The animals lived in an area of North Carolina where PFAS have contaminated well water and a river, and the findings suggest dogs and horses could be sentinels of human exposure to so-called forever chemicals. Full story: The Hill (6/21)
DEAR DR.FOX: I prepare my dog's food using mostly chicken, lean beef and pork with seasonal vegetables. I add a supplement of vitamins/minerals that I purchase from The Farmer's Dog. My dog suffered a severe vitamin B12 deficiency. How is this possible? We brought him back from the brink with shots of B12 vitamins. I also switched to commercial dog food, which I must hand-feed, as he detests the stuff. I am now giving him a multivitamin daily. -- L.M., Washington D.C.
DEAR L.M.: I commend your veterinarian for making this diagnosis of a not commonly seen condition. The symptoms of B12 deficiency are not always easy to spot. The most common is weight loss, which can easily be mistaken for other health disorders. Some of the other symptoms include reduced appetite, dull hair coat, diarrhea, lethargy, mental dullness and neurological problems.
As most causes of vitamin B12 deficiency are a result of intestinal disease-causing malabsorption, simply giving a vitamin B12 tablet will not be beneficial. Most pets respond best to vitamin B12 administered via subcutaneous injection, and the frequency would be approximately once monthly but can vary.
If your dog has symptoms of intestinal B12 malabsorption, it is important to get him to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Certain breeds, including border collies, giant schnauzers and beagles, may be overrepresented, as the condition can be hereditary in these dogs. Exocrine pancreatic disease may also be a culprit.
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