The water crisis in Flint, Michigan has poisoned an untold number of children and other residents of the city. Now, less obvious victims are beginning to appear. Two dogs have now tested positive for lead poisoning.
According to Dr. James Averill, state veterinarian and Animal Industry Division Director for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, both dogs were mixed breeds. One dog was a stray and the other was a family pet.
Because of privacy laws, not much information is being released, but both dogs are reportedly still alive. Their test results were confirmed in October 2015 and January 2016. Averill said
The confidentiality of the owners is like medical information in humans.
It isn’t clear whether either of the dogs actually lived in the city of Flint, but both were in Genesee County, where the drinking water from Flint is contaminated with high levels of lead.
According to the Detroit Free Press:
These were the first two dogs to be confirmed with lead toxicity in the past five years, according to state records. Officials have not disclosed whether they were drinking Flint water, how much lead was in their systems, what symptoms they were showing, their weight or how old they are.
Testing for lead poisoning is being offered free by area veterinarians, but Averill said that it can be hard to spot the symptoms because they vary so widely.
The thing with lead toxicity in animals, their clinical signs, they’re so similar to so many other diseases.
Dr. Michael Merrithew, a veterinarian in Flint with decades of experience said that symptoms of lead poisoning in dogs can include “mental dullness,” possibly arthritis, and “probably general malaise first.”
Dr. Lawrence Ehrman, another Flint veterinarian, said that lead poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the poisoning happens slowly, over a long period of time.
What we’re dealing with here is not like an acute poisoning. It’s more a chronic sort of thing,” he said. “It can cause brain and mental issues, blood issues and even some digestive and kidney issues, though they’re much less common.
Averill said that pets can be bathed in the water, but should not drink it. He also said that the water in Flint is so dangerous that if bottled water isn’t an option, melted snow would be a better than giving animals the tainted tap water.
Probably melt some snow,” he said. “And it would be safer, if your only other choice is feeding them straight Flint water.
Featured image via video screen capture