10 Things You Need to Know about Black Mold and Pets
Just like humans, pets can be affected negatively by black mold. Our pets bring us so much joy! Especially after this past year of quarantines and staying home, we are definitely grateful for our pets! But what if our homes were making our furry friends sick?
Black mold can cause health problems for pets similar to those faced by humans. (Yes, mold is also toxic to us!) However, since animals are usually smaller than people, it takes smaller amounts of mold to have negative effects on them.
How do you know if black mold is making your pet sick? What can you do about it? Will black mold make you sick too? Come read and learn all about pets and black mold!
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What is Black Mold? Where Does It Live?
Mold lives literally everywhere. That spot you keep your dog’s water bowl, your cat’s favorite window, stumps in your backyard, your compost pile, just the dirt in your yard… You guessed it, mold lives there, too.
Molds are fungi, and grow from microscopic spores that are everywhere in the air. Molds are found everywhere in nature, and are important for recycling organic matter (such as leaves). The recycling process they perform returns nutrients to the soil and is important for plants to grow. They need four things to grow: oxygen, moisture, a food source, and the right temperature range.
Black molds (and all molds) grow inside of their food sources. They penetrate deeply into drywall, carpets, underneath kitchen and bathroom sinks, etc. Anything with carbohydrates in it could be considered a food source for molds.
Moisture is the one thing you can reasonably control when it comes to mold. A dry home equals a home with much less mold growth. Keeping areas dry, especially areas that use water frequently (like bathrooms), is important to prevent mold growth.
How Fast Do Black Molds Grow?
Moisture behind baseboards and cabinets, wet carpet tack strips, in crawl spaces, basements, and other hard to reach areas are a ticking mold time bomb. Once enough moisture is present, molds can begin to grow in less than 48 hours!
Toxic Black Mold – A Common Misconception
Before we go any further, we need to clear up a common misconception about black mold. When you read about ‘toxic black mold’ it’s kind of misleading. The thing is… dangerous and toxic mold is not just black, it can be many different colors. Toxic molds can appear to be green, yellow, brown, and black. (see image)
All molds have the potential to cause irritation and allergy symptoms. However, some molds can also cause much more dangerous health problems. Some molds, but not all, produce mycotoxins. Mycotoxins can cause health problems ranging from poisoning to cancer. Not all molds are toxic, but many are.
So, where is the line between an allergic mold and a toxic mold? That line is defined by the presence of mycotoxins, and is NOT defined by color. Mycotoxins are invisible and cannot be detected just by looking at the mold growth.
So, What is a Mycotoxin?
Mycotoxins, literally ‘fungus poison’ in Latin, are secondary metabolites that can be produced by molds, and are not living organisms. Mycotoxins are a byproduct of mold. Not all mold spores produce mycotoxins, but some do. So the molds that produce mycotoxins are the ones that could be categorized as toxic or poisonous.
You can learn more about mycotoxin poisoning in our article: When Mold Is Worse Than Allergies.
The Dangers of Toxic Mold Exposure for Pets
Mold is an insidious, invisible predator in your home. It hides in places no one ever thinks to look like under cabinets, in crawl spaces, attics, and behind furniture. People and their pets may spend weeks, months, and even years fighting illness, and never know what they are really fighting…mold. Many of our customers find us after a recommendation from their doctor or veterinarian, that they may in fact have a mold problem, and not just an illness. Mold is most often associated with allergies, but is much more dangerous than most people realize. There are two ways pets can be exposed to mold.
Methods of Mold Exposure in Pets
There are two different ways pets can be exposed to mold including: ingestion (eating mold) and inhalation (breathing mold in the air). Just like people, pets can also have allergies to mold.
When pets eat or ingest mold, it is usually an accident. Pet food is subject to spoilage and contamination with mold just like people’s food. Remember those strawberries you bought last week and forgot about? They were covered in fuzzy growth. They were gross, but that fuzzy growth they were covered in was mold.
Pets can also ingest mold right in your home or backyard. Is your dog’s favorite towel smelling musty? Could be mold. That stump your cat loves to claw or your dog loves to gnaw on in the backyard? It could easily be a source of mold. Mold can digest just about any organic material (things made from carbon). So there could be more than one source of mold your pet has ingested.
Manufactured pet foods are held to high standards, but are occasionally recalled due to contamination. Pet food should be stored properly to reduce the chance that mold will grow on it at home. Use the following tips to reduce the chances of mold in your pet’s food.
Pet Food Safety Tips
- Store pet food in a sealed container, preferably the original container. Food should be kept in a cool, dry place free of excess moisture. Always wash and dry containers completely before refilling them. It is preferable to store food in the original packaging, as it contains important information (barcode, expiration date, batch code) that you need. In the event of a recall, the information would be close at hand.
- Wash your hands before and after handling pet food. Washing your hands for at least 30 seconds with soap under warm running water eliminates most microorganisms. It is important to wash again after handling pet food to avoid any microorganisms (such as Salmonella) from the pet food being transferred to the people in the home. These two simple steps can eliminate the possibility of spreading disease to both people and animals in your home.
- Wash pet food bowls daily. Would you eat off the same plate everyday without washing it? Microorganisms build up on dirty dishes after every meal. It makes sense to wash them away before eating again. In the same way, pet’s water bowls should be washed every day to prevent disease.
- Check pet food as you feed your pet for contamination. If you see fuzzy things growing on the food, the food has mold! Never feed your pet contaminated food!
- Never feed your pet expired food. Always check that the food has not passed the expiration date. Expired food is more likely to become contaminated and lose its original nutritional value.
When mold is inhaled, through the nose and mouth, it is usually already in the pet’s environment. Pets have to breathe, so if mold is in their environment, they cannot avoid it. (By the same token, neither can you.)
How do I know if it’s mold?
Mold hides in places people rarely think to look such as in cabinets, under floors, crawlspaces, attics, basements, and other inaccessible locations in your home. These little seen places can be havens for mold if moisture builds up. Usually the first indication you have a problem is the smell.
MVOC’s – What’s that smell?
That old stinky towel your dog seems to love? It could be contaminated with mold. Musty, stinky, wet dog, old gym sock type smells are not always what they seem. Many times they are caused by mold.
MVOC’s or Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds are compounds created by fungi and bacteria during their metabolic processes. MVOC’s can be detected by simply smelling the air. The smell of MVOC’s has been compared to stinky socks, locker room odor, wet dog, or old cheese. They give off a distinctly musty, moldy smell. There are over 200 compounds that have been identified as MVOC’s. MVOC’s can be dangerous and even toxic to humans. If you smell odors like this, you may have a mold problem in your building.
The only way to get rid of problems from mold is to remove the mold. Mold, like dirt, has to be removed, NOT killed. Keep reading to find out how to get rid of mold.
Mold – Allergies vs. Toxins
Allergy Symptoms in Pets
Typical allergy symptoms in pets include:
- Respiratory symptoms like sneezing, breathing difficulties, coughing, wheezing, and discharge from the eyes and nose
- Excessive licking or scratching which can lead to fur loss and painful sores
- Lack of energy
Symptoms Caused by Toxic Mold in Pets
While all molds have the potential to cause irritation and allergy symptoms, some molds can also cause much more dangerous health problems. Some molds, but not all, produce toxins. Toxic molds can cause health problems ranging from poisoning to cancer. Not all molds are toxic, but many are.
You’ve probably heard that black mold is toxic. However, as we said earlier, dangerous and toxic mold is not just black, it can be many different colors. Toxic molds can appear to be green, yellow, brown, or black.
More dangerous symptoms can also be attributed to mold due to the presence of mycotoxins. When exposed to mycotoxins, pets can exhibit symptoms such as:
- bleeding from the mouth or nose
- neurological problems due to mycotoxins (acting strangely)
- digestive problems, such as vomiting and stool changes, including damage to the gastrointestinal tract
- weakened immunity to other secondary diseases
When pets ingest mold with their food or inhale mold through the nose, they can exhibit these types of symptoms. Unfortunately, symptoms of mold exposure can mimic symptoms of other health conditions making it sometimes difficult to diagnose mold exposure.
The most important thing to remember if your pet is exhibiting these symptoms is to get them to the veterinarian right away! The effects of mold can be reduced if treated early. However, in the long term exposure is much more serious, and can lead to very dire consequences including organ failure.
Dangers of Mold Exposure for Humans
In humans, mold is also most often associated with allergies, but mold is much more menacing than people know. While all molds have the potential to cause irritation and allergy symptoms, molds can also cause much more dangerous health problems for people including: fungal poisoning and mental health problems.
To learn even more about the health effects of mold on humans check out our posts:
- Mold and Mycotoxins: Effects on the Brain and Nervous System in Adults
- Effects of Mold on Children’s Health
- Mold Exposure Symptoms
- How Does Mold Affect Your Health?
Treatment for Mold in Pets
Step 1 – Get to the Vet!
Step 1 is always to get your pet to the veterinarian quickly! Most of the time, treatment for mold in pets is a supportive type of care that reduces the symptoms that your pet is experiencing. Medicine that will help manage respiratory symptoms, reduce vomiting, and using IV fluids for dehydration ease the symptoms of mold exposure.
However, the best way to stop your pet’s symptoms is to eliminate the mold exposure in the first place. Ever heard the expression, ‘Prevention is worth nine-tenths of the cure?’ It’s certainly true for mold exposure!
Step 2 – Find the Mold and Remove It
If your pet is suffering from mold exposure, the best place to start is with a paid Indoor Air Quality Assessment. An Indoor Air Quality Assessment, like ours, will help you get to the root of your problem, and find all the areas in your home where mold is lurking. Maybe it’s just that musty smelling towel, or maybe you have bigger problems. You won’t know without an inspection. At Branch Environmental, we treat each inspection as an investigation. All areas of your home are searched from top to bottom. Mold can lurk everywhere, so we search everywhere.
The inspector will define the extent of the necessary work to remove the mold, and what may or may not need to be done. Your inspector should talk you through all your options, and tailor a plan that fits your needs and your budget.
Be sure to ask a lot of questions at this stage. The company you hire for an Indoor Air Quality Assessment should charge you for this service. Never expect a company that offers a ‘free’ inspection to do a good job finding all the mold!
DIY vs. Professional Mold Removal
Once you have had a home inspection, you may wonder if professional help is really necessary. Customers often ask us, “Can I clean the mold myself or do I need a professional?” Our answer depends several factors including:
- how extensive the mold problem is
- what building materials, furnishings, and belongings are affected
- where the mold is located
- whether or not you mind being in confined spaces such as your crawlspace, basement, or attic
If you’re familiar with our blog, you know that the first thing to do when cleaning mold is to fix the moisture problem that led to the mold growth. Until you fix the moisture problem, mold will continue to grow and spread.
Mold is great at hiding in hard to detect locations such as in drywall and insulation. If the area of mold covers more than about 10 square feet, there is a good chance the mold problem is more than an isolated issue. It’s time to call in the professionals when you smell a musty odor in your home you can’t identify, or have health problems associated with mold.
If the area of mold is less than 10 square feet, you may be able to handle it yourself. To get all the details check out our post: Cleaning Mold: DIY vs. Professional.
How Do You Choose a Mold Removal Company?
Have you ever had mold removed from your home? Do you know what to ask mold removal companies? What do mold removal companies really do?
As a mold removal company, we know what you should expect and what the industry standards should be. Some of our competitors offer “free” mold inspections. Which basically means that the inspector shows up and hands over a price to fix a symptom, without truly knowing the nature of the problem. The primary reason that we charge for our mold inspections is the time and resources that go into each one.
If you think you might have a mold problem, you’re far better off with a thorough inspection like ours. We analyze the symptoms to determine the root cause of your problem, and will only recommend solutions that will solve the actual problem.
Especially if you live outside our service area, check out our post: How to Choose the Best Mold Removal Company. We let you know what you should expect and what the industry standards should be. If the company you interview doesn’t know the answer to the questions in our article, you don’t want to hire them!
Preventing Future Mold Growth
The mold in your home quite likely was caused by a water leak or moisture buildup in an area of your home (such as bathroom ceilings, attics, crawlspaces, etc). How do you prevent mold from growing in the first place? Three words….Keep It Dry!
The best way to prevent mold from growing is simply to keep everything dry. No water, no mold growth. How can you keep it dry? By performing home maintenance checks on a regular schedule, every 3-4 months, you can prevent minor leaks from becoming a major problem. Running bathroom fans every time you shower prevents moisture from building up in bathrooms. Dehumidifiers in basements and crawl spaces help reduce moisture levels as well.
To avoid tiny, long term, potentially costly leaks, check pipes in the crawl space or basement, under sinks, around toilets and showers, and near appliances at least every 3-4 months. Areas under sinks, behind appliances, around toilets, and baths or showers should stay dry to prevent mold growth.
Use strainers on all sink drains to help prevent clogs from hair or food buildup. If a clogged pipe develops, fix it quickly! Don’t wait weeks or months to solve the problem of a slow draining sink. The longer you wait… the longer the mold has time to grow.
For more about water damage prevention, check out our article: Top 10 Ways to Prevent Water Damage.
The Branch Difference
At Branch Environmental, we love our pets just as much as you do. Our company slogan is that “Nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick!”, and that includes our furry friends!
When we perform an inspection, we work tirelessly to determine the root cause of your problem. We see each mold inspection as an in-depth investigation, not an opportunity to hand over a guess-based estimate of work. If you think you need a mold inspection, get in touch with us, and we’ll get down to the source.
Most people rarely plan for the expense of mold removal, so here at Branch Environmental, we are careful to help control costs and manage your expectations from the beginning. With a clear understanding of the problem, we can work with you to create a mold remediation protocol that fits your needs.
Call Branch Environmental. We’re experts not only at mold removal, but at determining and remediating the underlying causes. From hidden mold sources to major contaminants, we can identify exactly what is going on in your home and rid it of environmental toxins, often for good.
Branch Environmental – Because nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick.
Branch’s Recommended Mold and Mildew Removal Products
We highly recommend these products and protective equipment as safe and effective in removing mold and mildew. All products are safe to use around kids and pets, except for essential oils. Some essential oils can irritate lungs and eyes, so check with your vet before using.
Before cleaning be sure to check out our article: Black Mold vs Mildew – 7 Common Misconceptions and When to DIY before cleaning. We give you all the details on how to clean safely.
Never mix cleansing products! Remember to read all directions before beginning. Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment when cleaning, and be sure to properly ventilate the room.
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Your purchase helps support our mission of education through our blog. Thank you for purchasing through Branch Environmental!
For more information go to:
- The Dangers Of Mold Exposure For Dogs – Dogs Naturally Magazine
- Mold Toxicity in Dogs and Cats – Pet MD
- 4 Pet Food Storage Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe -Pet MD
- Animal Poison Control Alert: The Dangers of Moldy Food – ASPCA
- Mold: The Silent Home Toxin Sickening Your Dog – Naturally Healthy Pets, Dr. Judy Morgan DVM
- Recalls & Withdrawals | FDA
- How to Prevent Bathroom Mold – Branch Environmental
- What’s that musty smell? MVOC’s – Branch Environmental
- 7 Things You Should Know About Black Mold Removal – Branch Environmental
- Mycotoxins Fact Sheet – World Health Organization (WHO)
- Mold and Mycotoxins: Effects on the Brain and Nervous System in Adults – Branch Environmental
- Effects of Mold on Children’s Health – Branch Environmental
- Mold Exposure Symptoms – Branch Environmental
- How Your Home Can Affect Your Allergies – Branch Environmental
- When Mold Is Worse Than Allergies – Branch Environmental
- Branch Environmental How Does Mold Affect Your Health? – Branch Environmental
- Beyond Mold Inspections, Branch Delivers Mold Investigations – Branch Environmental
- Cleaning Mold: DIY vs. Professional – Branch Environmental
- How to Choose the ‘Best Mold Removal Company Near Me’ – Branch Environmental
- Bathroom Exhaust Fans – All You Need To Know – Branch Environmental
- How to Choose Between Freestanding and Built-in Dehumidifiers – Branch Environmental
- Top 10 Ways to Prevent Water Damage – Branch Environmental
- 5 Expectations about Mold vs. Eye-Opening Reality – Branch Environmental