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Radon and Pets

Once you start to learn about radon gas, its properties and how it effects our health its not much of a leap to realize radon poses some of the same dangers to our pets as it does to us. As a radon professional it is obvious that in many situations the potential hazards to a pet could even be much greater than to us. I had a very wonderful German Shepherd dog that died , I believe from what the vet thought was lung cancer. It seems to be a common disease for pets, at least in this area of central New York. I happen to live in a high risk radon county. And all three counties where I lived with this German Shepherd were also high risk radon counties.

Studies of animals have shown that dogs, mice and rats, whose lungs are similar to humans, are also at increased risk of contracting lung cancer from exposure to radon and radon decay products in the same way humans are. See the page on Radon Health Effects.

When you think about the life of the average dog or cat, and a lot of other pets such as birds and rodents, many of them spend more time in the house than we do.  Where do they spend their time in our homes? Dogs and cats anyways are on the floor most of the time, if they are good pets that is, ha.

If you read the instructions for any radon testing kit or device they should be up off the floor at least 30 inches or so. The reason for that is that radon’s harmful decay products or progeny are electrically charged particles that quickly attach themselves to dust or anything else. If your house is like mine, most of the dust is on or near the floor. If a radon test is done too close to the floor it is no a valid test because it will usually get a radon level reading that is much higher than at normal breathing level for an adult, either sitting or standing.

For this reason young children and especially toddlers crawling on the floor are at much higher risk than adults. Another factor is the heart rate of most pets as well as children is much faster than that of adults, pulling more radon and it’s radioactive progeny into their lungs. Even though their lungs are smaller, they are more efficient, and most adults are quiet sedentary and breathe very shallowly most of the time. Also stay at home moms with children and the family pets usually spend a lot more time at home.

I will be starting a blog or forum soon on this topic. I would be glad to hear some other peoples thoughts and stories on this topic.

Dog saves people from radon

Source: Jay Bauder, Bauder Basement Systems, Inc.

Back in the late 80′s, I had a client whose dog died prematurely. They took it to the vet and x-rays showed the dog died from lung cancer. They then tested their home and found radon concentrations of 150 pCi/l! The owners stated that their dog probably saved their lives.


14 Responses to “Radon and Pets”

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  2. Tom Francis says:

    I have had 2 German Shepherds die early, one from lung cancer, before I knew about the danger of radon to people and obviously to pets who spend more time indoors than us.

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  9. Tom,
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  12. A Stanger says:

    We moved into a this house July 2005. We had 2 cats (brother & sister) that were 9 at the time. In December 2007 the male had Adenacarcinoma (gastric cancer) and died Jan 2008. His sister developed Leukemia in April 2008 and died August 2008. We then brought in a stray in Sept 2008 that had been living under our house since March of 2008. He has just been diagnosed with Colon cancer and is probly 7+ years old. Gastric cancer in cats is extremely rare and cancer in cats under 15 is not common. Yet,, 3 cats in a row with cancer under 12 years, the latest only 7, and two of them with gastric cancer? There is something going on here. Any replies would be much appreciated.

  13. Tom Francis says:

    Well Stranger, have you tested your house for radon? That’s a good place to start. You could do one normal test (at least 30 inches above the floor and a second test at floor level where your pets spend their time). Often the radon level is much higher at floor level where pets and children spend most of their time.

  14. Kathye says:

    Thank you so much for this info. I have been looking for answers for what’s bothering my 8 yr old Chihuahua since the middle of October 2012. I took him with me to Florida last week and he improved greatly, to the point of acting frisky and wanting to play again. Withing 12 hours of being home he was coughing, wheezing, lethargic and pathetic. That’s when I knew all 3 of the vets I’ve seen have only seen part of the picture, but there is something dark and sinister going on. I appreciate your suggestion to do two radon tests at two different heights. Thank you, thank you.

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