Chemicals and Canines: What you Need to Know About Dogs, Pesticides, and Cancer

When it’s warm, dog owners are outside more. Summer for pet owners means time outside in the yard beyond the occasional potty break. Long, warm afternoons and evenings mean throwing the ball for your dog and going on long walks in the neighborhood. But the potential toxins that your dog can be exposed to through those walks can result in cancer not only for your pet, but for you as well. This is not a post about telling you to get less activity. This is a post to keep you informed about the health of your pet and to help others understand how their actions can harm your best friend. Weedkillers and commonly used herbicides negatively affect man’s best friend. Long story short, they aren’t worth it and you should let your neighbors know about the side effects of their spraying.

Pesticides & Chemicals Kill More than Crabgrass

People underestimate how sensitive dogs are. Dogs are susceptible to exposure from anything they walk on and they are exposed to toxins mostly through their mouths. After they walk on lawns, they lick their paws and ingest the chemicals that were applied on the lawns. This wreaks havoc on their bodies as it passes through and can persist in their fat. Dogs are also exposed within their sleeping area, water dishes or food bowls if they are are within the vicinity of herbicide spraying.

A survey of hundreds of dog owners found that dogs who live in yards treated with herbicides containing 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) have a 1 in 3 chance of developing canine malignant lymphoma. People have used the herbicide 2,4-D since the 1940s to control broadleaf weeds like dandelions, chickweed, and clover.

2,4-D has a half-life of a couple weeks in soil, depending on microbes present to break it down. Researchers found that it lingers longer on dry, brown grass than on green grass. It persists for months in wet environments and is toxic to fish and aquatic life. Agent Orange contained 2,4-D and one other herbicide.  2,4,5-T was the second herbicide in Agent Orange. It contained large amounts of dioxin and has been banned in the US since 1985.

Your Yard May Not Be Safe For a Dog

Unfortunately for us and our pets, exposure happens whether or not you apply herbicide to the grass in your yard. A study through Perdue University’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences focused on transitional cell carcinoma, or bladder cancer, in dogs. Worryingly, the toxins 2,4-D, 4-chloro-2-methylphenoxypropionic acid (MCPP) and/or dicamba were present in many of the yards studied, including untreated yards.

Unfortunately, urine tests were positive for dogs whose homes had not been sprayed with herbicide in the last 48 hours. 19 out of the 25 dogs whose owners had treated their yards with a herbicide containing 2,4D tested positive 48 hours later. In 8 households who did not treat the yard with the chemical, 4 dogs had positive urine tests. Researchers say that wind drift is most likely the cause of this.

How Herbicides Affect Dogs

After exposure in yards as they walk, play and sleep, dogs digest the chemicals when bathing themselves. Dogs are more likely to develop cancer with yards where herbicides are applied professionally or multiple times a year.

Dogs are at higher risk of developing cancer if they come into contact with yards treated with insect growth regulators. For 1-2 applications a year, the risk was one in six. However, with more applications, there became a three out of five chance of developing bladder cancer. The risk is increased in overweight or obese dogs, since toxins lay trapped in the fat layer.

What Does This Mean For Humans

The short time period between exposure and disease onset in dogs spells trouble for humans, who have longer lifespans and more chances to be exposed and those exposures build up.  In 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared the herbicide2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) a possible carcinogen. 2,4-D affects the body’s ability to detox and affects the immune system. The organization cited that studies in vivo and in vitro showed strong evidence that 2,4-D induced oxidative stress and moderate evidence it causes immunosuppression. 2,4-D affects the body’s ability to clean itself of toxins.

2,4-D has been associated with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in men who have been exposed to it frequently, with a three in one chance of developing lymphoma  after exposure to 2,4-D for 20 or more days per year.  2,4-D also alters sperm shape in men who work with the chemical, leading to fertility issues.

How You Can Avoid Exposing Your Pets

  • Do not use herbicides or pesticides with 2,4-D or insect growth inhibitors on your yard.
  • Put away outside dishes and toys before spraying yard with any treatment.
  • Wipe paws off with wipes after going into other yards.
  • Ask neighbors not to use them or to notify you when they have applied herbicides containing cancer-causing toxins.
  • Keep pets on a leash when out in the neighborhood to avoid exposure in unfamiliar yards.
  • If you take your pet into a common area, water an area directly after application to help rinse chemicals into the soil. Ask management not to use these chemicals. Pay attention to treatment schedules to avoid direct contact as much as possible.

What is happening in your neighborhood? Do you feel like your neighbors are aware of this information? Do they know that spraying chemicals on their lawn can put pets and humans in danger? Share with us please and where you live so we can get a feeling of the pulse around the country. Thank you!

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