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Dogs in Flint getting tested for lead

Posted at 11:06 PM, May 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 23:06:35-04

FLINT, Mich. — Flint’s water crisis has taken a toll not just on its people, but also on its animals.

In the year and a half when contaminated water from the Flint River was used, significant levels of lead were introduced to pets through their drinking water.

In the months since, a team from Michigan State has offered lead-screening clinics for the city’s dogs, helping owners identify the signs of lead contamination, and treating affected dogs.

Teams from the university’s college of veterinary medicine, which include veterinarians, technicians and students, have screened close to 300 dogs, the team said.

Of the 300, they have seen four dogs with lead intoxication, and a number of other dogs with high lead levels, said Daniel Langlois, assistant professor at Michigan State. Three other dogs tested positive for lead intoxication in tests done elsewhere.

Education also is an important part of the teams’ efforts, which have included information fliers for health care providers and owners.

“Lead intoxication is extremely rare in dogs and cats. It’s a really unique situation for veterinarians as well,” Langlois says.

The symptoms of high lead amounts in dogs can be similar to the reactions in humans, which include bone abnormalities, gastrointestinal issues, and neurological signs such as behavior changes and seizures.

Recommendations for pets are similar to those of humans, which include using filtered or bottled water.

Amid budget crises across the state, the supplies for clinics were offered through “gifted research funds,” and not taxpayer funds, while the teams volunteered their time, Langlois said.