As we domesticate the dog more and more each day, canine health problems continue to more closely follow human disorders. As the natural dog is separated further and further from their wild environment their health problems increase dramatically. One of the major contributors to this canine health problem is the constant exposure to harmful toxins. The most damaging of these are the metals aluminum, lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. They contribute to everything form dog teeth cleaning problems and dog bad breath to worsening allergies and skin diseases to serious life threatening illnesses such as cancer, arthritis, kidney failure, congestive heart disease, liver diseases, diabetes, deteriorate defenses against infections bacterial, viral and fungal diseases.
In our modern day society the domesticated dog is exposed to these harmful toxic metals in alarming amounts. The natural dog was not exposed to these toxins and is not able to defend himself as humans can in their new domestic world. These harmful metals are all around us and sometimes more so around our pets. They can be found in municipal water supplies, our soil, natural water sources, our food supply, as well as in sewage sludge, fungicides, pesticides, everyday products, including cosmetics, fabric softeners, batteries, inks, latex, paints, plastics, solvents, and wood preservatives. I mention all of these items because your dog doesn’t know this and thinks nothing of drinking contaminated water, chewing on batteries, plastic bottles or laying in the yard after the exterminator left completing his monthly spraying. Your dog is at further risk then yourself due to their relatively small size compared to humans making them more vulnerable to smaller amounts of these toxins.
Disturbing as it is, a major source of all these metals is commercial dog foods. Tests of many recognized and respected products both canned and kibbled have shown various levels of aluminum, mercury, cadmium and lead. The amounts of these metals were greater in kibble versus canned due to the refining and dehydration through the high temperature extrusion processes.
The Government and other agencies have long been assessing, regulating, protecting, and providing information to the public on toxic substances such as heavy metals. Organizations such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) have been in existence for years. In comparison little has been done for our pets. So we must learn from human experiences and adapt these to the natural dog. On ATSDR’s “Top 20 Hazardous Substances “the heavy metals arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium appear #1, #2, #3, and #7 respectively. Therefore we must assume that if this is the case for humans it is likely also true if not more so for our “Best Friend” the domesticated natural dog.
The staff at Vitahound.com recommends both the addition of certain natural foods and herbs to the dog diet and the use of oral chelation cleansers to purge toxins from the body and return your friend back to their natural dog condition. Before we discuss these techniques it is useful to learn more about several of the more harmful heavy metal toxins that are adversely affecting your dog’s health. Information is provided below on the most common and worst toxins that are exposed to domesticated dogs. Each is covered separately in a few short paragraphs. You will find similar facts across all the metals but we intentionally repeated the information under each metal to emphasize to the reader the threat and the importance of understanding each metal by itself especially if one wants to return to this dissertation to refresh themselves on one particular heavy metal toxin.
Aluminum is the most plentiful metallic component in the outer layers of the earth. It infiltrates our air, water, and soil thus finding its way into nearly all our food and water supplies. Numerous municipalities treat their water supplies with aluminum sulfate and fluoride. This combination is problematic because the body has trouble excreting through the kidneys and urine this particular compound of aluminum fluoride. But by far like most heavy metals, the leading source of aluminum comes from Acid Rain. The strong acids produced by this common environmental condition react with the aluminum molecules in the earth around us releasing them as free agents. These free agents them easily find their way into our crops and livestock food chains.
Commercial dog food is one of the foremost sources of the toxin. Independent testing has found it in many of the off-the-shelf name brand dog foods in toxic levels. Eating is the principal means of introducing aluminum into the body since it is easily absorbed by the body through the digestive tract. In addition it is absorbed via breathing (lungs) and physical contact (skin). Testing labs have reported it as the most prevailing metal toxin found in all animal hair samples. Once in the body, aluminum accumulates over time inclining to find its way to brain and nervous tissues. This means it can eventually affect every body organ though nerve connections. The array of health problems is therefore plentiful. It contributes to arthritis, kidney failure, congestive heart disease, liver diseases, colic, rickets, diabetes, multiple allergies and skin diseases, thyroid problems, pancreatic problems affecting ability to digest food properly, Cushing’s Syndrome, anemia, and blood clotting ability. A serious consequence of high levels of aluminum accumulating in the body is that dogs cannot fight infections effectively leading to a higher death rate attributed to bacterial, viral, and fungal diseases.
Symptoms of aluminum toxicity in dogs include extreme nervousness, weak muscles, seizures, loss of balance, and loss of energy.
Like the other metals Lead is stored in the body and is cumulative over long periods of time. Unlike some of the other metals is has no known need or benefit for your dog and is extremely toxic. If the body does not excrete it through the digestive system it is absorbed through the blood into body tissue. The body treats it the same way as calcium storing it even at low levels in the bones. It then continues to build-up concentration in the bones over the entire life of your dog. At any time but usually during some stressful or drastic change in some body function the lead can leave the bones once again entering the bloodstream.
Whereas exposure to aluminum comes from natural sources such as the earth’s crust, air, water, and food supplies high levels of lead are introduced into the body through man-made substances. It is one of the most widely used metals in the United States today. The problem with these everyday common substances and products is that dogs cannot read warning labels or know what should not be chewed on, eaten, smelled, or innocently rolled on. Lead poisoning can often be attributed to exposure to common household and outside pesticides which contain large amounts of lead. Lead-based paints that were applied years ago can produce harmful dust during home renovations. This dust in turn can contaminate dog food, dog beds, and even the dog’s coat and skin. People often use old or discarded bowls for watering that can contain lead paint or glazing. Puppies are especially in danger of lead poisoning from their constant need to chew. Electronic gadgets such as remote controls, cell phones, batteries, golf balls, ammunition fishing lures and sinkers are all common things they can find laying around.
At toxic levels lead prevents various basic enzyme functions. For instance the body relies on minerals like selenium and sulfur to act as strong antioxidants to protect cells from free radical damage. Lead lessens this function exposing the cells to serious damage. In your dog this results in damage to the heart, kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and nervous system. Lead poisoning then can eventually leads to blindness, paralysis of the extremities, liver failure, and even coma and death.
As mentioned, exposure to lead in dogs can take years before it reaches dangerous levels and therefore is commonly seen in older dogs. Symptoms of lead toxicity in dogs include lack of appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation followed by diarrhea, crunching of jaws, blindness, seizures or muscle spasms, behavior changes, circling, and loss of balance and agility.
This heavy metal is also exceptionally toxic and lethal, actually more so than lead. This contagion is used in fungicides and pesticides but also in products we used daily in a variety of undertakings. It is often used in household products that are dogs are exposed such as batteries, light bulbs, fabric softeners, latex gloves, paint, plastics, ink, and solvents. If mercury vapors are ever present from such things as house renovations involving old paint, broken thermometers or thermostats it will concentrate at floor level were dogs are laying or walking. Even some cosmetics contain it…when is the last time your dog licked your face. Because of this plentiful list of everyday products that contain mercury this heavy metal toxin eventually ends up in either our sewage or landfills finding its way into our soil, water, and food supply. As for food, methyl mercury chlorine bleach is even used on certain grains and seeds. Mining operations and paper industries are significant producers of mercury especially into the atmosphere which can get dispersed across large regions or even globally. Acid rain then returns it the earth. Well known is the fact since our waters are contaminated with mercury it can be found in fish and sometimes in large amounts especially common ones eaten such as orange rough, swordfish, tuna and halibut.
As with most heavy metal toxins mercury is a cumulative poison. Your dog’s body, as in humans, has no natural mechanism to stop mercury from reaching tissue and cells. It is accumulated in the brain and central nervous system. Once it reaches and is stored in the cells, it seriously affects their normal critical body functions. It affects the processes at both ends, first prohibiting minerals and nutrients from entering the cells and then likewise preventing waste to be purged. Mercury also adversely affects your dog’s overall immune system by attaching to the immune cell structure altering their ability to function normally. Mercury can cause permanent kidney, cardiac, respiratory problems arthritis, and gum disease in your dog. Ultimately blindness and paralysis can occur.
Symptoms include loss of balance, fatigue, vomiting, hair loss, diarrhea, weakness, and excessive salivation. High levels can also interfere with enzyme activity, resulting in blindness and paralysis.
As with the aforementioned heavy metals, arsenic is also highly poisonous, remember it is listed #1 on ATSDR’s “Top 20 List.” It also is cumulative and remains in the body for years. Arsenic can be found in a multiplicity of commonly used products including fungicides, pesticides, herbicides, laundry products, secondhand cigarette smoke, paints, and wood preservatives. Global industries such as mining and smelting, chemical and glass manufacturing produce arsenic as a by-product. This in turn finds its way into our water supplies and food sources. Once again, as with other heavy metals, arsenic is found in fish such as haddock, tuna, and halibut.
For years the most common cause of arsenic poisoning in dogs (as well as children) was the consumption of rodent trap, pesticides (ant bait) which relied on arsenic to kill the pests. In the late 1980’s the federal government started regulating the use of arsenic in consumer products such as pesticides and since then the incidences of accidental arsenic poisoning of dogs has steadily reduced. The common use of heartworm medications for both prevention and treatment has introduced yet another opportunity for arsenic poisoning of dogs or at least facilitating the buildup to toxic levels. These products contain organic forms of arsenic such as diethylcarbamazine citrate (Brand names Dimmitrol and Filaribits) or thiacetarsamide (Brand name Caparsolate). One warning concerning such medications states: “Low margin of safety. Need to have an accurate weight before starting treatment. May see damage to the lungs, kidneys, or liver. Signs may include staggering, lethargy, depression, tremors, drooling, panting, difficulty breathing, vomiting, collapse, coma, and death.” They could have just stated “Arsenic Poisoning.” Obviously, extreme care must be taken when administering these products.
Arsenic is stored in the hair follicles, skin, and nails and as mentioned will accumulate over long periods of time. Since the lethal dose only is 1 to 12 mg of arsenic per pound of your dog, this buildup of arsenic can cause serious health problems. Therefore it is important to know the symptoms of arsenic poisoning whether the result of an accidental consumption of a household product or the slow accumulation over time. Symptoms include drooling, vomiting, bloody diarrhea with mucous in, bloody urine, muscle cramps, weakness, hair loss, skin rash, gastrointestinal pain, convulsions, trembling, and staggering.
Arsenic toxicity affects the blood, lungs, skin, kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and the central nervous system. Arsenic compounds can create reactions in the body that disrupt enzymes that are involved in respiration of cells, fat and carbohydrate breakdown and their proper absorption into the body. Certain types of cancer have been linked to arsenic as well. The accumulation of toxic levels of arsenic can result in paralysis, coma, cardiovascular collapse and death.
Cadmium although not as well-known as aluminum, lead, mercury and arsenic makes the list of heavy metals to be aware of that adversely affects dog health. Cadmium has no known required body function in the natural dog. It is extremely toxic with tolerable levels one tenth that of most of the other heavy metal toxins. It is has no definite taste or order and thus is hard to detect or know if you have been exposed. Moreover it is one of the largest industrial pollutants globally. Cadmium is widely used in industry as a plating material, in galvanizing coating on iron, steel, and copper, inks, and dyes. The vast array of the plastic and rubber products we use everyday use cadmium in the processing of the base materials. One of the main threats to dogs is its use in many fungicides and fertilizers. These agricultural products introduce cadmium into our food supply mainly rice and wheat crops both a common ingredient in commercial dog food. Like the other heavy metals it has contaminated our waterways and is commonly found in shellfish and others such as halibut, cod, haddock and tuna. One good aspect of cadmium is the body tends to not retain it passing it through the digestive system excreting it successfully and it is not easily absorbed through the skin. If inhaled as with your dog sniffing fertilizers and fungicides it is more likely to remain in their body being stored in lung tissue. But with this said a fundamental problem with cadmium absorption by the dog is linked to the beneficial metal zinc. Zinc is critical to proper dog health. It is a component of many vital enzymes promoting a healthy immune system, liver, and bones. It inhibits the absorption of cadmium by the body. When the proper level of zinc is not present the body replaces it with cadmium. So here is the problem. Our modern day commercial dog food refining processes removes most of the zinc. Therefore, when zinc is removed, much more cadmium is absorbed, stored in the liver, bones, and kidneys accumulating over time.
Its effects on the dog body are many, and it can be even worse than mercury and the other heavy metals. It causes a reduction in the production of the critical white blood cells (T-Lymphocytes) which defend the body by destroying harmful free radicals and cancer cells. The list of dog diseases that cadmium can promote is extensive including cancer, diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, bone disorders, and digestive problems. Cadmium toxicity can even contribute to the loss of the natural dog critical sense of smell.
Symptoms include fatigue, hair loss, increased susceptibility to infection, slow healing of wounds, skin lesions, loss of smell, yellow coloration of teeth, inflammation of mucous membrane of the nose, and loss of appetite.
Testing the Dog for Toxic Levels of Heavy Metals
Testing for toxic levels of the heavy metals in your dog include blood, urine, hair, fingernail, and fecal analysis. Most Veterinarian offices are not equipped to perform these tests and samples must be sent to appropriate laboratories that perform such testing. For measuring effects due to exposures within days or as long as sometime several months, blood, urine, and fecal analysis is the best. For long term and cumulative effects hair and fingernail tests are best. Consistent Minimal Risk Levels (MRL), acceptable levels or toxic levels for dogs are hard to find in the literature. Remember we mentioned the Government is looking out for dog owners but are not yet serious in their efforts for dogs. In addition as research and testing is increasing (usually in major University Veterinarian Schools), once proclaimed safe levels of toxins is now considered either borderline or unsafe especially over the lifetime of your dog. The following data is from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Agency (ATSDR) and is for humans but as a rule can be used for dogs adjusting to body weight. Test results need to be interpreted by your veterinarian or a medical toxicologist.
Aluminum: MRL 1mg/kg/day; Blood or Urine 3ug/L; Hair.05 ppm
Arsenic: MRL.005mg/kg/day; 1-25 mg/kg is lethal
Cadmium: MRL.01mg/kg/day; Blood 5ug/dL; Urine 10ug/dL
Lead: Blood 1.5ug/dL; Urine.677 ug/dL
Mercury: MRL.05ug/kg/day; Blood 5ug/dL; Urine 10ug/dL
Oral Chelation Therapy as Treatment to Heavy Metal Toxicity
Oral chelation therapy has long successful track records. It has been recommended by doctors for years for humans and can also be effective with dogs. Chelation was developed initially by Alfred Werner who received the Nobel Prize in 1913. G. T. Morgan coined the term chelation in 1920 deriving it from the Greek word “chele”, meaning a crab’s claw which refers to the pincer-like manner in which the metal is bound. This process stabilizes the heavy metal particle by binding it to the chelating agent, usually amino acids or organic compounds changing it to a chemically inert form that can be excreted via the kidneys without further damage to the body.
There are many effective chelation agents. Each one affects absorbability of minerals needed by the body and also the ability to bind potentially to different toxic metals making them inert. We discuss below five effective agents: Fulvic Acid, Glutamic Acid, Ferulic Acid, Malic Acid, and Lipoic Acid.
Grandma said “It never hurt to eat a little dirt.” What she was really saying was “Fulvic acid is very beneficial to your good health.” Modern day and ancient civilizations such as China, Mexico, India, and South America have known the health benefits of fulvic acid and use it as a natural medicine. Fulvic acid comes from humus material which is organic material that has decomposed over very long periods of time. It therefore naturally contains practically all if not all the substances we and our dogs need for a long healthy existence. Since humus over this long decomposition period assimilates a vast multiplicity of natural organic plant material, it and the resulting fulvic acid contain an immense collection of naturally occurring phytochemicals and biochemicasl along with 70 minerals and nutrients,18 amino acids, and 3 essential fatty acids. This in turn supplies natural antioxidants, enzymes, antivirals, hormones, and antifungals. For antiviral use it is one of the best there is for your dog. Fulvic acid also has antibiotic benefits without creating strains of disease that become resistant as with the common synthetic antibiotics of modern medicine.
Fulvic acid is one of the most aggressive antioxidants capable of neutralizing harmful free radicals, making it an effective chelation agent of heavy metal toxins with the ability to not only purge them from the body but repair damage to the cells as well. It can likewise eliminate food poisoning ill effects within minutes.
Fulvic acid is water soluble. This enables it to makes cell walls more permeable enabling substantially more amounts of nutrients and minerals to be absorbed. This characteristic prolongs the effectiveness of minerals and nutrients in the body metabolic processes.
Because of our modern agricultural methods that use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides fulvic acid finds its way less and less into our food supply. Farm lands today have only a fraction of the humus soil base that they did even 100 years ago. Commercially processed dog food is even worse than our food supply when it comes to supplying sufficient amounts of fulvic acid. Therefore it is best today to use dog supplements to supply the necessary fulvic acid to your dog’s diet.
Fulvic acid is considered very safe with few side effects reported when used for either humans or dogs. Diarrhea and/or change in the smell of feces can occur but usually only last a few days.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and glutamic acid was the most common amino acid found in the natural dog’s body. It accounts for approximately 20% of the total body protein. It produces the most common excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. The amino acid composition of the brain is more than 50% glutamic acid.
Glutamic Acic is an effective antioxidant and heavy metal chelation agent. But has many other health benefits for you dog. It fights heart disease, strengthens the immune system, helps to reduce inflammation, helps prevent and heals ulcers, and increasing overall energy levels. It is commonly also used as an additive to food to deter dogs from eating their own feces. It mixes with other acids in the digestive system making the stool bitter to the taste.
Glutamic acid is found naturally in high-protein foods like beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs, corn tomatoes, soybeans and milk. Even through many of these can be found in commercial dog food the high temperature processing of these foods destroys the usefulness of the glutamic acid.
Ferulic acid (FA) is a phytochemical commonly found in fruits (apple, pear, orange, pineapple), vegetables (tomato, spinach, asparagus, carrot, sweet corn), brans (wheat, rice, oat). Phytochemicals are natural chemical substances and nutrients formed a plant’s normal metabolic processes. Phyto is the Greek word for plant. There have been thousands of different types of phytochemical identified and research is proving their benefits to good health in both humans and dogs.
Ferulic Acid has excellent antioxidant properties and is effective in fighting diabetes, cancer, heart, blood and circulatory disease, bone deterioration and neurological problems. It is often added to the diet of very active dogs such as work dogs since it helps rebuild the muscles quickly. As a chelation agent it effectively binds to free radicals neutralizing and enabling them to be safely purged from the body.
Malic acid is a very effective chelation agent. Malic acid creates a reaction in the stomach to enhance absorption of minerals. The acid reacts with the mineral to break the bonds with its original inorganic chelation agent. This frees the mineral to bond with the malic acid to create a malate or allows the free mineral to chelate to other organic bonds available in the stomach, i.e. citric acid (citrate), proteins (amino acid chelate) and so on. These more effective chelation agents allow for better absorption.
Malic acid is a powerful detoxifier of aluminium, and may offer benefit in the chelation and removal of heavy metals. When used orally, malic acid can cause mild gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances.
In addition to increasing energy levels, malic acid is also an effective metal chelator. This means it is able to bind to potentially toxic metals that may have accumulated in the body, such as aluminum or lead, and inactivate them. As a result, the risk of toxicity is considerably reduced. Heavy metal overload has been linked to serious problems like liver disease and brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
Lipoic acid (LA) is an organic compound that is found in every cell of the body therefore it is essential to numerous metabolic enzymatic process needed for proper dog health. This sulfur containing acid has the unique characteristic of being able to be dissolved and work both in water and fatty tissues. This is completely contrary to vitamins which are either water soluble (B-complex, C) or fat soluble, (A, D, E, K).
Lipoic acid converts glucose into energy thus reduce risk of diabetes. Even though it is an effective antioxidant it also the ability to reestablish the effectiveness of other antioxidants. One of the critical ones that it helps restore is glutathione. This also occurs in every cell of the body and is critical to your dog’s immune system. Through these processes Lipoic Acid helps slow aging. If you dog is on any type of therapy or medication such as cancer treatments which compromise the immune system supplemental Lipoic Acid can be extremely beneficial.
Lipoic Acid is also one of the most effective antioxidants in neutralizes harmful free radicals. Research has shown it is effective against heavy metal toxicity due to lead, mercury, and cadmium.
Lipoic acid is found in very low concentrations is almost all foods but in higher levels in kidney, heart and liver meats as well as spinach, broccoli and potatoes. Because of this low concentration and it is not readily available from the food sources due to the nature it is chemically structured, all lipoic acid supplements are chemically produced.
Helpful to Counteract Metal Toxicity
Nutrients: Pectin, Calcium, Magnesium, Coenzyme A, Vitamin E, L-Glutathione, LecithinS-Adenosylmethionine, Vitamin B-Complex**
Herbs: Garlic*, kelp, Burdock Root, Ginseng,Ginkgo, Biloba, Echinacea
Nutrients: Superoxide Dismutase, Vitamin C, Selenium, L-Cysteine, C-Methionine, Pectin
Nutrients: Calcium, Magnesium,Coenzyme A, Vitamin E, L-Cysteine, L-Lysine, L-Methionine, Zinc,Lecithin, Rutin
Herbs: Garlic*, Alfalfa, Burdock Root, Red Clover, Milk Thistle
Nutrients: Alpha-lipoic Acid, Pectin, Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamins A, C, E, B-Complex, L-Lysine, L-Cysteine, Selenium, L-Cystine, Methylsulfonfl-Methane, S-Adenosyfmethionine, Glutathione, L-Methionine, Lecithin
Herbs:Garlic*, Kelp, Alfalfa
Nutrients: Glutathione, L-Cysteine, L-Methionine, Selenium, Pectin, Vitamin A, C, E, B-Complex, Lecithin
Herbs: Garlic*, Kelp, Alfalfa, Brewer’s Yeast
* Although garlic is a good detoxifier it should only be given to dogs in small amounts if at all.
** Extra B6 & B12 should be given
Chelation Agents Sources
Brans (wheat, rice, oat)
Fruits* (apple, pear, orange, pineapple)
Vegetables (tomato, spinach, carrot asparagus, sweet corn)
Humus Soil (need to use supplement)
High Protein Foods (beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs, soybean)
Tomatos, Corn, Milk
Low content in nearly all foods
Higher content in kidney, heart, liver meats & spinach, broccoli, potatoes
(Due to very low concentrations and difficulty in extraction source from supplements is recommended)
Fruits* (apples, cranberries, pineapple, apricot)
* Only use the “meat” of the fruit- never feed the seeds
We have found that heavy metal toxicity is a major factor that affects proper dog health, especially in the modern day domesticated natural dog. That it is almost impossible to keep our dogs free from exposures to heavy metals. This toxicity is an accumulative process in the dog’s body therefore overtime even small exposures are harmful. Exposure to such heavy metals as aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury come from are environment, everyday products we use, and even commercial dog food. Commercial dog food producers are particularly deficient in their control of these toxins. There are symptoms we can look for that indicate possible heavy metal toxicity in our dogs. Exposure can be minimized by having a good knowledge of were the heavy metals exist around us. There are foods, herbs, minerals, vitamins, and supplements that we can use to help protect, minimize effects, and even purge these damaging toxins from our dog’s bodies constantly promoting good dog health. And finally that dog owners should consider chelation therapy that uses power antioxidants to cleanse the body of the accumulated heavy metal toxins.
NOTICE: The content in this article is provided for informational and educational purposes only. While we make every effort to present information that is accurate and reliable, the views expressed here are not meant to be a substitute for the advice provided by a licensed veterinarian. Please consult your veterinarian for specific advice concerning the medical condition or treatment of your dog and before administering any medication or pursuing any course of treatment that was presented in this article.
by Bruce Harte