Toxic mold can be deadly to humans; the same holds true for pets. The first case of mold poisoning in pets was documented in last month’s issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the findings should concern every pet owner.

According to the report, Douglas Mader, DVM, of Marathon (Fla.) Veterinary Hospital, was performing routine dental procedures on two healthy, indoor Himalayan sibling cats, when he noticed frothy blood in the endotracheal tubes used to supply anesthesia.

The procedures were immediately stopped, but one cat died the next day, followed by the second cat two weeks later. Dr. Mader tested the cats’ blood and discovered both contained a toxin, which is produced by Stachybotrys chartarum, also known as toxic black mold. In people, toxic black mold can cause respiratory-related health problems, pulmonary hemorrhage and death. In the cats, the mold caused pulmonary hemorrhage.

Dr. Mader questioned the pets’ owners to try to figure out when the cats were exposed to the mold. Apparently, the owners’ home was flooded during a hurricane, seven months earlier. Dr. Mader suggested that they have a professional environmental testing company test their home for mold. The verdict: Severe mold contamination in the walls. The walls were then gutted and replaced.

Although Dr. Mader claims this is the first documented case of toxic black mold poisoning pets, he suspects it’s not the first time it’s happened. To prevent the problem, he recommends that pet owners familiarize themselves with the symptoms of mold poisoning, which can range from respiratory disease to pulmonary trauma. He also suggests that your veterinarian test your pet’s blood for mold, especially if you live in an area of high humidity or have recently experienced heavy rains or flooding.

As always, the first line of defense whenever water enters your home is to have it professionally tested for mold. Only then will you discover the source of any mold infestation and where it is  present. Ultimately this will save you thousands of dollars. Without the testing, you’re apt to think mold exists only where you can see it or smell it, which would be a mistake. It’s wise to remember that mold does its damage behind walls, in ceilings, and under floors.