Effect of Radon on Dogs

Radon is a radioactive inert gas (also referred to as a noble gas) that is colorless, tasteless and odorless. It is found naturally in the environment, and results from the radioactive decay of radium. Radon is one of the densest inert gas, with its most stable isotope being found in the gaseous state under normal conditions. The gas from natural sources can accumulate in confined areas of buildings. It is also present in certain spring waters and hot springs. Radon is considered to be a serious health hazard due to its radioactivity and can significantly contaminate indoor air quality. The gas has been declared as the second most lung cancer causing factor by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Effect of Radon on dogs

The main threat from radon is the possibility of inhaling the gas and its radioactive heavy byproducts (Lead, Polonium and Bismuth) that collect in the air, which can potentially cause respiratory disorders. These decay products stick to the cells that line the passage leading to the lungs.

There is also sufficient evidence which suggests that radon and its isotopes has carcinogenic effects on experimental animals, including dogs. Cancer is caused by mutation in a cell’s genes and may be a result of random mutation, genetic, chemical or toxin exposure. When this gas is inhaled in combination with the decay products, cigarette smoke or uranium ore dust, radon causes lung carcinomas like nasal carcinomas, epidermal carcinomas and skin masses (i.e., fibrosarcoma) in dogs of either gender. Dogs exposed to paints, chemicals and urban areas are considered to have higher incidences of cancer. Typical symptoms of dogs that have radon cancer are inappetance (loss of appetite) or anorexia, fever, difficulty in breathing, hacking, abnormal swellings, lameness and coughing.

Dogs who are suffering from cancer do not even show signs of illness, unless the disease gets severe or is in its final stage. The diagnosis for canine cancer is therefore generally made at a very late stage and is not curative as a result. However, if diagnosed (which is based on physical examination, blood test, biopsy, x-ray and/or ultrasound), the treatment includes certain surgeries, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, or chemotherapy. The veterinarian may refer the pet owner to a board certified oncologist (cancer specialist) for further tests.

As a precautionary measure, testing should be done to check the levels of radon in the house. If the house is found sensitive, steps should be taken to lower the concentrations to acceptable levels.

Keywords- Radon, Isotope, Dogs, Radioactive


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