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Officials: Pets Should Not Drink Unfiltered Flint Water

FLINT (WWJ/AP) - Flint's lead toxicity problem has now apparently spread to animals.

Officials are reminding people to make sure pets aren't drinking unfiltered Flint tap water after two area dogs recently tested positive for lead toxicity. It's the state's first lead toxicity cases involving dogs in five years.

"Here in Michigan, specifically in Genesse County, we've had two cases of high-lead levels reported to us in dogs in the last six months," State Veterinarian Dr. James Averill told WWJ's Chrystal Knight. "One was last fall and one was here in January. ... One was a stray dog and the other was a family animal."

Both dogs are still alive, although officials haven't disclosed whether the dogs were drinking Flint water, how much lead was in their systems or what symptoms they were showing.

"There is no regular testing for lead," said Averill. "What we do is we rely on the veterinarians who have the boots on the ground that are interacting with their clients and looking at the patients in front of them. When they are concerned or suspect a lead toxicity may be possible, they let us know at that time and then we work with them moving forward from there."

Averill said the "vast majority" of tests for lead in dogs in the area have been negative amid Flint's crisis with lead-tainted water.

"Dogs are at a higher risk amongst mammals for finding high lead levels, but it's not that common. Typically for us when we deal with lead toxicity, we're usually dealing with cattle. So, really this was a new instance for us," he said.

To protect your pets, Averill said residents in Genesee County should "do what you are doing for yourself for your pet."

"So number one, get your water tested to see if you have high lead levels. Two, if necessary, get a filter in place and then water your pets through that filtered water," he said. "Take the same steps that you would for yourself for your pets."

Averill said the first sign that your pet might be suffering from lead poisoning is any deviation from their normal behavior.

"I think the key thing is, as pet owners you know what is the normal routine for your pet," he said. "So what pet owners need to be looking for is the animal having their normal behavior in their normal routine, as they are creatures of habit."

The next step would be bringing your concerns to a local veterinarian, who can further decode what is going on with your pet.

"The signs and symptoms of lead toxicity are very broad and general, and similar to so many other diseases that a veterinarian needs to work up the case and do things to determine if it's lead toxicity or if it's something else," said Averill. "For example, vomiting can be caused by many things. So it's really critical that people work with a veterinarian when a pet has gone outside their normal routine."

Anyone who notices their pets acting strangely is encouraged to take them to a veterinarian.

TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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