Short Takes

May 2009 Issue

Short Takes: 05/09

Pets ultimately protecting us from health hazards; probiotics in cat foods.

Canaries and cats have another thing in common — besides an aversion or appetite, respectively, for one another. Like the legendary canaries in the coalmines, cats can be "Sentinels for Public Health," the title of an article in Veterinary Clinics of North America (Vol. 39, Issue 2). The journal says "companion animals have an especially valuable role as sentinels because of their unique place in people’s lives, with exposure to similar household and recreational risk factors as those for the people who own them." For example, cats suffering plumbism (lead poisoning) "have led to the discovery and successful treatment of lead toxicity in children living in the same household," according to the journal. When chemicals leaked from a Georgia plant in 2006, public-health workers went door to door, asking if cats and dogs were suffering respiratory effects. And of course, cats and dogs were the first to be affected in 2007 by melamine-contaminated wheat gluten from China. The subsequent investigation stopped chicken and pork that had been fed contaminated gluten from reaching the human food supply.

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