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Veterinary Clients Cautioned about Giving Potassium Iodide to Pets

March 17, 2011

On March 16, the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in Davis, California, was receiving three to five calls per hour from clients inquiring about potential radiation risks to their pets if radioactive material from Japan's troubled nuclear power plants should cross the Pacific and reach California.

Dr. Michael Kent, a faculty veterinarian who specializes in radiation cancer therapy, says, "At this point there is no risk to pets in California stemming from radiation released from the tragedy that continues to unfold in Japan." 

Clients also asked about whether they should give potassium iodide tablets to their pets as a preventative. Kent adds, “While potassium iodide might help protect dogs, cats and other pets, as it would people, from the risks of radiation exposure in the unlikely event that radioactive iodine reaches here in appreciable levels, giving it ahead of time carries risks and would be ill advised. Side effects to pets taking potassium iodide, especially if they ingest too much, include severe and even life threatening allergic reactions, gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia), decreased normal thyroid function (hypothyroidism) and damage to the heart. At high enough levels it can cause death."

March 15, the California Department of Public Health and the California Emergency Management Agency issued a joint statement emphasizing Californians’ safety from radiation exposure and the risks of taking potassium iodide as a precautionary measure: “The safety of all Californians is our highest priority, and we are in constant contact with the federal agencies responsible for monitoring radiation levels across the West Coast. We want to emphasize that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have all stated that there is no risk expected to California or its residents as a result of the situation in Japan."

Online answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Radiation.

Since 1948, the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine has provided statewide teaching, research and service programs benefiting animal health, public health and environmental health. The only veterinary school in the University of California system, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine is second in the nation among veterinary schools ranked by US News & World Report.

At the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, faculty specialists provide comprehensive diagnotics and care in radiation, medical and surgical oncology at one of the busiest veterinary cancer treatment centers in the world.