By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
Today I want to talk to you about the possibility that your four-legged family member may have been exposed to the toxic chemical glyphosate, how to determine if he has, what to do about it and how to reduce future exposure. This is an important heads up for all of you who use pesticide sprays in and around your home, take your pets to areas that may have been treated with herbicides and pesticides and/or you feed your dog or cat pet food containing grains.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), has concluded that glyphosate is carcinogenic, meaning it has the potential to cause cancer. A summary of the IARC study was published in 2015, and in it, 17 experts from 11 countries rated the pesticide glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans."
Why Glyphosate Is so Dangerous
Glyphosate is the most widely used weed killer in the world, and usage has only increased with the rise in genetically modified crops. The greatest use of this toxin is in agriculture, but it's also used in forestry, urban and home applications, on farms, lawns, schoolyards, golf courses and other public spaces.
Independent labs have revealed alarming levels of glyphosate and its residues in many popular foods, as well as beverages, drugs, water sources and soil. There are indications that products containing glyphosate also contain other ingredients called adjuvants, which may actually enhance the toxicity of the product, so this problem may be even more serious.
There is evidence of carcinogenicity in humans based on several years of studies of agricultural exposure to glyphosate in the U.S., Canada and Sweden. Studies show glyphosate causes DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, and there is also convincing evidence that glyphosate can cause cancer in animals.
The most well-known product containing glyphosate is Roundup, which is made by Monsanto. A comprehensive list of products containing this herbicide can be found at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Household Products Database. You can also search Dr. Mercola's website on glyphosate for a wealth of information on the dangers of this toxic chemical.
Glyphosate in Pet Food
For those of you still feeding your dog or cat commercial pet food that contains grains, this is a big heads up and another reason to reconsider the diet you're offering your furry family member. It's highly likely the seeds used in the production of the grain crops in your pet's food have been chemically altered to produce plants that can withstand repeated spraying with Roundup weed killer, which contains glyphosate. Estimates are that well over half of all corn grown in the U.S. comes from genetically modified seed.
There are numerous risks associated with eating genetically modified foods. The herbicide glyphosate is applied to millions of acres of genetically modified crops across the U.S. and other countries. This chemical toxin is absorbed by the crops — which are engineered to be herbicide resistant — while it decimates everything else around it.
Glyphosate kills everything in the soil and much of the aquatic life in nearby bodies of water that flow to larger bodies of water. In addition, one study showed that Roundup, which again is the primary herbicide used in GM agriculture, promotes the growth of fungi that produce deadly aflatoxins.
If you're a regular reader here at Healthy Pets, you'll know that I write a lot about aflatoxins — in fact, mycotoxins in general — because they so profoundly impact pet health. According to veterinarian Dr. Michael W. Fox, glyphosate can cause kidney damage in animals, endocrine disruption and birth defects in frogs and other animals and is lethal to many amphibians.
Glyphosate has also been linked to miscarriages, premature births and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in humans. And while extensive studies on animals have not been conducted, it's clear this chemical affects most mammals, as well as birds and reptiles. Even without studies, I think that we can assume glyphosate is toxic to most life. To learn more about pets, GMO's and pesticides visit Protect Pets from GMOs and Pesticides.
How to Reduce Your Pet's Environmental Glyphosate Exposure
The following are some commonsense steps you can take to help reduce your pet's risk of glyphosate exposure:
1. Don't apply chemicals to your yard or your garden. Switch to more natural — or my recommendation — all-organic yard sprays. And be aware that even though you go green, your neighbor may be spraying chemicals that can potentially contaminate your property and pose a risk to both you and your pet.
2. Try to avoid allowing your pet access to any outdoor area unless you can confirm no chemicals have been sprayed there. If you do cross through areas you know or assume have been treated, make sure to rinse your pet's paws and lower legs off as soon as you get home. Foot soaks are a great way to instantly remove chemicals your pet has walked through. If he's been in tall brushy grass, rinse from the shoulders down.
3. If you live in a townhouse or other community environment that applies chemicals to common areas, I recommend reserving a little spot close by that you can detoxify after each application. Water the chemicals applied to the grass down into the soil. Keep your pet on a leash and next to you on the sidewalk until you reach your chemical-free destination. It's a great way to prevent your pet (and yourself) from walking through those toxic chemicals.
4. Develop the habit of removing your shoes outside your door to prevent tracking residual chemicals inside your home.
Removing Glyphosate From Your Pet's Diet
When it comes to your pet's diet, Dr. Fox's advice — and I certainly agree with him — is that you look for USDA organic certification. If you prepare your pet's food at home — which is a great way to pick and choose the ingredients you want to use — avoid cooking oils that contain corn or soy products, even if they're organic.
Organic vegetable oils, even if they're glyphosate-free, are not species-appropriate, so they have no place in your carnivorous pet's diet. Corn and soy as carbohydrate sources are totally unnecessary in your dog's or cat's diet. If you're feeding grains to your pet, I recommend transitioning away from kibble and high-carbohydrate foods to a high-quality, human-grade canned food, a dehydrated raw diet, or gently cooked food free of grains and genetically modified ingredients.
Detoxifying Your Pet
I recommend that you consider periodic detoxification for your pet. The level of environmental exposure to chemicals will dictate the appropriate frequency and type of detox most suitable for your pet. For example, if he has constant exposure to toxic chemicals all summer, supplying a daily detox protocol is a very wise idea.
But if his only source of chemical exposure is, say, a once-a-month heartworm pill, or if you're applying flea and tick chemicals directly on your pet, then provide a detox the week after each pill or topical treatment. I also recommend switching to an all-natural, chemical-free flea and tick protocol if at all possible.
There are many detoxifying herbs and supplements on the market to choose from, and I've written several detailed articles here at Healthy Pets that cover the whys and hows of detoxing your pet. The rule of thumb for a detox protocol is that it should not cause any visible changes in your pet — no vomiting, diarrhea or change in behavior.
Testing for Glyphosate Exposure
If you're interested in testing your pet for glyphosate exposure, Dr. Mercola has partnered with a lab that has developed a Glyphosate Environmental Exposure Test kit as part of a worldwide study on environmental exposure to glyphosate. The kit measures glyphosate residues in any mammalian urine sample — human, dog, cat or even horse.
It includes a container for you to provide your pet's urine sample, a link to a survey to fill out and a prepaid package to return your pet's sample for analysis. In a few weeks, you'll receive information via email on how your pet's exposure compares with others and what to do to help reduce exposure.