Anticipating a nuclear strike or nuclear disaster, many people ask about iodine prophylaxis for their pets — cats and dogs. The Murkotiki website has conducted its own investigation. Its results are ambiguous, but still, we can draw some conclusions.
The world has experienced quite a few nuclear disasters and there are medical recommendations for humans on taking iodine for preventive purposes. But there are still no international protocols for iodine prophylaxis for pets. Therefore, doctors believe that either pets don’t need it at all, or the dosages for human children can be used for it.
At the outset, it must be said that the data provided in this article refers to the pets without diagnosed thyroid gland-related abnormalities. If there are any, you should consult with your attending veterinarian about the dosages and rely on the doctor’s competence.
Is the prophylaxis necessary?
Probably not. Here is what veterinarian Eduard Kotlyarov thinks about the subject:
“The efficiency of using potassium iodide or other iodine-based medications to prevent thyroid cancer in pet’s hasn’t been proven. No pet studies have been carried out and all dosages are arbitrary. Since the explosion at the Chernobyl NPP, no increase in thyroid cancer in pets has been observed in this region. The only increase in thyroid cancer was in teenage humans.”
Usually, radioactive iodine causes thyroid cancer in growing bodies. But this is true for humans. Veterinarians extrapolate this data to pets and believe that kittens and puppies are at higher risk. Adult pets are unlikely to suffer. So, if you decided to do iodine prophylaxis for your pet, it makes sense to do it for cats and small dogs below 10 years and for giant breeds below 7 years.
Medications for the prophylaxis
There are quite a few iodine medications. The following ones are the main to take in case of radioactive disasters.
Potassium iodide is an inorganic salt consisting of potassium and iodine in a 1:1 ratio. According to Wikipedia, when taken simultaneously with exposure to radiation, its protective effect is about 97%. When taken 12 and 24 hours before exposure to radiation, the effect is 90% and 70% respectively. When taken 1 and 3 hours after exposure — the effect is 85% and 50%. But as for pets, vets have different opinions: from permitting to use it in specific dosages to downright no.
Julia Minchuk, general practice veterinarian and endocrinologist: “In veterinary medicine, potassium iodide is used to treat actinobacillosis and actinomycosis in ruminants, as well as chronic skin sporotrichosis in horses, cats, and dogs. Unfortunately, there is no information on dosages required to counter radiation. Many leading veterinarians believe that in case of real nuclear disaster they would have to extrapolate the dosages used for children to cats and dogs. However, this substance may be harmful. The following side effects are possible in pets: watery eyes, vomiting, anorexia, nasal discharge, muscle twitching, cardiomyopathy, dandruff, hyperthermia, coughing, lack of appetite, and diarrhea. Cats are more prone to intoxication. Lethal cases due to overdose have been documented as well. Due to this, it is not recommended giving potassium iodide to pets. Besides, it doesn’t protect from other cancer types and health problems caused by radiation.”
Many doctors believe that taking potassium iodide isn’t a problem if the dosage is correct. The values suggested by vets from the Pet Health Council look more credible. They suggest using the following dosages of potassium iodide:
- large dogs: 65-125 mg;
- medium dogs: 32-65 mg;
- cats and small dogs under 10 kg: 16-32 mg.
Don’t take the dosages above for the dosages of iodine alone, since the medication contains not only iodine!
We would recommend using the lower values. But before giving the medication, weigh the pros and cons: an ephemeral possibility of getting thyroid cancer in the future or problems right here and now, when you are hiding in a shelter after the disaster without any chance to get to a vet clinic.
Iodine solution on the skin
Most veterinarians don’t recommend iodine and Lugol’s solutions orally or on the skin. First, they doubt the efficiency; second, they doubt the dosages. They can only assume that child’s dosages should be extrapolated to a medium-sized pet (5% iodine solution for cats and dogs up to 10 kg — 20 drops on the back, for dogs weighing 10-30 kg — 34 drops, for dogs over 30 kg — 40 drops). We don’t recommend it, since this method isn’t very efficient and can cause burns.
Natural sources of iodine
Using table salt and iodine-rich products for prophylaxis in humans is ineffective. You simply can’t eat enough to ensure that your thyroid absorbs only the digested iodine instead of the radioactive one. By the way, even taking the right amount of potassium iodide can’t be a 100% guarantee. It’s just the most effective option for humans today.
What about pets? As for dogs and cats, natural food may come in handy, since pets need a microscopic dose of iodine. For example, adult cats should consume about 0.01 mg of iodine per day, and kittens — 0.02 mg (per 1 kg). For dogs, this value is 0.015 mg (per 1 kg). Different sources provide different values for dogs and cats. The problem is still understudied. New studies are published every few years. They criticize previous data and speak of the need to decrease the values. Therefore, the values we give are approximate and average. Besides, many dog and cat breeds formed in different latitudes. So, the needs for iodine may vary from breed to breed.
When estimating how much natural food you need, you should also keep in mind that the iodine amount varies from piece to piece. Besides, a particular pet’s body may absorb it better or worse. So, we can’t guarantee that even the minimum amount will be absorbed. But the main thing here is to get the thyroid busy with absorbing iodine from food. And if it absorbs it poorly, most likely, it won’t be particularly interested in radioactive iodine either.
How much iodine-containing food does a pet need? Don’t get fixed on calculating exact dosage. In the case of natural food, it’s impossible. Just take the iodine-rich foods from the table below and give them to the pet on dangerous days. We estimate that an average adult cat should eat about 200-250 grams of cod per day. Cod is one of the most iodine-rich foods. Marine shrimps, walleye pollock, and tuna contain much iodine as well. But don’t hope to get iodine from freshwater fish.
If there are contraindications to fish, you can pour a large pinch of seaweed powder over meat. Karen Becker, a famous American veterinarian, stands for taking laminaria as a food supplement. She believes that pets on the natural diet often suffer from iodine deficiency. This is because meat and vegetables from many localities contain an insufficient amount of the substance.
“You can provide iodine to a cat or dog by giving them an animal thyroid gland. However, this organ is hard to find in stores. Sea plants are a great alternative. Some brown algae species, such as Laminaria, accumulate 30,000 times more iodine than sea water or fish. But unfortunately, if you buy dried Laminaria, it can contain both a lot of and very little iodine. So, you should buy a standard supplement with a guaranteed amount of iodine.”
Karen Becker recommends Kelp by Now brand — a supplement with guaranteed ingredients. For a cat, one-third of a tablet (1 tablet = 150 mcg of iodine) is enough. The article author’s family also buys this product on iHerb and takes it. You can get a 5% discount by the affiliate link on the Murkotiki website.
You can also combine. For example, you can give both fish and seaweed supplement. Excess iodine will be removed from the body. If it comes to the worst, an overdose will result in digestive troubles or other minor problems. Although it’s almost impossible when you take natural products and supplements.
If now you got worried about whether your pet gets enough iodine per day (irrelative to a nuclear disaster), you can use the discussed Laminaria supplement on a regular basis.
Besides, before using even safe natural products, it’s highly recommended trying them a couple of times without purpose. Rarely, a cat or dog can be allergic to them. And it’s better to find it out in peaceful surroundings but not when you’re hiding in a shelter with no veterinary services available.
What about pets who eat ready-made food?
But keep in mind that if you feed your pet on ready-made food, it already contains iodine. Moreover, many researchers believe that the amount is often too large. Iodine is usually added in dog and cat food in the form of seaweed or synthesized compounds. This may also be the well-known potassium iodide. If your pet eats ready-made food, check the kind and amount of iodine it contains. It may happen so that it will be just enough to give your pet plenty of everyday food.
Once again, we remind you: there is no evidence that without prophylaxis your pet will get thyroid cancer. Besides, iodine will only protect the thyroid gland, but not the other organs from absorbing radioactive iodine and radiation. We believe that it will be enough for a pet to get iodine with food and/or a natural supplement. Doctors focus so much on iodine prophylaxis only because in this case it’s almost the only factor they can influence with medications. Don’t forget other — more important – rules.
- Take your pet to the shelter, don’t leave it in the house. The best option is a bomb shelter or a new-style underground parking lot in a tower-block. If you have a cat, take a litter box or a bag of litter. For some time, your pet will have to go to the toilet in the bomb shelter. Take under pads for dogs. You won’t be able to go outside with your dog for at least 24 hours after the disaster.
- In the shelter turn off fans, air conditioners, and heaters with forced air supply, if possible.
- Only hermetically sealed food is safe (in cans, bottles, boxes, and Ziploc bags). In case of nuclear threat, have a supply of canned food for yourself and unopened food for your pets.
- Be sure to have bottled, not tap water. Tap water may be polluted.
- Listen to the official reports about the situation in your area and follow recommendations of the authorities.