Is the procedure from the mining industry known as fracking causing a lot of controversy and health concerns for your dog?

If you keep up with the news, you’ve heard about hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking. It involves injecting massive quantities of chemically treated water deep underground to fracture rock and reach natural gas or oil deposits.

A lot of controversy has arisen around this practice, and whether or not it’s safe or healthy. Not surprisingly, gas and oil companies claim that as long as everything is done to specifications, fracking is safe. But others are just as adamant that it’s a bad idea. Many scientists and environmentalists are warning that this procedure is having a profoundly negative impact on our water and air, and by extension, all living things, including people and companion animals.

“One of my biggest concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing is the exposure of dogs and cats to a variety of toxic chemicals that are not disclosed by the companies due to ‘trade secrets’,” says veterinarian Dr. Becky L. Morrow, an Assistant Professor at Duquesne University. “In addition to the unknown chemicals that are injected into the ground, the fluid that resurfaces often contains additional toxins, heavy metals, carcinogens, and radioactive materials that could lead to cancer, multi-organ failure, and death. Although scientific data is limited, one study showed that 17 cows died only one hour after exposure to waste fluid released into their pasture, and several dogs and cats became severely ill and died within a few days after exposure to waste fluid dumped on roads.”

The study Dr. Morrow refers to is called “Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health” and was done by Michelle Bamberger and Robert E. Oswald; it appeared in the January 2012 issue of New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy. “Documentation of cases in six states strongly implicates exposure to gas drilling operations in serious health effects on humans, companion animals, livestock, horses, and wildlife,” the study states. “Sources of exposure to gas drilling operations that have been associated with ill health in canines are well, spring, pond and creek waters; storm water runoff from the well pad; wastewater spread on road; wastewater impoundment not contained; pipeline leak; flaring of well; and compressor station malfunction. In canines, health problems that occurred in association with the above exposures were reproductive, gastrointestinal, neurological, dermatological, urological, musculoskeletal, upper respiratory, and sudden death.”

7 Ways to Keep Him Safe

1. Education and awareness are the keys here. Keep track of what is going on in your region, the food and water you and your dog consume, and where you both go for outdoor exercise. Always report anything suspicious that might be dangerous. And before you allow your property to be used for anything, understand what you’re getting into.

2. If you live in fracking territory (see sidebar on next page), have your water tested prior to drilling, and also during and after drilling, to ensure your water stays safe for drinking and bathing. If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your dog.

3. Give purified water to your dog. Don’t let him drink from puddles, creeks, streams, ponds or any other water sources you aren’t sure are safe.

4. Outdoor exercise should be supervised. Before letting your dog loose to run or swim, investigate the area for potential dangers such as fracking ponds, where toxic waste water is put after fracking is completed. Be aware that there are cases of this toxic water being illegally dumped along roads, in streams and elsewhere. Know where these areas might be and keep your dog away from them.

5. Air quality is also a concern near fracking sites. Residents have reported upper respiratory ailments and feelings of nausea. Keep in mind that these well sites stink and that your dog’s sense of smell is hundreds of times better than yours. Even driving by these wells may make him (and you) feel sick.

6. Ask your veterinarian if s/he has any concerns, but keep in mind that many conventional doctors will not say that fracking has any adverse health effects. I asked my own vet if my cat’s upper respiratory problems could be linked to flaring wells. He assured me he saw no relationship, though he added he would inform me if the concern arose.

7. Do what you can to optimize your dog’s overall health by feeding him the best quality food you can afford, avoiding over-vaccination, limiting his exposure to stress and household toxins, and taking him to the vet for regular checkups.

Like it or not, fracking has become a fact of life. Depending on where you live, it might not be much of an issue, but if you reside in one of the hundreds of active regions, it’s wise to take steps to stay informed and protect your health – and that of your dog’s.

Where Does Fracking Happen?

Generally, fracking is done wherever there are large formations of shale – and that covers a lot of ground in North America. In the US, shale is found in large swathes from the Great Lakes down to Texas, and across the western plains. The Marcellus Shale formation, meanwhile, which is extremely rich in natural gas, covers an area from West Virginia through Pennsylvania and into New York State. Fracking now takes place at hundreds of thousands of gas wells in more than 30 states. The situation is similar in Canada, where fracking is carried out in almost every province, most notably Alberta.