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Diagnosing pets exposed to fuel-contaminated water is a challenge, veterinarian says

The FDA issued an alert following reports of vitamin D toxicity in dogs (not this one). Several dry dog food brands have been recalled.
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The Fort Shafter Veterinary Treatment Facility has treated over 100 pets that have been exposed to fuel contaminants in tap water.

Over the past few weeks, pet owners on the military’s water system have reported vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, and even death of their animals.

People also said their pets have refused to drink water from the tap.

Captain Matthew Putnam is the Chief of Veterinary Services at Fort Shafter. He says it’s a challenge to diagnose animals from their symptoms alone.

"A lot of these symptoms from the hydrocarbon toxicity — what's in the water — also show up with lots of other kinds of issues, so really determining what is from this toxicity, and what isn't, is difficult," he said.

"If we’re seeing vomiting, diarrhea, skin irritation signs from those animals that were exposed, we're just kind of treating it as, you know, that's what it is. But a lot of it is symptomatic treatments," Putnam told Hawaiʻi Public Radio. "What can we do to stop the vomiting or diarrhea? Or you know, maybe they start getting dehydrated because they haven't been wanting to drink the water. So getting them rehydrated."

Putnam says his clinic has not seen any cases of severe illness in pets, but says that owners with small animals, such as guinea pigs or rats, should take extra care.

The veterinary facility at Fort Shafter is currently open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for walk-in appointments.

"We've seen about 115 patients since the 2nd of December. So not an overwhelming number, but certainly more than we would normally see," he said.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Dec. 13, 2021. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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