For participants in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, filling out the yearly questionnaire can be a daunting task. Carla Faust Bare is owner of Edin, Hero Dog #1001, and just completed her third questionnaire. An avid study participant, Carla spent most of her working career as a technical writer for a large international environmental engineering company. We recently caught up with Carla and asked her to help explain the rationale behind many of our questionnaire’s environmentally focused questions.Why is the type of flooring present in a dog’s environment important? Indoor air pollution can occur from many sources, particularly newly installed flooring. Certain types of manufactured flooring such as carpeting and laminates produce off-gasses including formaldehyde that could be inhaled by a dog. Adhesives, upholstery, copy machines, and cleaning products are just some of the other sources of toxic chemicals inside the home. How long these compounds remain toxic is an open question. In addition to toxicity risk, carpet traps allergens like dust mites, mold spores, and pollens that could contribute to inhaled or contact allergies in our dogs. We ask a lot about the type of heating and cooking sources in the home. What concerns are associated with heating sources? With gas heat, safety from leaks is my major concern. Inhalation of gas and injury from fire are frightening prospects. Likewise, if a heat or cooking source isn’t properly vented, toxic fumes can build up inside a house. For example, when you cook something for so long it sets off the fire alarm, the resulting smoke might contain carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, or other harmful inhalants. It is unclear how much exposure causes health problems. What about exposure to wood burning fireplaces and wood stoves? When we had a wood-burning fireplace, our golden retrievers loved to lay on the hearth. Smoke from wood stoves and fireplaces can be an irritant and contain many of the same toxic compounds mentioned for heating and cooking sources. Tobacco products also add carcinogenic compounds to indoor air. The key to minimizing indoor air quality problems is good ventilation and a balanced heating and air conditioning system.
We also ask about water sources. What things are of concern with water? I live in a lakeside community situated near a recently decommissioned coal-fired power plant. Although remediation measures have begun, I have lingering concerns about heavy metals leaching into the environment from coal ash that has been stored onsite for decades. As the local municipal water supply, our lake water is rigorously tested and appears to be safe to drink. But, the underlying sediment is contaminated. Signs posted around the lake warn people about eating fish from our lake. I don’t allow our dogs to swim in the lake, so they have their own saltwater pool in our backyard. I also give them filtered water from the refrigerator to drink. The recent lead exposure from drinking water in Flint, Michigan, underscores how important it is for people to know the source and quality of their drinking water and the water they give their dogs, and be mindful if your dog likes to swim in natural water bodies or hunt in marshy areas. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study will provide unprecedented information on how the environment influences the health of our dogs. We know it can be challenging to fill out the multitude of questions on environment, but the data is invaluable. We thank Carla Faust Bare for helping our participants understand why these questions are important, and how what we learn could have a major impact on the health of future generations of dogs.