New research indicates that pets are increasingly found to harbor toxic chemicals. It seems it’s not just your tuna-fish sandwich anymore; it’s Fluffy and Fido, too.

The Environmental Working Group studied pets for the first time in its attempt to come to grips with the widespread nature of toxic chemicals in our midst. Everything from Teflon to flame retardants and mercury were found in pets at five times the rate seen in humans (according to a previous Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study).

This is alarming. Especially since the toxic levels are presumably correlated to health problems we see in our pets. Cancer and thyroid disease are among the suspect ills.

It seems that dogs and cats, with their compressed lifespans and speedier metabolisms, are capable of demonstrating these disease processes more rapidly. The aberrant levels found in their flesh (48 out of 70 toxins tested and at such high levels!) will undoubtedly help us determine what our own true risk is when it comes to daily exposure to toxic chemicals…while determining our pets.’

While I was a vet student I took a special interest in public health, which led to a six-week externship with the CDC in Anchorage (during the winter—yikes!). Some of our work involved pets as sentinels for respiratory disease and cancer—for which the correlation was strong between dogs and humans.

So it seems that, yet again, the human medical community is finding that the phenomenon of petdom in the US is doubly valuable for our health. Not only do pets reduce our risk of serious stress and assuage our age-related diseases (like cardiac disease and dementia), but pets will almost certainly assist in telling it like it is when it comes to toxic chemicals.