Will potassium iodide prevent radiation poisoning in pets?

veterinary news

potassium iodideConcerns over pending nuclear fallout in Japan have caused a spike in sales of potassium iodine tablets, not only in Japan, but also one the western coast of USA and Canada.  Some health food stores are completely sold out of potassium iodide as many pet owners are administering them to their outdoor cats and dogs to help protect them if a cloud of nuclear radiation travels over the ocean.

How does potassium iodine prevent radiation poisoning?

Well really, it doesn’t.  You’ll see at the end of my article why I don’t believe any animals should be getting potassium iodide.  However, I’ll try to explain here why people are buying up iodine like crazy.

When people or pets are given radiation in the form of I131 (known as radioactive iodine) for cancer treatments, the radioactive iodine is absorbed quickly by the thyroid gland.  It was discovered that it helped if these people were given potassium iodide (a form of iodine) before they had their radiation treatment.  What happens is this–the thyroid gland iodine receptors would absorb the potassium iodide.  Then, when exposed to radiation, the iodine receptors were already full and they did not take up the radiation.  Here is a graphic example of this:

Potassium Iodide Protection of thyroid gland

Why potassium iodide won’t protect against nuclear fallout radiation:
Although potassium iodide may protect against I131 radiation from cancer treatments, there are a few reasons why it will not be that helpful in the case of nuclear fallout radiation:

  • There are other kinds of radiation other than I131.  In Chernobyl, the culprit was Cesium (CS-137).  This would likely be the biggest concern if there was a nuclear disaster in Japan.  Potassium Iodide does not protect against Cesium.  Neither does it protect against plutonium, uranium, iridium and radium.
  • Potassium Iodide only protects the thyroid against radiation damage, not the rest of the body.
  • If there is any protection to the thyroid, it is likely only helpful for animals (or people) with rapidly growing tissue.  This would include pregnant or very young individuals.

Is it dangerous to give potassium iodide to pets?
This is debatable.  Most cats already get too much iodine from their food.  Both cats and dogs can overdose on potassium iodide, but cats are the most susceptible.  Symptoms of potassium iodide toxicity include:

  • vomiting
  • not eating
  • depression
  • twitching
  • hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • cardiovascular failure

With that being said, the risk of overdose is small.

What is the dose of potassium iodide to give to a dog or cat?
Wait!  Did you read the entire article?  Potassium iodide is not likely to help protect your cat from radiation poisoning.  But, if you are paranoid and desperately want to give it, here are some doses that have been published:

  • Dogs: 1.4 mg/kg once a day.  This is the same as 100mg for a 70lb (32 kg) dog.
  • Cats: 20 mg/kg once to twice daily.

Take note of the potential side effects as described above.  Use at your own risk!  Again, this is not likely to be too helpful.  If there is any benefit, the medication must be given at least 4 hours before exposure to radiation.  Kelp tablets may be another source of potassium iodide as well.

Added March 25, 2011:
Does Beta-Glucan prevent against radiation?
I just had a comment added to the blog that said that beta glucan is a great protection against radiation exposure. This is not true, but I can understand where the confusion comes from.

Beta-Glucan is sometimes given to people after they have had radiation therapy for cancer. The drug is not meant to protect people from radiation. Rather, it is meant to help the immune system fight against the effects of the radiation. When people have radiation therapy for cancer they will often have damage to their bone marrow. This can result in decreased numbers of red and white blood cells. The Beta-Glucan is a supplement which is believed to help boost the immune system create more red and white blood cells once the radiation treatment is stopped.

Beta-Glucan will not protect against nuclear accident radiation.

I’d love to hear your comments on this article.  Feel free to drop a line below!

Dr. Marie.

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Dr. Marie

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8 Responses to "Will potassium iodide prevent radiation poisoning in pets?"

  1. John says:

    OK, been watching the news. Have you? I am a little diturbed at the fact that the spinach and other crops that there having problems with have radioactive Iodine. that is what there testing for!!!???? ARE YOU SURE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU TAKING ABOUT. They are checking ther fields for that and finding it, and it sound what there worried about… for HUMANS

  2. Elizabeth says:

    If Potasium Iodide only helps the thyroid (If it helps) What do you suggest will help the rest of our bodies (Both Human and Animals) from Cesium, plutonium, uranium, iridium and radium poisoning?

  3. DrMarie says:

    Good question Elizabeth. I don’t believe that there is anything you can take orally to fight against radiation exposure.

    I’m definitely not an expert in nuclear fallout! So I’m probably not the best person to answer your question.

    However, as I understand it, even if radiation does make its way across the ocean, it is extremely unlikely to reach levels that would be harmful to us or our pets.

    1. Ailora says:

      That isn’t true. There is plenty you can do to detoxify your body after exposure. You just need to do research to find out what works best for you.

      Blue green algae like Chlorella and Spirulina works well to detox. Baking Soda taken orally is also good. Kelp, magnesium baths, natural clay supplements.

      Numerous natural detoxification techniques out there. You just have to be willing to investigate and find credible sources.

      1. DrMarie says:

        Are any of these specific treatments for radiation exposure? While I’m sure there are many natural substances that detox certain areas of our body, I’m skeptical that these will do anything to help with radiation exposure. However, if you have any scientific research articles that support your theory, I’d love to read them!

  4. M1ssdiagnosis says:

    Beta glucan has been proven effective in protecting the body from the effects of radiation exposure. There is was a study done by the U.S. military. Beta glucan protects the entire body, not just the thyroid gland. The highest-quality beta glucan I have personally found, and the only one with the patented beta glucan that is best absorbed and used by the body is from NSC-24.

    1. DrMarie says:

      Thank you for your comment! Beta Glucan actually does not protect against radiation…I’ve added some information to the bottom of my article to explain why.

  5. Jon Sowa says:

    There are several logical steps that reasonable people and pet owners can take.

    First, don’t buy into the general sense of hysteria that the media have created.
    Second, get informed. If you have the time, there is a lot of good information available.

    I’m so tired of reading “clippets” and hearing “sound-bites” about the dangers of radiation and conversely about the dangers of taking Potassium Iodide or giving it to pets. If you want information about the best courses of action, ignore the “post Japan Crisis” articles, and read up what was written by the EPA, FEMA. etc, prior to the current flood of half truths.

    My short take on this, as a concerned American as well as a pet owner, is the following:

    – To date, levels of radiation from Japan reported in Hawaii, Alaska, and on the West Coast of the USA are still well below any danger levels for people or pets. Might this change? Possibly it will, if things go dramatically downhill on the ground in Japan. Prudence demands that we pay attention and only act if and when things deteriorate further.

    – Should I be taking Potassium Iodide or giving it to my pets as a precautionary measure at this time? Absolutely NOT! All the guidelines tell you that only when public safety officials and/or the press report that there is an imminent danger of exposure to unsafe levels of radiation, should you take or administer Potassium Iodide for yourself, or to your family and pets.

    – Is Potassium Iodide safe for people and pets? If taken or administered in the recommended dose, Potassium Iodide is perfectly safe, except for people or pets with certain very rare conditions. In fact, it is recommended by FEMA and many other agencies in the event of a nuclear event. How do you know?? Again, it isn’t rocket science that you should call your doctor or veterinarian and ask if it’s safe for you or your pet to take Potassium Iodide in the case of a dangerous radioactive event. The last report I read indicated that Potassium Iodide was generally safe for pets, as long as they didn’t get an overdose. Why would you overdose your pet?? Can’t a little common sense prevail? We aren’t children.

    – Should you rush out and buy a stockpile of Potassium Iodide? Again, there’s no real hurry. FEMA recommends that you have Potassium Iodide in you emergency preparedness Kit in the appropriate amount to cover your family and pets. Since the most beneficial protection of Potassium Iodide is provide when you take or administer it PRIOR to radioactive exposure, you might want to have it on hand as FEMA recommends. If you wait until the last moment to buy some, you may not be able to get any. Your call….

    I suggest that it is better to be safe than sorry. Since Potassium Iodide(KI) is inexpensive and has a long shelf life, why not have it on hand, just in case …..especially if you live in Hawaii, Alaska, the West coast, or within 50 miles of a nuclear plant?? You can buy IOSAT, an FDA approved Potassium Iodide pills for human consumption at http://www.nukepills.com. A Potassium Iodide preparation that is formulated specifically for pets is PETSHIELD-KI available at http://WWW.KI4PETS.COM . Read all the detailed information in their FAQs and call you Doctor and/or Vet with specific questions where needed.

    Let a little common sense intrude on the discussion. You’ll be glad you did.

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