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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 16303
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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I recently found out that an area animal shelter located on

Customer Question

I recently found out that an area animal shelter located on land that used to be an old oil field, is giving the well water to their animals. You can smell the oil in the water and it is not for human consumption, however the dogs and cats are drinking it.
Can this polluted water be harmful to the animals (I'm thinking yes) and if so what are some health issues that it can cause. Can kidney failure, liver failure etc happen?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 2 years ago.
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I am sorry to hear that these animals are being given well water that is contaminated by an old oil field.
The good news is that the less refined an oil is the less is absorbed systemically and the less harmful it is. That means that crude oil from the ground is less toxic than highly refined gasoline.
It doesn't mean that the water is safe, and it would be ideal to not use this well water.
But if animals are only in the shelter for a short period of time there may be no long term effects.
Short term effects could be mouth irritation, drooling, and chewing motions, followed by coughing, choking, and vomiting and eventually diarrhea due to the cathartic effects of the oil. Pneumonia due to aspiration of hydrocarbons into the lungs is usually the most serious consequence of ingestion of these materials, but is much less common with crude oil ingestion than with refined, lighter oils.
Chronic exposure could lead to anemia and central nervous system effects like depression, lethargy, tremors, incoordination and possibly seizures. Kidney or liver disease would not be common unless oil is aspirated in to the lungs and oxygenation of those tissues was poor.
The safest thing to do would be to collect a sample of well water and submit it to a toxicology laboratory for analysis. They can measure the concentration of oil as well as the types of oil present (different types have slightly different toxic effects) which will give definitive proof that this water is either safe or not.
In your state Texas A&M University has an excellent toxicology laboratory. Here is a link regarding water sampling:
Best of luck with your concerns, I hope this information has been helpful.
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 2 years ago.
Hi Monica,

I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?

Dr. Kara