Frequent swims in Kam Lake probably not good for pets, says veterinary toxicologist

A veterinary toxicology expert is telling Yellowknife pet owners to think twice before letting their animals play in Kam Lake after arsenic levels in the lake have been confirmed to exceed safe drinking water limits.

Expert says daily doggy dips in Kam Lake should be avoided

Pat Moore plays with her dog Benson in Kam Lake. The lake has levels of arsenic concentration that exceed Health Canada safe drinking water standards. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

A veterinarian has a warning for dog owners in Yellowknife: Don't let them spend too much time in Kam Lake.

Water monitoring by the GNWT this April found the concentration of arsenic in Kam Lake to be 240 parts per billion — 24 times higher than Health Canada's recommended drinking water limit, but less than half of what was found nearly three decades ago.

Alberta's Dr. Robert Coppock, an expert in veterinary toxicology, said prolonged exposure from drinking or playing in water with elevated arsenic concentrations, like those found in Kam Lake, could do serious harm to a pet.

"If they do it once in awhile [it's fine], but on a daily basis or during the summer months, it probably isn't a good idea," Coppock said.

Too late now to worry

But that's exactly what Pat Moore has been doing with her 9-year-old lab Benson. She's been taking him and her other dog to the lake since they were puppies.

Despite learning about the high concentration of arsenic in Kam Lake, Moore said she will continue to allow her dogs to play in the water.

"It's way too late now," Moore said. "They've been playing here forever. Too late to do anything about it now."

Prolonged exposure to arsenic in dogs can lead to a depressed appetite and weight loss, skin rashes — particularly on the belly — and kidney problems.

Moore said both her dogs have liver failure.

"I don't know if that might be linked to this," she said. "I tried to do some research on it but couldn't find anything."

According to Coppock, arsenic poisoning can cause liver problems, but that's usually seen in cases of direct exposure rather than exposure through swimming.

Moore said if she ever gets another dog, she would keep it out of Kam Lake.

"Certainly if these guys [dogs] are gone, and if we get new dogs, we'll probably take them to Grace Lake, not here," she said.

Grace Lake has a concentration of 15 parts per billion, five parts above drinking water guidelines.