What is Moldy Food (Mycotoxins) Poisoning?
Mycotoxins are poisonous substances produced by fungi and molds that grow on spoiled food. These substances are toxic to dogs as well as humans and can pose a problem for pets that like to eat food out of the trash. There are many different kinds of mycotoxins which are divided into several families. The most common group are tremorgenic, meaning that they contain a neurotoxin which causes tremors or seizures in dogs. Tremorgenic mycotoxins are produced by various Penicillium species of bacteria, with penitrem-A being the substance that most frequently causes poisoning in dogs. Penitrem-A is found on many types of spoiled food, including, bread, dairy products, and nuts. This type of poisoning is relatively common in dogs, with immediate symptoms of vomiting, tremors, and fever. Without treatment, high doses can cause fatal seizures.
Other toxic mycotoxins can also be present including aflatoxins produced by aspergillus fungi. These mycotoxins are metabolized in the liver and may cause hepatocellular necrosis (liver cell death) which will affect liver function giving dogs a yellowish, jaundiced appearance. Fusarium mold containing trichothecene mycotoxins can also sometimes be found on old or contaminated pet food. This will cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Severe mycotoxin poisoning can result in death and even non-fatal doses may be symptomatic for up to five days. Veterinary treatment can reduce the symptoms and help to eliminate the toxins faster, greatly increasing the dog’s chances of recovery.
Moldy food can contain mycotoxins that are poisonous to your dog. This is called mycotoxin intoxication or mycotoxin toxicosis. Seizures and tremors are the most common symptoms. Severe cases can be fatal without treatment.
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Symptoms of Moldy Food (Mycotoxins) Poisoning in Dogs
These symptoms could indicate mycotoxin poisoning.
- High fever (hyperthermia)
- Jaundiced appearance (icterus)
- Abdominal pain
These are some of the mycotoxins found frequently in moldy food.
- The most common type of tremorgenic mycotoxin associated with poisoning in dogs, frequently found in mold growing on bread, nuts, cheese and other spoiled products
- Produced by aspergillus fungi this can also be a component in many types of mold
- In dogs, it can affect liver function and may cause icterus (jaundice)
- A trichothecene mycotoxin produced by Fusarium mold that grows on grains such as those found in bread or dog food
- This is an infrequent cause of poisoning in dogs that is mainly caused by contaminated dog food
- Another tremorgenic mycotoxin frequently found with penitrem-A
Causes of Moldy Food (Mycotoxins) Poisoning in Dogs
These are some of the causes and risk factors for mycotoxin poisoning.
- Spoiled food left in an open trashcan
- Compost heap
- Old or moldy dog food
- Feeding spoiled food to a dog
- Dogs that like to eat from the trash
Diagnosis of Moldy Food (Mycotoxins) Poisoning in Dogs
A history of moldy food ingestion is the easiest way of identifying a likely mycotoxin poisoning in your dog. Whenever possible, you should bring a sample of the suspected substance with you so the veterinarian will be able to better identify the mycotoxin that is causing the problem. If aflatoxins are present, a blood test will show reduced liver function, but other mycotoxins rarely have obvious diagnostic markers. Lab testing of the spoiled food or the contents of your dog’s stomach will be necessary to definitively diagnose mycotoxin toxicosis and identify the substance that is causing your dog’s symptoms. The veterinarian will also need to test for alternative causes since ingestion of other toxic substances like ethylene glycol, hydrocarbons or amphetamines could cause similar symptoms. A history of your dog’s recent activities may be helpful, especially if you didn’t see the incident.
Treatment of Moldy Food (Mycotoxins) Poisoning in Dogs
Initial treatment will focus on eliminating the toxic substance. Vomiting may be induced or gastric lavage may be done under anesthesia. Activated charcoal may be given to reduce absorption in the stomach as well as a cathartic medication to initiate bowel movements.
More advanced cases will require medication to control symptoms. Diazepam is often prescribed to control seizures with tremorgenic mycotoxins. Intravenous methocarbamol may be necessary with very severe seizures. For aflatoxin poisoning, intravenous fluids and electrolytes will be necessary to support liver function and blood transfusions might be required in severe cases. Corticosteroids may be prescribed if your dog is in shock as well as other medications to regulate body temperature.
Recovery of Moldy Food (Mycotoxins) Poisoning in Dogs
Most dogs will survive mycotoxin poisoning with aggressive treatment. It is important to get treatment however, since this type of toxicity can be fatal. Finding and removing the cause of poisoning will be necessary to prevent a recurrence. You should buy fresh dog food and throw away the old food in a sealed container or a dog-proof garbage can. Buying dog food in smaller quantities can reduce the risk of contamination. Spoiled food should be disposed of in a garbage disposal whenever possible. Rinse out old milk cartons or bottle before recycling them. Keep sealed lids on all your garbage cans and try to train your dog not to go through trash. Avoid feeding any spoiled food to your dog. Food that is not fit for human consumption will likely be toxic for your dog also.
Moldy Food (Mycotoxins) Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Hi Dr., I am trying to educate my stubborn neighbor about the IMPORTANCE of proper dry dog food storage. If you would kindly provide your opinion we would greatly appreciate it.
A frugal dog owner/consumer purchased two "Perfectly fine" (sealed undamaged / untainted, mold FREE) 50lb bags of "XXX Dry Kibble" one week before the food expiration date.
After opening the first bag, removed 4 cups of kibble, then rolling the top of the bag (with no clip or sealing device) and putting it on his garage floor. Storage conditions: Humidity is consistently 100%, and the daily temperature low and high is 78 F to 106. The floor is constantly moist/damp due to the humidity.
My question: If an unsealed dry dog food bag is stored for an extended period in the conditions described, APPROXIMATELY how quickly can toxic mold begin to form.
On Sunday morning Stacks appeared perfectly fine. He went swimming with my golden retriever early that afternoon. The diarrhea and vomiting began later that day. The following Saturday I called Paul and Pam to see how Stacks was doing and to invite him for a walk/swim. They were attending a barbecue when I called. Paul stated that "Stacks is at home sick, had not eaten in one week". They had a vet appointment scheduled for Monday. I hung up the phone, drove up to their house (300 yards), cut a hole in their porch screen door and rushed Stacks to my Vet (who fortunately lived in an apt. above her office). Despite aggressive treatment, Stacks passed away the following morning. Paul continues to blame the dog food manufacturer. He NEEDS to blame the dog food manufacturer because he cannot face the reality that he unintentionally poisoned his dog.
Ingredients: Ground Yellow Corn, Meat And Bone Meal, Soybean Meal, Poultry By-Product Meal, Animal Fat (Preserved With BHA And Citric Acid), Corn Gluten Meal, Natural Flavor, Brewers Rice, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Color Added (Titanium Dioxide, Yellow #5, Yellow #6, Red #40, Blue #2), Choline Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Niacin, Copper Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source of Vitamin K), Riboflavin Supplement, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Cobalt Carbonate.
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I think Tiana ate from the neighbors compost pile yesterday. This morning she woke up shaking and panting. Then when she went outside she missed a step, very abnormal for her. I did take her to the vet about 3 hours ago and her temp at that point was 101. She was put on diazepam. Now her temp is 99.4 and it looks like she is hallucinating. Vet said not to feed her right now but she can drink as she likes. Is this enough? She is no longer shaking or panting but she won’t lay still and it looks like she keeps seeing things. I’m trying really hard not to be a crazy dog mom but I’m just a little worried. Thank you!
My dog got into the trash, I believe he had a small seizure and is very lathargic and in steady, he keeps falling over and seems to be hallucinating. He has been sleeping non stop. Feels like he has a fever but hasn’t thrown up and I can’t get him to drink anything. Should I get him seen?
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My 19 month old mini-doxie ate a (one) small homemade "cheese treat" that had blue mold on it. Should I take him to Emergency Vet or try to induce vomiting? So far (30 min.) he shows no adverse symptoms.
The item was a 1/2" cube, if that is pertinent.
If the cheese was a normally blue moldy cheese like Danish Blue and it was in date, there would be little to worry about; if the cheese was moldy because it had gone bad or the blue cheese was over ripe, there is a chance of a toxin being present that dogs may be susceptible to. If ingestion was within an hour, induce vomiting with 3% hydrogen peroxide; otherwise monitor for symptoms of vomiting, diarrhoea, spasms, lethargy and loss of appetite. If you are concerned, visit your Veterinarian to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Hey my Chihuahua is having a seizure. I noticed this morning whilebtryna fees her. I took her to the vet and they have her diazepam. When we got home we fed her some soft food and she drank a lot of water. I think she ate some mold outside. Please give me some advice
Dog ate salami that smelled really bad. I have no money at all. But I may have activated charcol
My dogs food went moldy without us realizing it and she ate it one time, she has since has bloody diarrhea. We have thrown the food out and replaced it. She has no other signs of being sick other than the diarrhea. Should we seek treatment for her or just feed her the new food?
Ok the dog ate salami that smelled really bad
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I have no clue what my dog could have gotten in to. It looks like she is now hallucinating. Just keeps staring in one direction and then another, like something is moving around- an ocular seizure?- No fever, no pain. She’s just been doing this for the last three hours. Won’t relax. Will engage if you start moving around. A vet visit seems like it may cost several hundreds of dollars, which I don’t have. What should I do? Is it worth going to the vet? She was fine today.
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I believe my dog must have ate a old pecan,we have a lot on our yard which she has eaten before and hasn't gotten sick. But tonight I found her outside having a seizure I brought her inside and did what I could. She got better but has since had a few more, there are no vets near me that can see us tonight and I also honestly don't have the hundreds it will take
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