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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.

Moldy Food (Mycotoxins) Poisoning Average Cost

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Symptoms of Moldy Food (Mycotoxins) Poisoning in Dogs

These symptoms could indicate mycotoxin poisoning.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Disorientation
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • High fever (hyperthermia)
  • Jaundiced appearance (icterus)
  • Abdominal pain

Types

These are some of the mycotoxins found frequently in moldy food.

Penitrem-A

  • 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

Aflatoxins

  • 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)

Vomitoxin

  • 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

Roquefortine

  • Another tremorgenic mycotoxin frequently found with penitrem-A
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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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Moldy Food (Mycotoxins) Poisoning Average Cost

From 79 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,000

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Moldy Food (Mycotoxins) Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Australian Shepherd

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Two Years

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Tarry Stool

Hey my dog ate 5 day old moldy dog food is he gonna be ok he isn’t showing any signs

Sept. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is feeling better. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 23, 2020

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Weimaraner

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Four Years

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Vomiting , Disorientation , Tremors , Loss Of Equilibrium

My dog ate old rotten cream cheese. Can this be fatal and if so should I take him to a vet?

Aug. 23, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Cheese can grow some fairly toxic mold, and from the description that you're giving of your dogs signs, I did not think that your dog will be okay if you do not see a veterinarian. I would have your dog seen by a veterinarian right away. I hope that all goes well for your dog.

Aug. 23, 2020

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Jack Russell

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1.5 Years

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None

My dog ate a pan of moldy pasta on the counter that I was about to clean. Should I be concerned? Time of consumption was about 8pm

Aug. 15, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. It is hard to know if your dog will have any ill effects from this moldy pasta. Molds can be quite serious toxins, and I would be very aware of what my dog was doing for the next 24 to 48 hours. He may be fine, and you may have nothing to worry about, but if there are any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or loss of appetite, or loss of coordination, I would see a veterinarian immediately. Some toxins are quite serious, and your dog may need medical care. I hope that all goes well.

Aug. 15, 2020

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Yorkshire Terrier

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4.5 Years

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I found my dog eating a moldy chew bone that he had buried in the backyard

Aug. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello I recommend monitoring your pet for any vomiting or diarrhea. Moldy bones can be digested but there may be bacteria that could upset your pup's stomach. Good luck.

Aug. 4, 2020

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German Shepherd

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2 1/2

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My dog ate a piece of molded pork loin from the trash. What do I do?

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Moldy food can be quite toxic to the GI tract, and it would be best to watch your dog very closely for any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or a loss of appetite. None of those signs may occur, and your dog may be fine, but if you do see them, it would be best to have your dog seen right away by a veterinarian. I hope that all goes well and your dog feels better soon.

July 31, 2020

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Moldy Food (Mycotoxins) Poisoning Average Cost

From 79 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,000

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