Early this year, a state representative stopped by the store looking for a brand of pet food that had been recalled. The recall was because of aflatoxin contamination, a member of the mycotoxin family, and is produced by the mold that typically affects corn. There was an expanded recall of the same brand later in the year and in August, the FDA issued a warning letter to the US dog food manufacturer because there were more than 130 pet deaths and over 220 illnesses that were linked to pets eating their brands of food.
Mycotoxins are toxic substances generated by certain types of molds and fungi. They occur naturally and can grow on various crops such as cereal grains, nuts, dried fruits, spices, especially if they are in a warm, humid environment. Molds can grow on living crops, harvested grains and fruits as well as stored processed food products. Mycotoxins are able to survive food processing and remain toxic after they broken down in the body. The metabolites have been found in the milk of animals that were fed contaminated feed. Dry dog foods are most often affected by mycotoxins and usually where your dog would be likely to ingest them.
Eating foods contaminated by mycotoxins can make both humans and animals ill. It can even be fatal if they are ingested in large quantities. Aflatoxins in particular are relatively common and can cause liver damage. They can also have long term effects on health including cancers and immune deficiencies.
If your dog or cat has eaten food contaminated by mycotoxins, they may show the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Ataxia, which looks like they may be drunk or having difficulty walking
- Heavy breathing or panting
If you notice any of these symptoms, especially two or more at the same time, take your pet to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Stop feeding the current food. This can help to minimize the damage. Also, take a sample of the food with you to the vet. They will want to test for mycotoxins. Treatment for mycotoxin exposure is usually a cleansing drug that will flush the system.
Mycotoxin contamination is a concern for all pet parents. Be assured that we are notified of any pet food recalls when they are issued.