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Hidden dangers in the rubbish bin

As we all know, dogs seem to love eating things they shouldn't and, to a dog, the most revolting substance can become a gourmet snack!

Here at Totally Vets we have treated several dogs suffering from extreme symptoms after eating mouldy, spoiled food.  A potent mycotoxin present in mouldy dairy products, bread or nuts is the culprit.  This toxin acts very fast and causes profuse vomiting, muscle tremors, seizures and a dangerous rise in body temperature.

All of the dogs presented to our clinic displayed severe and life-threatening symptoms within 30 minutes of eating mouldy food.  In some cases, only a very small amount of food had been ingested, which goes to show just how potent mycotoxins can be.  In three instances, more than one dog in the household had been affected and sadly one elderly dog did not recover from her illness.

There is no antidote to any of the 20 different toxins that many mould species can produce.  Treatment involves trying to reduce exposure to the toxin by inducing vomiting (if ingestion was recent) or by giving activated charcoal, a substance which prevents the toxin from being absorbed into the system.  However, we can only do these things if the animal is not seizuring.  We would also establish an intravenous drip and, if the animal was overheated from severe seizures, attempt to cool down the body by using ice packs and laying wet towels over the animal.  Seizures can cause brain damage if they are not brought under control quickly and, in the cases that we have treated, it has been necessary to place our patients into an induced coma to help control ongoing seizures.

The effects of the toxins can last for 24-48 hours so treatment is intensive and can be costly.  Once the toxin is cleared from the body recovery is usually complete after a period of hypersensitivity to noise, light and touch.

Many dog owners are completely unaware of the dangers present in mouldy food.  The foods eaten have ranged from mouldy bread or cheese in the rubbish bin to scavenged food scraps intended for pigs - it is important to be aware that these toxins would also have affected the pigs.

All mouldy food should be considered risky and disposed of in dog-proof rubbish bins.  If you notice your dog eating or suspect he or she may have eaten any mouldy substances, then please contact your veterinarian immediately.