If your dog has suddenly become ill and you can't seem to pinpoint the cause, food poisoning may be to blame. Food poisoning in dogs is a serious condition that can occur when they ingest food sources contaminated with aflatoxins. Dogs are particularly susceptible to food poisoning caused by aflatoxins, and symptoms can develop within 1-2 days of ingestion. In this article, we will discuss what aflatoxins are, how they cause food poisoning in dogs and the clinical signs you can expect to see. There is no specific treatment for food poisoning in dogs, but supportive care is essential for a good prognosis.
What are aflatoxins and what do they do to dogs?
Aflatoxins are produced by fungal spores and can be found in food sources like grains, nuts and seeds. When ingested, aflatoxins cause food poisoning in dogs by damaging the liver. The liver is responsible for filtering toxins from the blood and removing them from the body. When it is damaged, it can't perform these functions as efficiently and the toxins build up in the blood. This can lead to a variety of symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and jaundice. As dogs are very susceptible to aflatoxin food poisoning, in severe cases, food poisoning can cause death.
How do dogs become infected with aflatoxins?
Dogs can become infected with aflatoxins by eating food sources that are contaminated with spores. Grains, nuts and seeds are all common food sources for dogs and can be easily contaminated with aflatoxins.
Commercial pet foods that are stored or shipped in warm temperatures have been found to have a higher concentration of aflatoxins. This can cause major outbreaks, which have occurred all over the world for the past 40 years, leading to numerous pet food recalls.
What are the clinical symptoms of food poisoning in dogs caused by aflatoxins?
As food poisoning in dogs as a result of aflatoxin poisoning affects the liver, gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system, there are a wide variety of symptoms. Symptoms typically develop within 12-24 hours after ingestion of the contaminated food source. In severe cases, food poisoning can cause death. The most common symptoms of food poisoning in dogs include:
- Anorexia (lack of appetite)
- Lethargy and depression
Other potential symptoms include blindness, seizures, jaundice, behavioural changes, blood in vomit/stool, increased thirst and urination, and weakness.
How is food poisoning in dogs diagnosed?
Food poisoning in dogs is typically diagnosed based on clinical signs and history. Your veterinarian will likely perform blood work and urine analysis to evaluate liver function and check for dehydration. In some cases, imaging techniques like x-rays or ultrasounds may be used.
Food history is important to obtain as it can help point to a potential source of contamination. If there has been a food recall for aflatoxin poisoning, this should be taken into consideration.
What is the treatment for food poisoning in dogs caused by aflatoxins?
There is no specific antidote or treatment for food poisoning in dogs, so treatment is supportive and aimed at managing symptoms. Treatment typically includes:
- Intravenous fluid therapy manages hydration and helps lower ammonia levels in the bloodstream
- Antioxidants to help protect the liver. These include SAMe, milk thistle, L-carnitine and selenium.
- Gastroprotectants can reduce stomach acid production
How to prevent food poisoning in dogs
Don't feed mouldy foods to your dog and store food in clean, dry areas. Don't give your pet livestock feed and stop feeding them any food if they suddenly lose their appetite - especially if they usually eat similar foods.
Food poisoning in dogs can occur when they ingest food sources contaminated with aflatoxins. These toxins are produced by fungal spores and can cause a variety of symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. There is no specific treatment or antidote for food poisoning in dogs, so supportive care is essential for a good prognosis. Prevention includes avoiding food sources that are contaminated with aflatoxins and feeding your dog a balanced diet. If you think your dog has food poisoning, contact your veterinarian immediately.