What are Aflatoxins and how do I know my pet has been affected by them?

Cats and Dogs
February 2, 2021

What are Aflatoxins and how do I know my pet has been affected by them?

Aflatoxins are toxins produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus. This mold can grow on pet food ingredients such as corn, peanuts, and cottonseed. Other frequently contaminated crops include certain cereals, oilseeds, spices, and tree nuts.

The toxins can be present even if there is no visible mold on the pet food. 

A diet of mainly raw food along with air-dried raw does NOT have Aflatoxins. You may wish to switch your pets’ diet to one of these instead. check out these links below.

What causes Aflatoxin in my pet?

Pets that eat food containing unsafe levels of aflatoxins can develop aflatoxin poisoning. Pets are highly susceptible to aflatoxin poisoning because, unlike people, who eat a varied diet, pets generally eat the same food continuously over extended periods of time. If a pet’s food contains aflatoxins, the toxins could accumulate in the pet’s system as they continue to eat the same food.

As we say here at The Cats & Dogs Company “Variety, Variety Variety”

If you would like to read a real-life story about Aflatoxin in pets then click on the link below and read about Xeus the German Shepherd

Hidden Killers in Dog Food

How do I know if my pet has been poisoned, and what are the signs?

Pets suffering from aflatoxin poisoning may experience signs such as:

  • Sluggishness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowish tint to the eyes, gums, belly, or skin due to liver damage)
  • Unexplained bruising or bleeding
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Discoloured urine

In some cases, aflatoxins can affect blood clotting and cause long-term liver problems and/or death.

Some pets may suffer liver damage without showing any signs in the early stages of aflatoxin poisoning and if they continue eating contaminated food, they may die suddenly.

Pet owners who suspect their pets have been eating products contaminated with aflatoxins should contact their veterinarians and immediately stop feeding the suspected food, especially if the pets are showing signs of illness. 

If you suspect your pet is showing signs of aflatoxin poisoning, take him/her to a vet immediately.

How do I store my pets kibble and long does kibble last for?

How you handle food once you have it at home can make a big difference in how long it remains fresh and maintains its ideal nutritional profile. Exposure to air, light, hot temperatures and humidity speeds up the rate at which foods degrade. To limit these effects, keep dry foods in their original packaging. High-quality dog food bags have been designed to keep out the elements. Open the bag carefully so you can roll and hold the top closed with a clip or otherwise reseal the package in between uses.

Plastic, glass, or metal bins can also help protect dog food from the elements and from insects, rodents and other vermin; but owners should still place the food inside its original bag rather than pouring the kibble directly into a container. Store the bag or container off of the floor in a cool and dry location. Bins on wheels simplify the storage and movement of large bags of food.

Ideally, dry food should be consumed within six weeks of opening the bag, so pick your bag sizes appropriately. Kibble can be left out in bowls for a day or so, but make sure you don’t offer more than what should be consumed in 24 hours. Larger meals limit your ability to monitor a dog’s appetite and put pets at risk for overeating and obesity. Wash bowls used for dry food at least once a week in hot, soapy water.

Who can diagnose Aflatoxin?

Only a veterinarian can diagnose aflatoxin poisoning. The vet will evaluates the pet’s signs and asks about what food the pet has been eating and what the pet might have been exposed to.

They should run tests to check out your pets liver health.

Because the symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning are nonspecific and could point to multiple toxins, a vet may recommend having pet food samples analyzed to determine if aflatoxins are present.

For deceased pets, tissue samples can be analyzed for aflatoxins and other toxins. Depending on the results of a vet’s examination, they will determine the best course of action.

What is treatment for Aflatoxin in my pet?

Treatment will depend on a veterinarian’s assessment of each case.

There is no antidote for aflatoxins, so the treatment will be to:

  • Remove the source of aflatoxins to prevent additional exposure (e.g., stop the feeding of contaminated pet food).
  • Provide supportive care management of the specific blood and biochemical imbalances in the pet’s system.

Pets exposed to non-lethal doses of aflatoxin may survive, but can have long-term health problems, such as liver injury.

Extremely severe or rapid-onset cases of aflatoxin poisoning may progress so quickly that the pet dies before receiving any treatment.

Will I be contaminated if I touch my pets food?

There is no evidence to suggest that pet owners who handle products containing aflatoxins are at risk of aflatoxin poisoning. However, pet owners should always wash their hands after handling pet food and treats.

If your pet is showing signs of aflatoxin poisoning contact a veterinarian immediately.

If your pet is otherwise healthy, but you are still concerned about potential aflatoxin contamination in your pet’s food, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian before making changes to your pet’s diet, especially if your pet has other health conditions that require a specialized or restricted or diet.

Well there you have it, now you know what Aflatoxins are and where they come from.

Be safe, Be educated.

Beverley Saunders

The Cats & Dogs Dinner Company