Scavenging Pets: A Real Risk of Fatality!

Pets are always looking for something they can eat. Learn what to look out for and what can happen when things go wrong!

Apart from the more obvious risks of your pet ingesting a foreign body such as; a bone, corn cob, toy, cotton with needle attached, which may be too large for them to pass through their gastrointestinal tract or sharp enough to penetrate through the wall of the oesophagus, stomach or intestines.

Pets may also ingest poisons such as: slug pellets, warfarin tablets, rat poison, antifreeze and food stuffs that are potentially toxic to them such as; onions/garlic, grapes (the more dehydrated the more potentially toxic i.e. currant > raisin > sultana > grape), certain flowers/ bulbs/plant roots (e.g. Lilies, Foxglove (digitalis), Daffodil bulbs) & mouldy food.

This article aims to bring awareness of tremorgenic mycotoxin intoxication; the rapid and potentially fatal effects of your pets ingesting mouldy food.

Tremorgenic means they cause neurological damage, the signs include: wobbliness, tremors, fitting, collapse and death.

Mycotoxins are breakdown products from fungi or moulds found on rotting food, blue cheeses, rubbish, compost and silage. The effects depend on the type of mycotoxin and the amount the animal ingests.

We have seen a few cases of this and the treatment is most effective when administered quickly. If you see your pet eating mouldy food contact your vets immediately, they will be able to administer an injection to induce vomiting and eliminate the mouldy food before the mycotoxins have time to cause any damage.

In most cases, however the pet has eaten the mouldy food stuff so quickly that the owner has no idea what they have just eaten or the pet has broken into a child’s school bag containing a week old sandwich that the owner was unaware of. In these cases it is only after the pet has started to show signs of wobbliness, muscle tremors or fitting that they arrive at our door, at this point if you suspect your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have, it is always helpful to let your vet know at the start of the consultation or let the reception team know so they can advise the veterinary nurses and veterinary surgeons and your veterinary team can be prepared for prompt action.

Treatment is mainly supportive once symptoms have begun to show; bloods to check for complicating factors, such as: liver or kidney damage and anaemia or infection, fluids to flush out your pets system and support the body, lipid infusions to try to bind the mycotoxins to aid elimination from your pets body, anticonvulsant (anti-fitting) medications where necessary, antiemetics (anti-vomiting medications) especially in fitting patients where the risk of inhaling the vomit is very high, charcoal to help reduce further absorption of the mycotoxins, antacids and gut protectants to support the gastrointestinal tract. These patients require close monitoring and supervision during the early part of their treatment, to ensure they do not choke or injure themselves during a seizure. The longer the patient has been showing signs of toxicity the less chance the patient will survive.