Beware of Mould!

That mould is harmful to humans is well known, but that mould also is toxic for dogs has not been known before now. However, new research has shown that mould poisoning of dogs is far more common than expected.

A study was launched by the Norwegian Veterinary Institute after they, since 2006, had received samples from vets of several dogs with typical symptoms of poisoning with neurotoxins. In many of the samples Penicillium crustosum, or mould, was found, either in the stomach contents or in vomit.

According to the Institute's toxicologist Gunnar Sundstøl Eriksen, not much was known about this form of poisoning. So far they have registered 20 cases, 3 of which are from 2013.

Windfalls and Food Waste
Penicillium crustosum is widespread, especially in foods with a high content of fat and protein. If your dog usually eats dry food, it is worthwhile to carefully check the contents of the bag before feeding your dog.

Stored food is particularly exposed, but other foods, such as windfalls and normal food waste can also contain this type of mould. Furthermore, the mould can be found in ice from lakes or glaciers. Formerly cases of poisoning have been reported from other countries, among them the United States, Africa and Canada. Penicillium crustosum can also produce further toxins, with the same or with other properties. Particularly the toxin Penitrem A was found in several of the tests.

Eriksen explains that Penitrem A hampers the ion channels in the brain causing convulsions and tremors in the dog.

In addition, Penitrem A connects to the GABA-receptors in the brain, i.e. the part which registers the activity in the nervous system and is responsible for the control of the muscles.

Thought it was epilepsy
In 2005 and 2006, when the samples of assumedly epileptic dogs began to arrive at the Veterinary Institute, research was started to find the common denominator amongst all the dogs. All samples turned out to contain mould and several of the toxins.

This was the first time that the toxins had been found in internal organs after the poisonings. Neither had there so far been any reports about long-term effects. Furthermore, it was the first time that the Institute had an indication of a possible connection between brain haemorrhage and chronic damage.

In an early case the sample came from a Bull Terrier with symptoms including tremors, convulsions, vomit and fever. When the stomach contents were examined, the researchers found traces of mould in a dog food sausage which had been fed to him. As a result the movement of the dog's hind legs was chronically weakened. In another case a dog had eaten rotten apples causing the same symptoms as the Bull Terrier, plus enlarged pupils and increasing convulsions and tremors when the dog was physically active. This dog suffered chronic kidney damage but became otherwise free of symptoms after treatment.

The Veterinary Institute tested these toxins on mice and obtained the same symptoms as with the dogs. Afterwards the researchers were convinced that the dogs did not suffer epileptic seizures and were now able to try and find out which treatment would work with these toxins.

According to Eriksen, Diazepam helps to improve the condition, but only temporarily. In more severe cases the medicine is not effective against tremors and convulsions.

Barbiturates are more effective and are recommended in more severe cases. The dosage needs to be adjusted gradually.

According to Eriksen, the dog will be sensitive to light and noise after the administration of the medicine. Therefore, the dog should be kept in a quiet place without many stimuli, have has access to water and his body temperature should be taken.

The toxicologist recommends that dog owners inspect the food they are giving to their four-legged family member. Dogs with easy access to windfalls and compost heaps need to be examined by a vet as soon as possible when showing symptoms ofpoisoning with mould.

Fortunately the prognosis for dogs who receive treatment is good. According to Eriksen, so far all the dogs have been free of symptoms after 24 hours or a week depending on whether they have eaten, drunk or inhaled the mould. It is, however, very likely that there are far more cases of mould poisonings and that every vet has had such dogs in their surgery. Therefore, there is a great need for awareness so that all dogs get the right treatment.

Published in "HundeSport" 11/12-13, the gazette of the Norwegian Kennel Club.
Translated by ANo