Mycotoxins are produced in molds that grow in certain foods, such as cheese, pasta, fruit and nuts. If your dog sneaks food out of the trash or compost pile, he may be exposed to mycotoxins. Unfortunately, your pet doesn't have to ingest much contaminated food to become ill from mycotoxins.
A dog who is exposed to mycotoxins will experience severe abdominal pain, muscle tremors, seizures, vomiting, weakness, uncoordinated movements, elevated heart rate, dehydration and loss of appetite. In cases where the dog had a large exposure to mycotoxins, the tremors and seizures can be severe, and the condition fatal. If your dog experiences any of these symptoms, and you believe he may have consumed moldy food, it is important to get him to the veterinarian as soon as possible, and let the doctor know he may have consumed moldy food.
Diagnosis Through Testing
Your veterinarian will perform multiple tests to diagnosis mycotoxin exposure. A complete physical examination, complete blood count, urinalysis and biochemistry profile will help him determine if your dog's symptoms are from mycotoxin exposure or some other illness. If your dog vomits while at the veterinarian, tests on the material your dog expels can determine the toxin ingested, which aids in treatment.
Once your dog receives a positive diagnosis, the veterinarian can begin to treat the mycotoxin exposure. In many cases, the veterinarian will induce vomiting to empty your dog's stomach. Do not do this on your own, as your dog may aspirate some of his stomach contents, creating much larger health issues. Your dog also may receive activated charcoal, to absorb mycotoxins in the digestive tract. Other treatments include IV fluids, to prevent dehydration, muscle relaxants to help calm tremors, and, if your dog is experiencing diarrhea, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics.
Prognosis Typically Positive
Once your dog begins treatment for mycotoxins, his prognosis is generally good. Symptoms typically clear up within a few days. Your veterinarian may feel comfortable sending him home the same day, or may prefer to keep him in the hospital for a few days, depending on his condition and how he responds to treatment. Most dogs recover from this illness quickly, however, ataxia, a condition where your dog struggles to walk normally, and seems to behave as if he were drunk, can last for several years after mycotoxin exposure.