The Single Best Reason to Avoid Pet Foods with Grains: Mycotoxins

August 22, 2017

Mycotoxins in grains can contaminate pet food.

Mycotoxins are chemical substances derived from fungi and infect grain crops worldwide, wreaking havoc with livestock or any animal that eats food containing the infected grain.  The environment is ripe for mold growth when corn is stored outside in all kinds of weather.  All grains are subject to this kind of weather contamination, and our pets may suffer for it.

In a study conducted by BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey, more than 8,000 samples were analyzed from more than 75 countries. The most common mycotoxins of concern to pet owners include deoxynivalenol (DON), fumonisins (FUM), and zearalenone (ZEN). The reason for pet owners to be concerned is that such mycotoxins are on the rise in corn and other grain crops and have been found in concentrations high enough to harm pets.

In a more recent study from January to June, 2017, BIOMIN conducted more than 33,000 analyses on finished feed and raw commodity samples from 63 countries covering common grains like corn, wheat, barley, corn gluten meal, soybean meal and others. Overall the mycotoxins, DON and FUM were found in 81% and 71% of samples studied.  Of all samples, 94% contained at least one mycotoxin and 76% contained at least 2 or more mycotoxins. North America faces a severe risk of mycotoxin contamination with five mycotoxins above the risk threshold.

DON was reported in wheat in 9 states in July, 2017.

The states reporting DON in wheat are:

  • Alabama
  • Texas
  • Missouri
  • Georgia
  • Virginia
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland

Mycotoxins may be found in cornTexas was the first state in 2017 to report mycotoxins in its corn crop. According to Neogen’s Monday Mycotoxin Report for August 14, 2017, Thirteen percent of corn is in poor to very poor condition – almost double that of 2016 – while 60 percent is in good to excellent condition. This is 14 points worse than in 2016.

How Mycotoxins Affect Pet Food

Far too often, we hear of pets becoming ill from eating moldy pet food. If you have ever opened a bag of moldy dry dog or cat food, you should recognize it immediately. The aroma is “off,” and the appearance likely has changed color. Pet owners will know that food is bad. But sometimes a food can be affected by toxic substances and not smell or look bad and that is where the real problem begins.

What Mycotoxin Poisoning Will Do to Pets

Depending on the amount ingested and type of mycotoxin, poisoning may cause panting, weakness, loss of coordination, increased heart rate, vomiting, fever, seizures and even death in cats and dogs. Should your pet exhibit such symptoms, seek professional veterinary help at once. Mycotoxin poisoning is considered a medical emergency.

How to Avoid Mycotoxin Poisoning in Your Pets

Be aware of what your dog or cat eats. Throw out pet food once it becomes outdated. Clean your pet’s dishes. Avoid commercial pet foods containing such grains as corn, wheat, barley, sugar cane and sugar beets, peanuts, cottonseed oil, rye and sorghum. This includes any offshoots of a grain, like corn gluten or corn meal.  You will find plenty of grain-free pet foods for both dogs and cats on the market. Stick to those to avoid problems.

The above statistics may seem boring to read, but they offer important information to pet owners. Consumers today are focused on improving their own diets and that trend has spilled over to the pet food industry. We love our pets and want them to remain healthy, and we are learning that grain-free means more nutrients and fewer fillers in dog or cat food.

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