Dogs can eat just about anything and be fine, right? No, not quite. Frankie Counce from Parkin, Arkansas, discovered this when Sugar, his 2-year-old pit bull, ingested moldy food. Counce cooked a slow-cooking crock-pot of ribs and took the moldy barbecue sauce outside to clean it out.
“I took the pot outside to clean it with the hose,” said Counce, in a Pet Poison Helpline release.1 “I thought I had washed the material well enough that it had soaked into the ground, but I found Sugar digging around the spot where I had cleaned out the mess.” An hour later, Sugar was shivering and twitching. Because Counce’s veterinarian was closed, he drove Sugar to the closest emergency hospital, Animal Emergency Center, in Memphis.
Upon arrival at the hospital, Sugar was seizing, and the medical team initially suspected xylitol exposure. They advised Counce to consult the toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline, and based on the symptoms and the circumstances,the toxicologists found that Sugar was reacting to the moldy barbeque sauce, not xylitol. “Barbeque sauce was the last thing on my mind,” shared Counce.1 “Dogs eat everything. We live by a river, and they’re constantly eating all sorts of things, like rotten fish. I would have never thought something like old sauce could be so dangerous.”
When they confirmed Sugar was suffering from tremorgenic mycotoxins, the medical team conducted life-saving monitoring and treatment by providing Sugar with an anti-emetic, IV fluids, methocarbamol for her tremors and anticonvulsants for the seizures.1 “I know that if I hadn’t gotten Sugar there when I did, she would have died,” Counce said. “Moldy barbeque sauce almost killed her, but fortunately she’s back to her normal, healthy self.”
The Pet Poison Helpline is raising awareness of the severe dangers of feeding moldy foods to dogs. Renee Schmid, DVM, DABT, DABVT, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline,1 explained that “toxins called tremorgenic mycotoxins can form in spoiled, moldy food. Ingestion of these toxins can cause acute tremors, which can range from mild to life-threatening. Symptoms include central nervous system and gastrointestinal signs, shivering, twitching, loss of control of body movements, high body temperature and seizures.” Typically, with early aggressive treatment, the prognosis is good and recovery is complete without sequelae.2 Fortunately, in this scenario the Pet Poison Helpline could offer insight, however, it is invaluable for veterinarians to be familiar with clinical signs of tremorgenic mycotoxins at the time of admission for the best outcomes.2
- Moldy dinner scraps nearly kill hungry dog. News release. Pet Poison Helpline. September 13, 2023. Accessed September 13, 2023. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/moldy-dinner-scraps-nearly-kill-hungry-dog-301925483.html
- Boysen SR, Rozanski EA, Chan DL, Grobe TL, Fallon MJ, Rush JE. Tremorgenic mycotoxicosis in four dogs from a single household. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2002;221(10):1441-4, 1420. doi: 10.2460/javma.2002.221.1441