Mycotoxins in dry cat food

My research tells me that there is a consistent level of mycotoxin contamination of dry cat food for cats and dogs, which appears to be accepted (or there is an ever-present potential for it). It is when the concentrations become unacceptable that the product poisons the animal.

An example is the recent recall of the dog food Sportmix in the US. Reportedly 28 dogs have died because the product had aflatoxin levels that exceeded the acceptable limits. There is a lot of press about it online and a dog food recall. I don’t know if the recall is ongoing but it was recent. If it is, I have listed the products at the base of the page.

Fungal spores
Fungal spores. Picture:
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Aflatoxins are a type of mycotoxin produced by a mold (mould) which grows on grain. Low quality grain is added to pet food to fill it out as it is cheaper than meat. This occurs as I am sure you are aware despite the well-known fact that cats are obligate carnivores. There is an ongoing discussion about the unacceptable quality of dry cat food containing grains and carbohydrates. It is a peculiar but highly convenient product. Dry cat food is peculiar because it is a biscuit in effect and cats never eat biscuits in the wild. They don’t eat dry food. All their food contains 70% water (mammals).

As can be seen these toxins can cause real harm and kill pets. It seems to be a potentially very serious matter. In one study the molds Aspergillus, Mucor and Penicillium were found in 55% of samples. Aflatoxins are toxins produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus.

In another study dated August 27th 2019, “Occurrence of Mycotoxins in Extruded Commercial Cat Food“, which appears to have been carried out in Italy, mycotoxins were observed at worrying levels. To quote the study: “A widespread co-occurrence of mycotoxins was observed (28, 42, and 8% of the samples contained quantifiable amounts of two, three, and four mycotoxins, respectively).”

The authors concluded:

The results from the present study showed that mycotoxin contamination represents a critical point for pet food safety. Certainly, given the high stability of mycotoxins through the cooking process used to produce dry pet food, scrupulous monitoring of incoming ingredients undoubtedly represents the most effective strategy to prevent mycotoxin contamination.

The study analysed pet foods in Poland, Italy, China, South Africa, Egypt, Austria and Brazil. The US is not mentioned but I suspect that the problem of mycotoxins in dry pet food is ever-present anywhere. It is a question of keeping the amounts down to acceptable levels.

You can’t tell if the food is contaminated. Your cat or dog just becomes ill. If the toxins are present, they accumulate in the animal because they eat the same foods daily. This makes them highly susceptible to aflatoxin poisoning.

What are the symptoms of mycotoxin or aflatoxin poisoning? As the liver is damaged, they develop jaundice which causes the eyes and skin to become yellow. Other symptoms: loss of appetite, sluggishness, vomiting, diarrhoea and unexplained bruising (source: FDA).

What can you do to protect your cat or dog? I am not sure that you can do a lot except buy the best quality you can afford. It appears that the lesser or smaller pet food manufacturers are more likely to lower their quality control standards than the big boys. If that is correct stick to big companies such as Hills. Hills are expensive and some would argue that they rip consumers off with their veterinary association dry foods but the quality is good.

Sportmix recall:

Recalled lot codes are as follows:

50# Sportmix Energy Plus Lots Exp 03/02/22/05/L2, 03/02/22/05/L3, 03/03/22/05/L2
44# Sportmix Energy Plus Lots 03/02/22/05/L3
50# Sportmix Premium High Energy Lots 03/03/22/05/L3
44# Sportmix Premium High Energy Lots 03/03/22/05/L3
31# Sportmix Original Cat Lots 03/03/22/05/L3
15# Sportmix Original Cat Lots 03/03/22/05/L2, 03/03/22/05/L3


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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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