The Hidden Poison In Pet Food

Mycotoxins are poisonous chemical compounds produced by molds. They can be found in all grains and grain byproducts, including corn, barley, soybeans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, corn gluten meal, sesame seeds, rice, and wheat. Why does this matter? Because many of these grains and legumes are used in the production of pet food.

A global survey conducted between 2004 and 2013 showed mycotoxin contamination in over 76 percent of 25,900 samples of grains and grain byproducts destined for animal diets.¹ Grains and legumes that have been damaged by insects, drought, or poor growing conditions, along with storage in hot, damp, dirty, humid containers are at high risk for contamination. Once these fast-growing molds gain a foothold in a storage or production facility, they are very difficult to eliminate. Organic crops that have not been treated with a fungicide may actually have higher mold and mycotoxin concentrations.

If mycotoxin concentrations exceed FDA guidelines (20 to 300 parts per billion), entire lots should be discarded. Of course, this assumes the company is testing mold and mycotoxin levels and that the FDA is actually enforcing the rules. FDA rules prohibit grain dealers and pet food manufacturers from diluting contaminated ingredients with clean grain to reduce mycotoxin content to acceptable levels. Cooking, even at high heats, does not eliminate mycotoxin contamination. As a result, significant levels of mycotoxins can lurk unseen in food products with no visible mold growth. Some types of processing actually increase mycotoxin content.

The most toxic mycotoxin, aflatoxin B1, is the most carcinogenic naturally occurring substance known. Even in doses low enough to be measured in parts per billion, these toxins are potent enough to cause acute illness in susceptible animals. When consumed in very low doses over the long term, they can result in chronic health problems, including liver cancer, anorexia and weight loss, liver damage, neurological disorders, and decreased resistance to disease. Pets may have a heightened sensitivity to mycotoxins as a result of advanced age, compromised immune system, or the genetics of their breed; even trace levels of these mycotoxins are a cause for concern.

Pet food manufacturers are expected to test their ingredients and to require supply chain partners to test for mycotoxins. It would be interesting to call the manufacturer of the kibble you feed and ask to see the certificate of analysis that includes a detailed mycotoxin profile. The manufacturer should also be able to tell you the exact supply chain where the ingredients were sourced, along with certificates of analysis from those partners. Unfortunately, even with that certificate, it can be difficult to be sure the feed is not contaminated. Mycotoxins tend to occur in tiny, widely scattered pockets of damp or damaged grains. If only a small sample from a large truck load is tested, the results may be misleading.

It is no wonder we see more and more pets with chronically elevated liver enzymes and cancer. A small dog or cat, fed the same contaminated brand of processed kibble or canned food, year after year, will suffer chronic damage to the organs and immune system.

So what's the solution? Avoid feeding processed foods filled with grains and legumes, particularly those made by huge pet food corporations that are more concerned with profit than the health of your pets.  Feed high quality raw or home cooked food to your beloved pets. Add a high quality probiotic and immune support supplement daily. Provide them with love and daily exercise to help them remain vibrantly, naturally healthy.