Mycotoxins and Pet Food – Avoid Plant Protein Heavy Kibble

In case you’re not yet scared enough of pet food, here’s a fun article about mycotoxins in pet food, featuring Dr. Trevor Smith, University of Guelph Animal and Poultry Science Professor, and world leader in the field of research into mycotoxin contamination in animal feed.

“A shift in pet food ingredients is on,” says Animal and Poultry Science professor Trevor Smith, who, after 35 years of mycotoxin research at Guelph, is a world leader in the field. “Instead of worrying about bacteria spoilage or disease contamination, like we have in the past, we now have to focus on removing mycotoxins.”

Why are mycotoxins suddenly an issue, you ask? Because they come from NON meat/fish/poultry ingredients, ingredients like vegetable cereals, corn, wheat and rice – cheap fillers that allow manufacturers to pump up protein levels, at a fraction of that cost of ‘real’ proteins.

The ingredient that should raise the most alarms, according to Dr. Smith, is the innocuous sounding rice bran. “That’s the ingredient that’s often contaminated,” he says. FYI, search results on Dog Food Advisor show several pet foods with rice bran high on their list of ingredients, but any dog food with significantly high levels of plant based protein should be avoided (this list of one or two star rated foods is a good starting point for brands to avoid).

Mycotoxins are dangerous to animals, and can result in  “loss of appetite, sleepiness, lack of co-ordination, immune system suppression and vomiting”. Of note to breeders is that mycotoxins have also been shown to impair growth and reproduction, although the bulk of research so far has been on ruminant animals (citation).  It’s important to note that mycotoxins are dangerous not only via ingestion, but also via exposure from handling or inhalation, putting the people who handle mycotoxin contaminated pet food at risk even if they do not ingest it themselves.

How do we avoid exposing our pets to excessive risk of mycotoxins? By feeding a diet that is heavy on animal, poultry or fish based protein sources, and NOT plant based. Raw diets, whether home made or commercial, are ideal for this, but so are quality freeze dried diets, dehydrated diets, or animal protein based kibble diets such as Orijen.

Oh, and I’d like to hope that this will give the people who insist that vegan diets are safe for pets food for thought – although I’m not holding my breath (but I would be if I was feeding that food – remember, mycotoxins can be inhaled!).

Read the full University of Guelph article here.

Is Your Dog or Cat’s Dry Pet Food Safe?

For as many years as I have been feeding raw, vets have been telling me the same thing – “Raw dog food is dangerous – commercial kibble is the only safe food for your pet”. A vet at the University of Guelph once insisted on sticking a dying French Bulldog rescue puppy into immediate isolation, because I mentioned having fed it some (commercially prepared under ISO conditions, from human grade ingredients) raw turkey dog food. One of my first vets essentially fired me from his clinic as a patient – told me to collect my pet’s records, and find a new vet – because I insisted on feeding raw.

I’m not the only dog owner with stories like these, and for almost as long as I’ve been hearing them, I’ve been fighting back with the same argument – that raw dog food is safe when prepared properly, from human grade ingredients, and that we face a greater risk from dry pet food, not least because people become complacent about its safety. People who would never dream of leaving a dish of raw meat on the floor for hours will leave a bowl of dry kibble sitting out for days, in hot summer weather. People who bleach every bowl, utensil and surface that their raw meat touches will hand scoop kibble out of a bag. And why wouldn’t you? You’ve been told for years (decades!) that dry pet food is safe. It’s inspected! Approved! Tested! It’s the safe way to feed your dogs and cats – and this in spite of the fact that not a year (or month) seems to go by without a recall, or a story of pets sickening and even dying from eating dry kibble dog and cat food.

Susan Thixton at the excellent Truth About Pet Food blog has been tireless in her fight against this complacency, and her search for the actual truth about just how safe commercial pet food is.  Last year, Susan crowdfunded for an exhaustive project intended to hire outside, independent laboratories to test popular commercial pet food brands for dangerous levels of mycotoxins and bacteria, and mineral content levels above AAFCO guideline levels considered safe. The results of that testing are now in, and it’s not pretty. 8 out of 8 pet foods tested contained mycotoxins ( a serious risk to your dog or cat’s health, even at low levels). Six tested pet foods had dangerously high mineral content levels. Eleven pet foods tested had alarmingly high levels of food borne bacteria, bacteria that are not just a risk to cats and dogs, but to the people who handle their food. The infographic below shows the results of these tests, and full results are available via the Truth About Pets page.

These tests are not exhaustive – there are literally thousands of more foods on the market, far too many for an independent analysis. But consider this – all of the brands tested were nationally sold, heavily advertised, and in many cases strenuously vet endorsed (in fact, one was a “Prescription” diet, available only via veterinarians, and sold specifically for pets with specific health conditions. How scary is that?). If these foods,  owned by large corporations with deep pockets, have such disturbing numbers of issues, then they can only be regarded as the proverbial ‘canary in the coal mine’ – outliers of what is really going on in the food we feed our pets.

How safe is your dog or cat's pet food? Popular pet foods contain dangerous bacteria.

Via Truth About Pet Food –

Read the rest of the testing on the Truth About Pet Food blog.