Elementary school education would not be complete without the bread mold experiment. You remember. Moisten a piece of bread and put it in a dark place in the kitchen. Check in on it every day until it has blue-green mold. Some of you may have even looked at the mold under the microscope. Believe or not, that mold contained dangerous toxins.
These same molds and their toxins are common contaminates of the carbohydrates, grain and non-grains, in dog food, especially dry kibble. Although dog owners are more sensitive to the Salmonella contamination in dog food, most are unaware of the dangers of mold.
Molds and Mycotoxins
Molds are a type of fungus. There are only about six different, easily identified molds that infect carbohydrates. These molds are capable of making hundreds of toxins called mycotoxins. Mycotoxins primarily cause liver problems when eaten. But they can also cause kidney and reproductive problems. These toxins are also known to suppress the immune system, alter genetic reproduction and cause cancer. The group of toxins called “aflatoxins” are the most known because they cause rapid death due to liver toxicity in dogs and cats after bouts of appetite loss, listlessness and vomiting.
Mycotoxins are extremely sneaky. They can hide and avoid detection by present testing methods. They can bind with other ingredients in a non-active form and be released during the digestive process to later cause problems. Less harmful mycotoxins can become more toxic when they react with other less harmful forms. The synergistic effect of non-harmful toxins becomes harmful.
Mycotoxins are impossible to remove from food or be destroyed. They are resistant to the ultra-high temperatures and rapid drying processes used in dog food production.
Why Dog Food Is More Susceptible to Mold
Dog food, especially dry dog food, is made from carbohydrate scraps from grain mills and processing plants. These mills and plants generate massive amounts of parts of grains, potatoes, peas, beans, beets and other carbohydrates that are considered unfit for human consumption. They are, however, classified “feed grade” for pet food. Because of this inferior designation they are not treated to the same quality control as the products for human consumption. Often they are exposed to moisture which induces mold growth.
Testing of carbohydrate ingredients is the only prevention for mycotoxin contamination. Despite newer technologies, contamination is still elusive. Quality control is still largely voluntary in the pet food industry, so technological oversight can vary from state-to-state and manufacturer-to-manufacturer. Owners are left with monitoring the Food and Drug Administration website for alerts or recalls for mold toxin contamination.
Homemade Dog Food is the Logical Alternative
As concern mounts over the safety of commercial dog food, the only logical conclusion is to make your dog’s food yourself. Meats, carbohydrates and oils from the grocery store meet USDA standards for purity. When was the last time you heard of a recall for mold contamination of human grain or carbohydrate products? I haven’t. Find a reputable homemade source and enjoy the peace of mind that you are feeding the best.
Dr. Ken Tudor,
THE DOG DIETITIAN