Tremorgenic mycotoxicity is a major concern in the spring as the ice and snow melt and reveal the moldy “treasures” underneath. It is the result of your dog (or cat, but this happens less often) ingesting moldy food or plant material. The main offenders are: moldy breads, cheese, fruits and decomposing leaves. Another common situation is dogs that break into their children’s lunch bags and eat their leftover sandwiches that have been sitting at room temperature for a few days.
It generally takes 2-3 hours after the ingestion of the offending material for the onset of symptoms. On presentation these dogs are usually twitching and drooly, which can be very frightening for pet parents! They often are experiencing some gastric upset and discomfort, accompanied with an increased heart rate. Depending on the amount of toxin ingested and the speed of treatment, this condition can progress to grand mal seizures and hyperthermia.
Treatment for ingestion varies depending on the severity of the toxicity. The first step of treatment, if the pet is medically stable enough, is to induce vomiting. This aids in preventing further toxins from being absorbed into the body. Your veterinarian may choose to administer activated charcoal in order to absorb any of the remaining toxin and enable it to be passed through the intestinal tract without being absorbed. Ideally these patients should be on IV fluid therapy to assist in flushing toxins from the body. The next step is tremor/seizure control. In severe cases ventilatory assistance may need to be provided.
With proper treatment and decontamination, symptoms usually resolve within 24-48 hours without any lasting effects.
The best way to avoid this accidental toxicity is to take a look around your backyard once the snow melts for anything they may have been decomposing underneath. If you take your dog to off-leash parks or into the woods, keep them within a visible range, and have a solid “DROP IT” command.