In December 2005 dogs began dying from acute liver failure after consuming a commercially available dog food. The product manufacturer was notified when 2 dogs died, and food toxicosis was suspected. Product date codes were not provided to the manufacturer, and the FDA was not notified of potential product contamination. After the death and illness of more dogs, a date code was reported to the manufacturer and the FDA was notified of possible toxicosis. Testing confirmed contamination with aflatoxin, and the manufacturer issued a recall. Despite the timely recognition of the problem, it seems that more than 100 dogs died of the toxic effects of contaminated product. This case highlights the need for veterinarians to recognize adverse events when contaminated food is consumed; retain suitable food samples, product labels, and biological samples; and to contact the appropriate groups, including regulatory agencies. The clinical signs in these dogs included lethargy, anorexia, and vomiting that progressed to icterus, melena, and hematemesis. Dogs and cats are susceptible to the toxic effects of aflatoxin B1. Aflatoxin production in grains increases when crops are stressed by drought, insect damage, improper field management, or inappropriate handling or storage. Products are routinely tested before their use by a manufacturer. In the situation described in this paper, the manufacturer failed to adhere to its own guidelines for testing 12 shipments of corn that were used to manufacture the food.

COMMENTARY: Fortunately, because of the high standards and quality control procedures most manufacturers have in place and follow, incidents like this are rare. However, veterinarians should be alert for such cases and familiar with the steps involved in investigating suspected contamination. This article contains a checklist of things to do when toxicosis is suspected, including how to save samples and whom to notify. Similar steps should be taken when adverse events are associated with any product.

Aflatoxicosis in dogs and dealing with suspected contaminated commercial foods. Dtenske KA, Smith JR, Newman SJ, et al. JAVMA 228:1686-1691, 2006.