Pet Food Recalls

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Pet Food Recalls Due to Botulism

In the not to distant past we had another set of pet food recalls that occurred because of botulism toxin in the foods. I wanted to address this so people know what to look for and do if they run in to this situation.

What is botulism? This is a disease caused by the toxin that a bacteria of the Clostridium type makes. The bacteria itself doesn't cause the problem directly. It is the toxin produced that creates the trouble. This only occurs where there is little to no oxygen available, so happens in wrongly canned foods. It can also, occur in rotten meat or meat that isn't cooked well enough if the bacteria is present.

What are the signs? This toxin is a neurotoxin, which means it affects the nervous system and keeps it from working correctly. It can even shut it down. The visible signs are diarrhea or in the latter stages of disease complete constipation due to the bowels not being able to move at all. More severe signs are those that affect the heart and respiration. Shallow breathing or even the lack of it, requiring external pressure, such as with a ventilator, to make a person or animal breath, can occur. The heart can slow its rate of pumping which affects the circulation of blood and therefore oxygen delivery to the body tissues. Sometimes, urination is affected from lack of muscle function as well, so would have to be handled.

The first signs one might see are just muscle weakness and droopy eyelids People can get blurred vision, though this can be hard to assess in a pet. These signs can start within a few hours to 3 days after the pet eats contaminated food. Obviously the end stage is death.

People are very sensitive to this toxin. Dogs have been found to be less so, but can still have serious signs. It has been claimed that cats are resistant, but I wouldn't ignore signs if they showed up in a cat. It certainly would mean something serious was going on.

What to do about this? If you feed meat, be sure it is always cooked thoroughly. Prevention is certainly the best in this disease. (Also, pets can get this by eating dead rotten animals if, for example wildlife that died was found and eaten, so try to keep pets away from this, if possible.)

Any treatment done is usually supportive. If the pet is found early enough, the induction of vomiting and enemas to clean out the digestive tract can be done. Otherwise, hospitalization on intravenous fluids and any supportive drugs, and possibly a ventilator will need to be administered.

If the problem is in question, there are blood tests and tests that can be done on intestinal contents to check for the botulism toxin.

If you see any of the above signs see a veterinarian very quickly. It is doubtable your pet has run into botulism, but better to check it out. And there would obviously be something else happening that would need treatment if those signs were present.

Here's hoping you never need this data, but better to be informed.

SURVEY: If you have a moment can you answer the following?

1. What topics would you like to see in the newsletter?

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3. Any other suggestions for the newsletter?


SUGGESTED ENTERTAINMENT; Go to your local zoo and support them. Often endangered species are protected in such institutions. You can also get and read and share with your youngsters the magazines at which supports endangered species.

ADVICE: If you do decide to cook for your pet or just want to supplement the nutrition in your pet food, see our special vitamin formulations at

Until next time.

Dr. Jan

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