I’m no stranger to having sick dogs. My dogs have had elevated liver enzymes for over a year. And I’m researching all possibilities that could be the culprit. That's when I began wondering if aflatoxins were to blame for their liver issues.
What are aflatoxins
Aspergillus flavis is a mold, which produces aflatoxins. It is in certain foods, and if excessive, it can cause liver damage and cancer.
Bottomline, aflatoxins are toxic!
What foods contain aflatoxins
Aflatoxins can form due to fungal contamination before or after harvest. It can be found in nuts, corn, rice, figs, and spices.
While this list isn’t conclusive, there is one food to focus on. If you feed your dog peanut butter, it may be contaminated with aflatoxins.
How bad is peanut butter
The US peanut industry tests every lot of peanuts used for making peanut butter. Peanuts can pass inspection but a very small percentage of aflatoxins can remain. The USDA considers up to 15 parts per billion or less as acceptable for aflatoxins.
While it sounds like a very low amount, 0.0000015%, it could be affecting your dog. And smaller dogs can be more susceptible to show signs of illness.
Early Signs of aflatoxin toxicity in dogs
Loss of appetite
Severe Signs of aflatoxin toxicity in dogs
Jaundice (yellowing of eyes, gums, and non-pigmented skin)
Bloody or blackened stools
Prolonged low-dose exposure of aflatoxin can cause
Reduced growth rate
Very high levels of aflatoxin can cause liver damage/failure.
If aflatoxin toxicity, lab results can show
Elevated liver enzymes (increased AST, ALT, and alkaline phosphatase)
Longer bleeding times (prolonged prothrombin times)
Aflatoxin toxicity can take several days to weeks to develop. Prompt evaluation of your dog by a veterinarian is essential. And any suspected aflatoxin-containing food should be thrown out.
How to reverse suspected aflatoxin contamination
John Hopkins University studied the effects of aflatoxins in humans. Aflatoxin toxicity can be reversed by giving chlorophyllin (a derivative of chlorophyll). Foods high in chlorophyll are green: spinach, collard greens, parsley, and broccoli.
It is safe to give your dog spinach and broccoli in limited amounts. And if giving to your dog, it could help to reverse the effects of a suspected aflatoxin toxicity. Aflatoxins clear the body within 1-3 weeks.
How to keep your dog safe
If your dog enjoys a peanut butter-filled Kong or tasty peanut butter biscuits, it is hard to give that up. So how do you choose a safe peanut butter?
Roasting and processing doesn't kill all aflatoxins.
Fresher is better. Look for raw, unsalted, xylitol-free peanut butter. Consume within 1-2 months of manufacturing, if possible.
And for dogs with known liver issues or cancer, it may be better to avoid peanut butter.
But if your dog refuses to give up peanut butter, there is hope. MaraNatha brand guarantees their nut butters are aflatoxin-free.
Aflatoxin toxicity is rare. But peanut butter could be worsening liver issues in dogs with known liver problems. Avoiding peanut butter could be the key to improving your dog’s health.
If your dog has been exposed to aflatoxins, please consult your veterinarian.