Mycotoxicosis (Tremogenic Toxins) in Cats
The term “mycotoxicosis” is used to denote poisoning by food products contaminated by fungi (i.e., moldy bread, cheese, English walnuts, or even a backyard compost). As well as being toxic to humans, fungi release various toxins, also called mycotoxins, that are toxic to animals. However, this is found to be rare in cats as compared to dogs.
Symptoms and Types
The severity and type of symptom will ultimately depend on the amount and type of mycotoxin ingested. Some of the more common symptoms associated with mycotoxicosis include:
- Muscle tremors
- Uncoordinated movements
- Increased heart rate
- Increased body temperature
- Lack of appetite (anorexia)
Ingestion of mushrooms, moldy food, or garbage and other decomposing organic matter.
You will need to give the veterinarian a thorough history of your cat’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, and any possible exposure to mushrooms, moldy food, or decomposing organic matter. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination, as well a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count (CBC). These tests will help rule out other causes for tremors and seizures.
More advanced tests (thin-layer chromatography, bile analysis) are available to analyze the contents of the stomach and vomit, which should definitely confirm or refute the diagnosis.
A cat suffering from mycotoxin poisoning is the type of emergency which will need immediate hospitalization and treatment. Your veterinarian will pump the cat's stomach and, if it is not convulsing, give activated charcoal to absorb the toxic material in the stomach and intestines. Overall prognosis is good if treatment begins soon after ingestion of the fungi.
Living and Management
Watch your cat for recurrence of symptoms and call your veterinarian immediately if tremors, seizures, or any other untoward symptom develops. Most cats recover within 24 to 48 hours after treatment. However, some animals may recover more slowly and take a few weeks for the symptoms to subside.
In order to prevent your cat from eating raw mushrooms or other moldy food material, you should remove any harmful items from the backyard and safely secure a compost heap, should you have one. It is also helpful to pay attention to your cat when it roams outdoors.