Composting has become a rather common practice as  more people look for ways to “go green” or to simply decrease their food bill.  The booth at the farmers market was busy all summer long describing the various systems of composting and how to get started.  If you are considering starting your own compost pile and have a dog, consider the method that is best for keeping your four legged scavenger out of the pile.

Unfortunately, a largely unknown danger may be lurking in your compost pile.  A substance identified as a tremorgenic mycotoxin could be growing in your pile and if ingested by your dog, could cause a serious or even deadly reaction.  Tremorgenic = shaking, tremors, seizures and mycotoxin = poisonous fungus.  Penitrem A is a type of tremorgenic mycotoxin associated with the Penecillium fungi that can be found in compost piles and spoiled food.

If you see your animal get into the spoiled garbage or catch him eating from the compost pile it is best to get him to a Veterinarian who can induce vomiting, especially if symptoms of poisoning are present.  Symptoms of toxicity include increased heart rate, panting, tremors, very excited or anxious, vomiting, hyperthermia or fever, and if enough has been ingested, or if left untreated, can develop into seizures or even death.

Treatment will include making the dog vomit followed by a dose of activated charcoal (also known as Toxiban) that helps to absorb any remaining mycotoxin left in the stomach.  Then medication will be administered to stop the tremors which will help decrease the body temperature.  Additionally IV fluids and other supportive measures will help flush the poison from the body and make the dog more comfortable.

Tremorgenic Mycotoxin is not a common household name, but if your dog is caught munching in the compost pile it’s one that you know warrants immediate action with a trip to the Veterinarian.  Tell “Lucky” to leave the compost for the garden – he has plenty of delicious food in his dog dish!