Aflatoxicosis in nine dogs after exposure to contaminated commercial dog food

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Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation

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The purpose of this study was to characterize light and electron microscopic findings from 9 dogs that had consumed aflatoxin-contaminated commercial dog food from recalled batches. Four dogs died and 5 were euthanized after signs of liver failure. Analysis of feed and liver samples confirmed exposure to aflatoxin. Of the 9 dogs, 8 had classic signs of liver failure, and 1 had signs of liver failure. Enlarged, pale yellow livers were seen macroscopically at necropsy in the dogs with subacute hepatopathy, and cirrhosis was noted in the dog with chronic hepatopathy. Histopathologic findings included hepatic lipidosis, portal fibroplasia, and biliary hyperplasia, which supported a diagnosis of subacute toxic hepatopathy in the 8 symptomatic animals. Marked lobular atrophy, bridging portal fibrosis, and regenerative hepatocellular nodules characterized the dog with chronic hepatopathy. Electron microscopy revealed marked hepatocellular lipid vacuolation and early fibroplasia in the dogs with acute hepatopathy and marked fibrosis and regeneration in the dog with chronic hepatopathy. Analysis of feed for aflatoxin consistently revealed high levels of aflatoxin B1 (range of 223-579 ppb), and hepatic tissue contained elevated levels of aflatoxin B1 metabolite M1 (0.6-4.4 ppb). Although dogs are not commonly affected by aflatoxicosis, they are highly susceptible and can present with classic signs of acute or chronic hepatopathy. Characteristic gross, histologic, and electron microscopic changes help pathologists determine a presumptive toxic insult. Detecting aflatoxins or their metabolites in feed or liver specimens can help confirm the diagnosis of aflatoxicosis.

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