Moldy Dinner Scraps Nearly Kill Hungry Dog

The Details

 Leftover Barbeque Sauce Sends Pet to Hospital With Seizures

As summer begins to wind down, festive outdoor barbeques transition to indoor crock-pot feasts. After that slowly simmering supper has been served, however, the toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline want to warn pet lovers not to leave the leftovers out where an animal can find them.

“Many pet lovers think their animals are indestructible and can ingest any human food, but common foods that become moldy can be life-threatening,“ said Dr. Renee Schmid, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline. “Toxins called tremorgenic mycotoxins can form in spoiled, moldy food. Ingestion of these toxins can cause acute tremors, which can range from mild to life-threatening. Symptoms include central nervous system and gastrointestinal signs, shivering, twitching, loss of control of body movements, high body temperature and seizures. The good news is that if treated immediately, a pet’s prognosis is good.”

While many people think dogs are scavengers and can eat almost anything, Frankie Counce from Parkin, Arkansas, found out the hard way that pets can be poisoned by spoiled food. After slow-cooking a crock-pot full of ribs, Counce took the container of old, moldy sauce to the back yard to clean it out. That’s when Sugar, his two-year-old pit bull, saw an opportunity.

“I took the pot outside to clean it with the hose,” said Counce. “I thought I had washed the material well enough that it had soaked into the ground, but I found Sugar digging around the spot where I had cleaned out the mess. About an hour later, Sugar started shivering and twitching. I knew my normal veterinarian was closed, so I decided to drive her 60 miles to the nearest emergency hospital in Memphis. At this point, I didn’t know what we were dealing with.”

When Counce arrived at the Animal Emergency Center in Memphis, Sugar was actively seizing, and the medical team immediately took her back to start treatment. At first, they thought Sugar might be suffering from xylitol exposure, so they had Counce call the toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline. After discussing what had happened, and Sugar’s symptoms, the toxicologists determined that Sugar was reacting to the moldy barbeque sauce, not xylitol.

“Barbeque sauce was the last thing on my mind,” explained Counce. “Dogs eat everything. We live by a river, and they’re constantly eating all sorts of things, like rotten fish. I would have never thought something like old sauce could be so dangerous.”

Once it was determined to be tremorgenic mycotoxins, the medical team treated Sugar with an anti-emetic, IV fluids, methocarbamol for her tremors and anticonvulsants for the seizures.  The medical team at Animal Emergency Center in Memphis provided life-saving, aggressive monitoring and care for Sugar that undoubtedly saved her life.

“I know that if I hadn’t gotten Sugar there when I did, she would have died” Counce said. “Moldy barbeque sauce almost killed her, but fortunately she’s back to her normal, healthy self.”

Sugar, one of three rescue dogs living with Counce, is September’s Toxin Tails case of the month. Pet Poison Helpline created Toxin Tails to educate the veterinary community and pet lovers on the many types of poisoning dangers facing pets, both in and out of the home. All the pets highlighted in Toxin Tails have been successfully treated for the poisoning and fully recovered.


About Pet Poison Helpline

Pet Poison Helpline®, your trusted source for toxicology and pet health advice in times of potential emergency, is available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. We are an independent, nationally recognized animal poison control center triple licensed by the Boards of Veterinary Medicine, Medicine and Pharmacy providing unmatched professional leadership and expertise. Our veterinarians and board-certified toxicologists provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline’s fee of $85 per incident includes follow-up consultations for the duration of the case. Based in Minneapolis, Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at