Latest Recalls
Home » Pet Food Ingredients » Wheat Ingredients Concern
Wheat Ingredients Concern

Wheat Ingredients Concern

Trusted friend and pet food investigator extraordinaire – Dr. Gary Pusillo – shares a concern about ergot alkaloid problems he is seeing in “some supplements and foods containing wheat middling’s and other wheat products.”   Here is what ergot alkaloids are, and the risk they pose to pets.

First and foremost, I take every bit of information shared with me from Dr. Gary very seriously.  He is – among many things – an animal feed forensic scientist and an extraordinary person/animal lover.  His most recent communication to me stated “I have been seeing ergot alkaloid problems in supplements and foods containing wheat middling’s and other wheat products.”  Dr. Gary was also concerned that many veterinarians would not know what they were seeing in a sick pet suffering from ergotism (disease related to the consumption of infected grains).

He also shares – and this is important – not everything wheat is contaminated with ergot.  Please consider this warning as education to recognize the symptoms of a sick pet – just in case.  This post is not intended to cause pet food consumers to avoid everything wheat.

What are Ergot Alkaloids?


‘Spurs’ of the ergot fungus (black) mixed with healthy barley kernels. Source:

‘Spurs’ of the ergot fungus (black) mixed with healthy barley kernels.

“The ergot alkaloids are mycotoxins produced by several species of fungi in the genus Claviceps.”

“Ergot poisoning in humans and domestic animals is known as ergotism. This disease may cause strange hallucinations, the feeling of itchy and burning skin, gangrene, loss of hands and feet, and even death. Ergotism is one of the oldest known human diseases caused by mycotoxins. In the Middle Ages, humans suffering from a disease called St. Anthony’s fire reportedly experienced symptoms that suggested ergot poisoning such as burning skin, insects crawling under their skin, and the loss of hands and feet.”

From Dr. Gary:
Ergot problems in dogs and cats

Ergot alkaloid toxicity is showing up in many species of animals; it often going misdiagnosed as a bacterial related problem.  Most ergot problems are being reported from the use of contaminated wheat, and rye ingredients.

Both dogs and cats get sick very fast.  High levels will cause convulsions, in-coordination, breathing problems, excessive salivation, and diarrhea. Pregnant dogs typically will abort their litter or give birth to still born puppies.

Milk secretion from nursing mothers can cease or become very reduced. Chronic exposure to ergot alkaloids will cause the tips of a dog’s ears and tail to become necrotic and fall off. Some dogs will develop pain in their paws and where their toe nails attach and they limp or find it difficult to walk.

It seems like cats will notice the contamination sooner and not eat their food. Detection by dogs and cats is dependent on the amount of flavor masking agents used to cover-up distressed ingredients.

Veterinary Medicine, Volume 17 states: “Acute poisoning is characterized by vomiting (in dogs) profuse salivation, dilation of the pupils, rapid breathing and frequent pulse.”  (It can be safely assumed cats would suffer similar symptoms of acute poisoning.)

Dr. Gary shares that it is important to keep a pet’s immune system healthy “primed for times of crisis.  Over 65% of animal’s immune cells reside in the digestive tract.”  Providing your pet quality probiotic and prebiotic supplements can protect your pet not only against the possibility of ergot contamination in a food or treat, but many other issues as well.

Wikipeida explains “The gut is home to billions of microorganisms. Nutrition must not only provide the necessary nutrients, it must also support a balanced microflora.”

Again, do not have the belief that all wheat or rye ingredients are contaminated with ergots.  But please be aware the possibility could occur.  The information provided here is to alert you to the potential of ergot contamination, educate you to recognize the signs, and aid your veterinarian in diagnosis should your pet become ill.  As well, please become proactive working with your veterinarian using nutrition to improve your pets immune system.

Last but not least – please ‘listen’ to your pet.  Often they know far more than we give them credit for.  If they refuse a food, perhaps – again perhaps – it is because the food is contaminated with some type of toxin we cannot see or smell.  ‘Listen’ to their refusal.  Remove the food and feed them something else.  For me, if a not so hungry pet (as opposed to a pet that is so hungry they would eat anything) refuses the food a second time – the rest of that bag or can of pet food will not be offered again.  It could be just a matter of taste – the pet doesn’t like the taste or flavor of that pet food.  But it could also be something more serious.  Since we don’t know which it is for certain, I always side with caution.

Our consumer stakeholder group – Association for Truth in Pet Food – will be providing Dr. Gary’s information to each state department of agriculture and FDA to encourage each to begin testing for ergot contamination of pet foods.  Let’s hope they take Dr. Gary’s knowledge and experience seriously.


Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Association for Truth in Pet Food
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible

What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
Is your dog or cat eating risk ingredients?  Chinese imports?  Petsumer Report tells the ‘rest of the story’ on over 2500 cat foods, dog foods,  and pet treats.  30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee.




2013 List
Susan’s List of trusted pet foods.  Click Here



Have you read Buyer Beware?  Click Here

Cooking for pets made easy, Dinner PAWsible

Find Healthy Pet Foods in Your Area Click Here


  1. Hi Susan,

    I give my dog this “Nutramax Dasuquin with MSM” everyday as a supplement for her bones and joints ..

    It Includes ASU, which is derived from avocados and soybeans

    Please let me know if I should stop this?? It seems to be helping her and its the “only” supplement I give her everyday and now I’m worried after reading this.

    She seems to love the way it tastes, but she also would lick detergent and soap and body lotion if she! My dog just wants to eat everything! And it stresses me out always worrying she’s going to get at something bad.

    I’ve been feeding her Stella and Chewey’s “raw” now for close to 6 years and she’s now going on 11 years old, and still has the same energy she had when she was only 8 weeks old when I adopted! So I must be doing something right then, right? People are shocked and don’t believe me when I tell them how old she is and they always assume she’s a!

    I’ve been reading your forum for years now and I try and have an many others read it as well since I think you are an angel for everything you do for us owners and are children (pets) keep up the amazing work Susan!

    • I’m not familiar with the supplement – but what I would recommend is asking the Country of Origin of each ingredient. Also – because of the soy – I would ask if the supplement is GMO free. With this information you can decide if you wish to continue using it.

  2. Hi, thanks for this article. I recently reread the ingredients of Kelp Help and am wondering about the second ingredient, distillers dried grain. I’m wondering what is its nutritional value? Is it wheat based? It sounds like a by product of spirits making. My dog is allergic to wheat and corn and I’ve already tried to avoid products with them in it. Now I’m wondering if I’ve been sprinkling some on her food at every meal!

  3. To the person with the supplements, you shouldn’t be giving anything with avacados OR soy for that matter. Soy acts like a hormone and avacados are toxic.

    Ergot poisoning is actually what they suspect caused some of the hysteria during the Salem witch trials. That stuff can make you freak out and hallucinate like crazy.

  4. Thanks guys for all the replies.. This supllement is what the vet recommend and when I searched the product for reviews on Amazon, there’s hundreds and they all are positive!

    I never saw so many positive reviews before for something like this. Most of the owners all say they see a major difference in their dog after using it..

    Here’s the website for the company if anyone wants to check it out..I appreciate the feedback very much :)

  5. I used Denosyl and Denamarin for our dog who was poisoned by our neighbors. Those are both great products for liver problems. Without them Tony would
    not have survived. Four vets, 2 of them internists never figured out what poison was used. We used them for 6 months and it brought his liver enzymes back to normal. I recommend Nutramax Labs to everyone.

    • Marsha, Im a little confused by your last post. You mention Denosyl and something else that helped your pets liver rid the poisions but then you say you recommend “Nutramax” to everyone.

      Is Nutramax the company that makes the two products you used to rid the poisions, or something else??? I’m very confused and its hard when people post names of stuff and aren’t very clear!

      Sorry Marcha, just trying to understand what you were pointing out.

      So I called the company “Nutramax” yesterday and left s VM and someone called me back in like 5 min.. I was shocked by that. Points to them for that!

      I asked if the Soy had any GMO and she said “No” .. I then asked what country of origin are the ingredients from, and she said they are all from “European and US” distributors. I asked if any are from “China” or “Canada” and she said NO!

      I then asked about the Avocado s, and I can’t remember exactly what she said, but something like Avocados aren’t dangerous in very small amounts, or something about the seeds being dangerous?? I can’t remember haha! But she said there’s nothing to worry about as its a very small amount used.

      So question to Susan and all?

      Can’t these companies lie about where the ingredients are from? How are we supposed to know for sure that they aren’t sourced from China??

      I ask this cause I’m curious what’s the point in even asking if these companies can say whatever and get away with it? I’m not saying this company is doing that in any way btw..

      The woman I spoke to said she gives all her horses and pets the same products they make and Sell, and i have a good feeling that she was being very honest too! They even make products for humans and have a very nice website. She kind of sounded like they are in farm land too by her accent, so that made me feel even better

      What’s your thoughts on this?

      • Here’s what I’d suggest – if the response to a corn or soy ingredient being non-GMO (because more than 85% of all corn and soy in this country is GMO), I would ask what efforts they go through to assure the soy is non-GMO. What do they require of suppliers. I’ve found that companies that do go through extensive efforts to make certain everything is non-GMO, they are thrilled to share this information with consumers.

        Next – on country of origin – what I ‘heard’ (from your conversation above) is that they use suppliers based in the U.S. or Europe. This does not mean the actual country of origin of ingredients is U.S. or Europe. When they state something like you were told – “all from European and U.S. distributors” – ask the follow up question – but where/what country of origin does the distributor get the ingredients? It is unfortunate that many companies don’t know this information (the actual country of origin of all ingredients) – they know where their distributors/suppliers are located, but not actually where each ingredient is from. Keep asking questions until you get complete answers.

        And yes, they can lie. This is why the Pledge is so important. Those that have provided their Pledge have put quality and origin information in writing and the President of the company signed their name to the accuracy of the information.

  6. i believe this is what i had after eating a bag of catfish last year, one thing though i didn’t feel sick at all i was seeing and hearing stuff i couldn’t sleep i was up for a about 2 days with no sleep and was still seeing stuff that wasn’t really there, i thought somebody had put acid in my food and i still kind of think they did day 3 i had the diarrhea’s bad it was pure watery it was like dumping out a glass of water out into the toilet.

    that stuff is bad i wouldn’t want to go threw all that crap again the good thing though is that i didn’t feel sick one bit i was just seeing and hearing stuff and had the poops bad.

  7. the picture you have looks just like what i kept seeing in the cats fresh litter after i had ate the bad catfish i kept seeing a ton of black seeds or something like mouse poop droppings in there fresh litter and i knew it couldn’t be that because i just bought the litter from the store.

    • hi. can you tell me whether this litter was swheat scoop? we JUST went back to it because one of our cats was ingesting the clumping clay (bentonite) litter, very dangerous b/c it swells 15x and creates blockages!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *