Worms In Your Pet Food… Disgusting But Not Uncommon

Several years ago, my home was infested with little moths.  Mostly in the kitchen.  My husband and I could not figure out where they were coming from.

When the exterminator came, he knew exactly what they were.  To our surprise, he went right to the pantry to assess our problem.  He told us these moths were in one of the dry food products on our pantry shelves.

We could never identify which food item it was—even after we emptied every packaged dry food into plastic containers.   We found nothing.

But knowing what I do now, I suspect they came from our dogs’ food.

We never found bugs in any of their food or ours.  But these common household invaders love pet food!  And other dry food.

What are these things and where do they come from?

These pantry pests can come into your home in any dry food package.  You can just as easily infect your home from a box of cereal as you can a bag of dog food.

The most common food pest—and the one that infested our home—is the meal moth.  You may find these moths in the food package or flying around your home like we did.

Larder beetles, cabinet beetles and carpet beetles are also common pantry pests.  Thankfully, we didn’t have those.

Moths and beetles go through the typical life cycle you would expect from a bug… egg, larvae, pupa and adult.

If you open a bag of dog food and find bugs in any of these life stages, don’t panic!  Believe it or not, it’s not that unusual.

If you’re wondering how you’d know, the moth eggs are white grey and measure 1 to 2 hundredths of an inch.  The mother will lay about 400 eggs at a time—hard to miss.  And beetles can lay between 45 and 90 eggs at a time.

The larvae look like worms.  Yuck!  They’re caterpillars that will turn into moths or beetles.

The worms will move away from the food before they pupate (make a cocoon).  So you may find them on your pantry shelves, or the walls or ceilings in the kitchen.

Once they spin their cocoon, there may be webbing or silk in the corners of the pantry or in the food packaging itself.

Adult moths are small, only 1/2 to 5/8ths of an inch, and can be reddish or grey/white depending on the type of moth.

However, light attracts the beetles.  You may see them on your windowsills.

But if you open a bag of dog food and find worms or beetles, you have a problem.

If you find these in your pet food should you change foods?

Not necessarily.  Pet food manufacturers try their best to minimize the likelihood of these creatures getting in their pet food.

They heat the food to high temperatures during the manufacturing process.  This eliminates these pests.  But often the problem occurs after the food leaves the manufacturer.

In a warehouse, a store, or your home, pet food is a magnet for these moths and beetles.

Pet stores sell many brands of food that come from lots of different locations (manufacturing facilities and warehouses) where the contamination could have occurred.

Also, pet stores sell birdfeed, a common source of food for these moths and beetles.

Birdfeed does not go through the heating process during manufacturing that dog and cat food does.  So contamination of the bag of pet food can happen at a pet store that sells birdfeed.

Remember too, these bugs may already be living in your pantry when you bring the pet food home.  They will be attracted to your pet’s food and find their way into the bag.  This is a good reason not to store your pet’s food in the pantry.

Likewise, if the pests are in the bag of pet food, they will find their way to the other dry foods in your pantry.

Storing pet food in another part of your home won’t eliminate the problem.  But if these pests are in your pet food when you bring it home from the store, keeping it out of the kitchen may prevent spreading the pests to your food.

But don’t store pet food in the garage. It can get too hot causing the nutrients to break down.

Although pet food manufacturers do their best to eliminate these pests, it’s still not uncommon for them to get into your pet’s food.  And it’s not a reflection on the food manufacturer or the quality of the food.

If you open a bag of food and you find eggs, worms, silk webbing, moths or beetles, return it to your pet food retailer.  The retailer should take the food back without question and exchange it for a fresh bag.

If your pet has eaten the food before you notice these guys are living in the bag, don’t be too concerned.  They may be repulsive but they’re harmless.

If moths or beetles are living in your pantry, how do you get rid of them?

Inspect the dry food in your pantry.  If you find pests in any life stage, throw out the whole package.

Store all foods that aren’t contaminated in plastic or glass containers.

Vacuum the entire pantry especially in cracks and corners where bugs or bits of infested food can be hiding.  Then throw out the vacuum cleaner bag.

You may find a stray moth flying around for up to 3 weeks.  But if you still see them after 3 weeks, you haven’t gotten rid of the source.

If there’s a food product you’re not sure isn’t contaminated, you can put it in the freezer at 0 degrees for 4 days.  But personally, I’d throw it out if in doubt.

Don’t ask your exterminator to spray an insecticide.  That won’t work.

You’d only be spraying the empty cabinets where you keep your food.  You’re not going to spray your food, or your pet’s food.  And if you don’t get rid of the source, the bugs will live on.

Since my experience with meal moths, I empty the dog food bag into a dog food bin as soon as I get it home from the store.  If there’s anything living in the bag that’s not supposed to be there I’ll find it before the pest can contaminate other food in my home.

Have you ever found worms, moths or beetles in your pet’s food?  Share at the top of the page.

 

What Do You Know About Feline Infectious Peritonitis?

In my last post, I rained down some pretty serious anxiety on canine parents.  So this week I thought I’d share the love with cat parents.

Seriously though, you need to know the facts about this dangerous illness to have any hope of preventing it.

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral cat disease.  It’s caused by certain strains of feline coronavirus.  It’s common for cats to get coronavirus.  But uncommon for coronavirus to turn into FIP.  FIP affects 5-10% of cats and kills 95% of those infected.

How does coronavirus turn into FIP?

Most strains of corona virus are harmless.  And cats infected with it rarely show any symptoms.  The immune system kicks in and a healthy cat will almost always fight it off.

But in some cats—the very young and the very old—there can be a problem with the immune response or a mutation of the virus that causes the infection to progress to FIP.

No one is certain why it happens but for coronavirus to progress to FIP, the antibodies produced by the immune system to protect the cat go awry.  This malfunction causes the white blood cells to become infected with the virus.  The virus then travels in these cells throughout the cat’s body.

It’s this interaction between the immune system and the virus that causes the disease, making it unlike any other viral disease in animals or humans.

Is your cat at risk of getting FIP?

The bad news is that any cat that carries coronavirus can get FIP.  The good news is most won’t because a healthy immune system will fight it off.

Kittens, cats with feline leukemia virus, and old cats are at greatest risk.  Most cats that get FIP are under the age of 2.

Multi-cat households are also at greater risk than single cat homes.  And shelters and catteries are potential breeding grounds for the disease.

FIP is not highly contagious though because your cat will shed most of the virus by the time it progresses from corona to FIP.

Coronavirus, however, is contagious and is transmitted by cat-to-cat contact and exposure to poop.  It can live in the environment for several weeks.

The most common means of transmission of corona is from mom to her kittens usually between 5 and 8 weeks of age.

If you are planning on breeding your cat, talk to your vet about the risks of coronavirus.

What are the signs of FIP?

If your cat has coronavirus, you may never know it.

Some cats show mild respiratory symptoms like sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal discharge.  Some have mild intestinal upset.

But once the virus progresses to FIP—which can be weeks, months or even years after exposure to corona—the symptoms may not be as subtle.

FIP comes in two forms, the wet form (effusive) and the dry form (noneffusive).  The wet form targets body cavities and progresses rapidly.  The dry form targets the organs.

Symptoms of the dry form are:

Chronic weight loss

Loss of appetite

Lethargy

Depression

Anemia

Persistent fever

Loss of vision

Loss of coordination

Early in the disease, the symptoms of the wet form are like the dry form: weight loss, fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, and depression.  In addition, you may notice:

Sneezing

Runny nose

Fluid in abdomen or chest

With the wet form, your cat may develop a pot-belly from fluid in the abdomen.  If too much fluid builds up, breathing may become difficult.

How will your vet diagnose and treat FIP?

FIP is difficult to diagnose because symptoms are similar to many other diseases.  And there’s no diagnostic test.

A biopsy of abdominal fluid is the only way to definitively diagnose FIP.

Generally, your vet will make a presumptive diagnosis based on symptoms, blood work, history, and examination of fluid if there is any.

There is no known cure or effective treatment for FIP.

With the dry form, your vet will provide supportive care to ease symptoms that includes:

Good nutrition

Steroids to reduce inflammation

Antibiotics

Draining of accumulated fluids

Blood transfusions

This may give your cat a few months to live without too much discomfort. The wet form progresses so quickly, supportive care is usually not beneficial.

Once diagnosed with FIP, there’s no need to quarantine because the cat is passed the point of being contagious.

But to keep coronavirus from spreading in your multi-cat household, clean your cats’ food and water dishes, and disinfect your cats’ living space. Keep sick cats away from other cats and kittens away from cats other than their mother.

What has your experience been with feline coronavirus or feline infectious peritonitis?  Share in the comment section at the top of the page.