SmartShieldCA: Protecting pets from the rising threat of mycotoxins

17th May 2024

With multiple global reports showing increasing levels of mycotoxins, it is important we provide pet owners with a level of protection against the threat of ill health. SmartShieldCA can do just that.

SmartShieldCA is a new-generation solution, with a triple-action formula targeted at those mycotoxins that have the biggest influence on pet health and welfare.

Low levels, big impact

There are over 500 known mycotoxins. Of the 'big six', only one - Aflatoxin, has legal limits. But research by Devenish, in collaboration with Prof Chris Elliott and is team at Queen's University, Belfast (QUB), has shown that even below these levels, mycotoxins can impact animal health.

This first of its kind, 3-year longitudinal study showed a correlation between mycotoxin levels and animal performance. In a pet context, this would result in reduced animal health and welfare.

Mycotoxin levels across trial

Impact of mycotoxins on performance

The 'big six'

Aflatoxin: the only mycotoxin with a legal maximum for pet food. It is carcinogenic (both acute and chronic) and is toxic to the liver. The actual number of animals affected by aflatoxins will be far more than the total number reported in acute poisoning cases.

Fumonisins B1+B2: cause restriction of blood vessels to the digestive system and body tissues, which leads to reduced nutrient supply, malnourishment and impaired growth. It exerts a toxic effect on the kidneys and liver and suppresses the immune system.

Ochratoxin: the initial toxic symptoms of ochratoxin poisoning in all species include anorexia, polydipsia, polyuria and dehydration, and are associated with renal damage.

Deoxynivalenol (DON): DON is part of the trichothecenes, toxic substances which attach to the ribosome, blocking RNA formation and cell replication. This is most acutely noticeable in fast-replicating cells (e.g., gut and immune cells), impacting digestion and immunity, resulting in reduced performance and increased risk of illness.

T2HT2: part of the same group as DON, causing symptoms of gastrointestinal distress, bloody diarrhoea and immune suppression. Particularly formed in maize in a cool, wet season.

Zearalenone (ZON): The molecular structure has a likeness to oestrogen, and low doses (~1 mg/kg feed) may cause infertility, affecting ovulation, conception, implantation, fetal development and the new born’s viability.

Efficacy of SmartShield to Bind Emerging Mycotoxins

Emerging mycotoxins are a group of mycotoxins, which have attracted increasing interest due to their frequent occurrence in animal feed and feed ingredients, and potential toxic effects on animal health, welfare and performance. Enniatins, sterigmatocystin and beauvericin are some of the most frequently occurring emerging mycotoxins in feed.

Due to insufficient occurrence and toxicological data, regulations are yet to be set for this group of mycotoxins, due to insufficient occurrence and toxicological data. However, a number of studies now available suggest they have the potential to cause a wide range of deleterious effects on animal health, particularly when they co-occur with regulated mycotoxins such as fumonisins, T-2/HT-2, ochratoxins and zearalenone.

Devenish conducted further research with Queen's University to assess the efficacy of SmartShield to bind and reduce the levels of enniatins (A, A1, B and B1), sterigmatocystin and beauvericin in feed. SmartShield was assessed in vitro, using buffer solutions and in QUB's novel gastrointestinal tract (GIT) model designed to simulate the GIT of monogastric animals. Under buffer conditions, results showed adsorption rates of more than 95% for enniatins (A, A1, B and B1), sterigmatocystin and beauvericin.

The data also showed the ability of SmartShield to simultaneously reduce the availability of enniatins (A, A1, B and B1), sterigmatocystin and beauvericin in the GIT model, which is highly significant, making SmartShield the first mycotoxin binder to be shown to function in this manner.

Animal-specific toxicity

Research has shown that different species are affected differently by mycotoxins. That is where SmartShieldCA comes into its own, having been formulated to target those mycotoxins that impact pet health the most.

Mycotoxin sources

Mycotoxin-producing moulds can grow on various feedstuffs including grains. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), approximately 25% of the world’s crops are affected annually by mycotoxins, the majority of which is caused by the 'big six'. The environment plays a role in the development of these moulds. Whether materials are sourced locally or from different geographical areas and climates, will impact their likely mycotoxin challenges.

The mould Aspergillus favours warm and dry geographical areas and produces aflatoxin in multiple forms (B1, B2, G1, G2). In contrast, Fusarium favours growing conditions that are cool and wet further away from the equator producing multiple of the 'big six', excluding ochratoxin. Penicillium favours storage conditions where it produces ochratoxin. The change in global weather conditions has accordingly seen a movement in the geographical location of mould development, alongside its corresponding mycotoxin presence. The presence of mycotoxins encountered in pet food manufacturing therefore sees a shift, even if the sourcing location does not change.

Widespread contamination in pet food

Once mycotoxins are formed there is little that can be done to deactivate them mechanically. Mycotoxins are highly stable, even throughout the extrusion process. Aflatoxins, ochratoxins, trichothecenes, zearalenone and fumonisins have been detected in food for dogs, cats, birds, rodents, fish and horses with different prevalences across regions, including the UK, EU and the Americas.

Reviews of pet food from 1993-2015 found the majority of pet food samples tested positive for assessed mycotoxins within recommended limits. In Italy, of 64 extruded cat foods, eight exceeded EU guidance values and three exceeded legal limits for AFB1, while 91% tested positive for DON, 98% for fumonisins, and 75% for ZON. Of 48 extruded dog foods in Turkey, no guidance values were exceeded, while 100% tested positive for DON, 88% for fumonisins, 81% for ochratoxin, and 52% showed contamination by three different types of mycotoxins. 21 dog foods19 averaged Aflatoxin contamination at 6.69 (+/- 1.65) µg/kg, but none exceeded the legal limit of 10 µg/kg. This evidence shows that mycotoxins are continually a challenge, so a mycotoxin binder should be included at all times to reduce the potential impact on our pets.

SmartShieldCA: a triple action solution

SmartShieldCA offers three methods of deactivating mycotoxins: binding, degradation and transformation. The mycotoxin determines which method is most effective, but the pH and transit time through the digestive system of the host play an important role.


For pets, SmartShieldCA contains a blend of five minerals which adsorb polar mycotoxins and derivatives, combined with two types of specifically treated MOS to bind non-polar mycotoxins.

A blend of highly adsorbent materials to bind a wide range of mycotoxins and their derivatives to render them harmless to the animal.

As an example, the polar aflatoxin readily binds to a substrate, but if this bond is weak, it readily lets go again when pH changes later in the digestive system. Also, it may change its binding to another substrate with a higher binding strength - including bodily cells of the animal tissue.


Deoxynivalenol does not bind at all, and its molecule needs active restructuring for deactivation and disposal.

Transformation of mycotoxin molecules is done through a single cut or inserting a bond at the molecular level. This creates a new molecular shape that as a result becomes bindable, whereas the parent molecule was not. This is the case for Deoxynivalenol and T2, where a single transformation renders the mycotoxin inactive.


A single transformation is not sufficient for some mycotoxins and those molecules need degrading instead. Degradation is the process of cutting the mycotoxin molecule by more than one single cut. This happens with zearalenone, which is partially bindable by MOS, but not enough to reduce its toxicity. Degradation makes zearalenone 100% bindable by the binders in SmartShieldCA.

The molecule is progressively cut to the carbon skeleton that can either be utilised by gut bacteria or can go into the carbon cycle of the host animal and be used for anything else that has a carbon skeleton, such as an amino acid or sugar.

SmartShieldCA can help protect your petfood

To find out more about how SmartShieldCA can provide your feed and pets protection from the rising threat of mycotoxins, speak to your Devenish Account Manager or call 02890 755566.

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