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Spate of dog deaths in Victoria linked to toxin found in native plant

Spate of mystery dog deaths is linked to a native plant as owners are warned to stop feeding their pets a certain type of product

  • Dog deaths in Victoria have been linked to pet food from a local knackery
  • Investigations found deaths are due to a plant toxin eaten by livestock 
  • Toxin can build up in grazing animals impacting dogs when they eat the meat 
  • Up to 100 dogs impacted by the toxic meat as owners demand industry overhaul 

A toxin found in a native plant has been linked to the devastating deaths of 14 pet dogs in Victoria. 

Authorities believe indospicine, which is mostly found in northern Australia in native plants of the Indigofera species – or a flowering shrub known as indigo – was ingested by livestock which were then slaughtered for raw pet meat and fed to the dogs.

The link was uncovered after it was found that all of the dogs had eaten raw meat from the Maffra Knackery in eastern Gippsland before dying from liver failure.  

The toxin can build up in animals as they graze. There have been no previous reports of issues with indospicine affecting livestock in Victoria. It has been previously  detected in northern Australia when dogs died after they were fed infected camel meat.

Agriculture Victoria and government meat regulator PrimeSafe have warned people not to feed their pets meat sources from the knackery, which distributes products throughout the state.  

Victorian pet owners have been left devastated after a toxin ingested by livestock before slaughtered for food has killed 14 dogs and left 75 sick

The dead dogs were all young, healthy and vaccinated and all based in the Bairnsdale, Traralgon and Frankston areas. A further 75 have been treated for liver toxicity.

‘Dogs are especially sensitive to this toxin,’ the authorities said in a statement. 

‘This is a positive step in the progress of the investigation and provides some answers to affected and concerned dog owners.

‘At this stage the investigation has no conclusive evidence of how the dogs have ingested the toxin, with pet food sources remaining a primary focus’.

Owner of Maffra Knackery, Karen Backman, said all meat labelled Backman’s Greyhound Supplies Chopped and Maffra Knackery Chopped purchased between May 31 and July 3 can be returned for a refund or replacement. 

‘We are stressed and saddened by the cluster of dogs suffering from liver disease and are doing everything we can do to help,’ she said.

‘We have been tirelessly co-operating with PrimeSafe and Agriculture Victoria to find the cause of this disease.’

The toxin indospicine is found across Australia in native plants of the Indigofera species. When ingested by livestock subsequently killed for food, the toxic plant can cause death and illness in pets

The toxin indospicine is found across Australia in native plants of the Indigofera species. When ingested by livestock subsequently killed for food, the toxic plant can cause death and illness in pets 

Distraught pet owners have since called for an overhaul of Australia’s pet food regulations after discovering governing body PrimeSafe doesn’t have the power to enforce businesses to recall products, only requesting they comply with a recall voluntarily.

The Australian Veterinary Association and Pet Food Industry Association of Australia have been lobbying for Australian standards for the pet food industry and mandatory recalls.

The spate of dog deaths follows the spread of a highly contagious virus that started in an inner-east Melbourne dog park and left some pets on intravenous drips for days at a time.   

More than 100 canines were hit with dog gastroenteritis after attending Citizens Park in Richmond in the last three weeks since June 11. 

The virus spread through several suburbs, leaving some older and more vulnerable pet dogs struggling to pull through.  

Signs of liver toxicity in dogs

Increased thirst


Yellowing around the gums

Yellowing around the eyes