Horses are pinned down as prime suspects in the mysterious Victoria dog poisoning.
More than 20 dogs are known to have died and dozens more became seriously ill after eating ground beef in June.
The dogs died of liver poisoning from indospicin, a toxin that has never been seen in the state.
Agriculture Victoria says test results in Gippsland have confirmed processed pet meat as a likely source of the toxin.
“Horse meat is becoming the focus of research into indospicin toxin found in animal meat products,” the Victorian government said in a statement late last week.
“PrimeSafe and Agriculture Victoria are now aware of a shipment of horses that came to Victoria from the Northern Territory for pet meat, where the indigofera plant, which contains indospicin, is known to grow.”
It is believed that more than half a million wild horses roam freely through the outback.
In Victoria, the Australian standard for the hygienic production of pet meat allows horses to be legally used in a cracking factory for use as pet food.
“Testing and information gathering continues and is now focused on identifying any further spread of indospicin-contaminated animal meat and learning lessons from this rare occurrence,” the government statement said.
Dog owners are reminded to leave their pet between the ages of 31.
All types of pet meat should be considered an indospicin contamination risk due to the blending of pet meat, including products described as beef and kangaroo pet meat.
Officials fear that pet meat contaminated with indospicin may continue to circulate despite voluntary withdrawals by the pet meat processing facility and recalls by pet meat retailers.
Businesses and dog owners are encouraged to verify the provenance of their pet meat.
If you are unsure, owners are advised to contact their pet meat supplier to check where and when their pet meat was obtained.
Some products are labeled Maffra District Knackery and Backman’s Greyhound Supplies, a government spokeswoman said.
“After the initial distribution, the animal meat may have been processed into a variety of products, making it difficult to identify all of the animal feeds affected.
Since the end of May, authorities have become aware of 61 affected dogs, 21 of which have died.
These cases have so far predominantly occurred in Bairnsdale, Traralgon, Mornington Peninsula and eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
Indospicin was confirmed as the toxin causing the disease and deaths on July 23rd.
Indospicin is a toxin found in native plants of the Indigofera (Indigo) species across Australia, but the species that produces high levels of the toxin is found in Northern Australia.
The toxin has been shown to build up in the tissues of some grazing animals if they continue to eat these plants, and dogs are particularly sensitive.
No indospicin toxicity had previously been reported in Victoria, but in Northern Australia when dogs eating horse or camel meat were affected.
To date, there is no evidence of a risk to human health or human food safety issues related to these cases.