Pet Food Scare Continues

FOCUS ON PETS

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The pet food scare has not gone away. On the local news, it was reported that tens of thousands of dogs could be affected. The New York State Food Laboratory identified aminopterin as the toxin present in samples from Menu Foods.

The lab received the pet food samples from toxicologists at the New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University where testing has been under way to attempt to identify the cause of recent kidney failure in dogs and cats.

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Grocery stores and pet food stores have stripped their shelves of tainted pet foods. The remaining products are safe.

Aminopterin, a derivative of folic acid, can cause cancer and birth defects in humans and can cause kidney damage in dogs and cats. Aminopterin is not permitted for use in the United States.

Suspect foods were manufactured by Menu Foods between Dec. 3, 2006 and March 7, 2007. The recalled products are both manufactured and sold under private labels and are contract-manufactured for several national brands.

Since the recall, food inspectors have contacted organizations that represent retail food and pet food stores to ensure that the stores are aware of the recall and that the recalled products have been removed from store shelves.

The recalled products are primarily cuts and gravy-style dog and cat food. These can be found in cans or pouches. Check the list of recalled products. If you have any of them, no matter the code number or date of manufacture, do not use the food.

Dr. Sandra Willis, DVM, a board certified diplomate and communications chair with the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, (ACVIM) advises that signs of kidney failure include loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in water consumption and also changes in urination.

"Owners shouldn't panic, because there can be a wide variety of reasons a pet might exhibit these symptoms," Dr. Willis said. "But, it's always prudent that, when a pet is exhibiting any signs of illness, the pet owner should contact their veterinarian immediately."

If you suspect that your pet has eaten some of the recalled food, retain food samples for analysis and retain all packaging, including date codes or production lot numbers and purchase receipts. Also document the dates the products were fed and when you first noticed changes in your pet. Your veterinarian can refer to or consult with a specialist from the ACVIM for more specialized care.

Owners of pets affected by the recalled pet foods can report it to the FDA Web site. Visit http://www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/complain.html to find the FDA complaint coordinator in each state.

"Should you suspect that your pet is ill, contact your veterinarian immediately. He or she will run comprehensive tests to determine the nature of the illness and if it is, in fact, renal failure, the veterinarian will then contact the FDA complaint line," said AVMA President Dr. Roger Mahr, DVM. "It is extremely important that detailed veterinary records are kept in order to determine if the illness is due to the recalled products."

Sixty million cans and pouches of dog and cat food from 100 brands have been recalled. Visit www.menufoods.com/recall/product_cat.html or dog.html. There, you will find a complete listing of all the suspect brands for dogs and cats. The list is long and frightening. You may also call (866) 895-2708 for recall information.

It is extremely important that you check the labels on each can of dog and cat food. The tainted products go from the highest quality to the lowest. It is amazing that they are all made in the same plant. That does not mean that they are all the same, as each is made according to its own recipe, but contamination spreads in machinery and equipment. Iams, Eukanuba and Nutro are on the list. Meat cuts and products with gravy are the most suspected.

Veterinarians across the country have been inundated with calls from worried pet owners. Menu Foods CEO and President Paul Henderson said most complaints have come from the Menu Food Plants in New Jersey and Kansas, with the Kansas plant having the most complaints. Both plants received shipments of wheat gluten, which was identified as a possible source of contamination.

Although we are all concerned about the quality of store-bought pet food since this scare, deciding to make your own is not always a good alternative. Pets have complex nutritional needs that are unique to their species, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. A later column will discuss this in more detail.

My sister recently bought two cases of canned food. One case was fine but the other case was from a tainted lot. Fortunately, she checked it.

If your pet is showing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, get him to a veterinarian immediately. Veterinarians have said that the earlier your pet is treated, the better the chances of survival. This is extremely frightening and serious. The American Veterinary Medical Association is an excellent source and reference point for information about this pet food recall.

-- Christy Powers can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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