Update On Pet Foods Recall

Published April 2007

As reported in the article, Menu Foods Recall, a few weeks ago there was a dog and cat food recall of 60 million containers packaged under 95 brands of food. Two additional brands - Alpo and Hills were added to the list last week. The Hills recall was for the first dry food of the recall - a prescription diet for cats called m/d.

The preliminary reports indicated that the affected foods have caused over 16 deaths, primarily cats, and may have caused illness in hundreds of others.

Last week, the Agriculture Commissioner of New York State, Patrick Hooker, released information that Aminopterin, a form of rat poison, was found in some cat foods. Since then, it is believed that Aminopterin did not contribute to the deaths of any cats however.

PetConnection.com, a website that is tracking the recall, has received reports from owners of more than 2,900 pet deaths from food-related kidney failure.

On Friday, the FDA announced that melamine, a chemical used as a fertilizer and in the production of plastics, was found in tested samples of recalled pet food from Menu Foods. The substance was also identified in urine and tissue samples taken from sickened cats and from the kidney of one cat that had eaten the recalled food. According to the FDA, "Melamine is primarily used in Asia as a fertilizer but is not approved for that use in the United States.
It is used in plastic kitchenware in this country."

As with the Aminopterin, it is not possible to test pets for melamine at this time. No one seems to know as to how much or if any other compounds were found. They also are not certain if melamine is linked to the illness in deaths of the pets eating the recalled foods.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stopped imports from Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd., a Chinese manufacturer whose wheat gluten tested positive for a substance found in pet foods linked to animal deaths.

Clearly, there are many unanswered questions regarding the safety of the pet foods involved in the recall. Reports are continuously being updated and there is still a lot that we don't know.

They do know that the compound involved is causing kidney failure and it seems to affect cats worse than dogs.

The most common signs of kidney failure are:

  • vomiting
  • not eating
  • drinking more
  • urinating more and/or lethargy.

If your cat is eating or was eating one of the recalled foods and is experiencing any symptoms, please call your veterinarian immediately. We recommend testing and treating all affected pets! If caught early, kidney failure can be treated successfully in some pets.

The food recall covers several different foods - primarily those with gravy components - with the dates of December 3rd - March 6th.

The recall does not affect all varieties of the different food.

If you suspect that your pet has been affected by a recalled food, do the following three steps to help your veterinarian with your pet's diagnosis:

  • Retain food samples for analysis.
  • Document product name, type of product and manufacturing information.
    - Retain all packaging.
    - Identify date codes or production lot numbers.
    - Retain purchase receipts.
  • Document product consumption.
    - Dates products or products were fed.
    - Consumption and palatability history.
    - Time of onset of clinical signs.
    - Detailed dietary history (ie, all products fed and feeding methods).

Dr. Sandra Willis, DVM, a board certified diplomate and communications chair with the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) and member of the AVMA Council on Communications, advises that signs of kidney failure include loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in water consumption and also changes in urination. Anybody who has a pet that exhibits these signs should take the animal to a veterinarian.

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

A veterinarian may call for a urinalysis and blood work, and might also perform additional tests, such as an x-ray or ultrasound, to rule out other possible problems such as bladder and kidney stones. If it has been determined that the cat or dog has been affected by consumption of the recalled pet food, a veterinarian decide to treat the illness with medications and/or intravenous fluids.

"If the kidney disease is severe, such as the animal is not urinating at all, the veterinarian can refer or consult with a specialist from the ACVIM for more specialized care," Dr. Willis explained.

Menu Foods has a consumer hot line at 1-866-463-6738 and 1-866-895-2708. The FDA is asking owners with sick or dead pets to call FDA state complaint coordinators. A list of contacts for such coordinators is available at http://www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/complain.html.

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