As Pet Food Recall Expands, ASPCA Warns Crisis Not Over: More Cases May Be Seen
Urges Veterinarians to Continue Aggressive Fluid Therapy to Treat Pet Food Recall Cases
NEW YORK, May 3, 2007—With Menu Foods yesterday greatly expanding its recall of pet food products due to new evidence of cross-contamination, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today warned pet parents that this crisis is far from over, and urged them to watch their pets closely for any symptoms that may be related to the recall.
“Given the fact that there is new evidence of cross-contamination in ingredients that may have been considered safe prior to this news, we need to be much more aware of where the ingredients in our pets’ food are coming from,” said Dr. Steven Hansen, a board-certified toxicologist and senior vice president with the ASPCA, who manages the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), located in its Midwest Office in Urbana, Ill.
“We are strongly recommending that pet parents immediately investigate, via their pet food manufacturer’s Web site or by calling them directly, where the ingredients—specifically protein supplements—are sourced from.”
Given the current situation and until this crisis is resolved, the ASPCA is recommending pets be fed products containing U. S.-sourced protein supplements only.
“The continued expansion of the recall is extremely worrying,” said Dr. Louise Murray, director of medicine at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital (BMAH) in New York City, and a board-certified internist. “The magnitude of this crisis leaves us frustrated as to how to best protect pets and prevent any more illnesses or deaths.”
However, recent media reports that laboratory experiments on the interaction of melamine and cyanuric acid in cat urine showed the formation of crystals, are not surprising to ASPCA experts, and offer a glimmer of hope to veterinarians who have been worrying about how to save sick animals who have ingested the contaminated food.
“The fact that we have started to learn how the presence of melamine may be impacting these animals, gives us a small glimmer of hope—that at least we know we are on the right track when it comes to treating the animals affected,” said Dr. Hansen. “These findings really start putting everything else we have seen into perspective.”
In a study that was done several years ago on dogs and rats, the presence of melamine in their systems was found to only lead to the development of crystals in urine, but there were no further adverse effects—and nothing that showed a direct link between the chemical mechanism of melamine and the renal failure recently seen in the affected animals.
“Now that we see that crystals are formed when melamine and cyanuric acid are combined in cat urine, it may be that the cause of renal failure is somehow related to the obstruction caused by these crystals,” continued Dr. Hansen.
This also explains why animals whose symptoms were detected early enough, and who were rushed to their veterinarians and put on aggressive fluid therapy—as the ASPCA has been recommending—survived; since this treatment may help to prevent additional crystals from forming, and aid in flushing out the existing crystals from the animals’ urinary tracts, thus relieving the obstruction and reversing the effects of renal failure.
“Patience is the key,” said Dr. Murray, who has successfully treated several animals thus-affected with aggressive fluid therapy at BMAH. “We now understand that we have to bathe these crystals in fluid for as long as possible. With other causes of kidney failure, if there is no improvement in the animal’s condition after a day or two, the prognosis is usually not encouraging.
“In this case, however, when treating animals who have been sickened by eating the contaminated foods, longer-term intravenous fluids may be required —so we would strongly recommend that all veterinarians treating such cases be patient and continue administering fluids longer than they might otherwise, because they can really be life-saving.”
Unofficial estimates, including by those in the veterinary community, suggest the number of recall-related deaths may be in the thousands. The pet food recall crisis continues to unfold, with new developments appearing daily, and ramifications at the international trade, business and human health levels. As recently as yesterday, Menu Foods greatly expanded its recall list because of evidence of cross-contamination at plants where the contaminated ingredients were in use.
The ASPCA continues to warn pet parents to stay extremely alert to the situation. “Please stay abreast of recall news, which you can do via our Pet Food Recall Resource Center on our website, and remain extremely vigilant to your pets’ wellbeing. If they have eaten any of the recalled foods or show any of the signs generally attributed to kidney failure—or illness in general—please take them to your veterinarian immediately,” urged Dr. Murray.The ASPCA continues to monitor the situation, and is providing regular updates and advice for pet parents at its Pet Food Recall Resource Center at www.aspca.org/recall.
Added 1:48pm: On the 7 week anniversary of the initial recall announcement, I turn to Judi McLeod of the Canada Free Press again, who says it well. Emphasis (bold or italics) is mine.
When the latest contaminated pet food scare is over, thousands of hearts will have been broken. Pet people love their pets. What could possibly be worse than knowing a pet died from the very food you have fed it?
Shame on the FDA for consistently claiming the number 16 for dead pets in the latest wave of dead pets from poison masquerading as commercial pet food; the latest because the massive Menu Food recall is only the deadliest recall to date. Some of the same pet food manufacturers whose products are on current recall have made recalls for other contaminanted products as recently as 2006.
"In the most deadly recall of 2006, 4 prescription canned dog and cat foods were recalled by Royal Canin (owned by Mars). The culprit was a serious overdose of Vitamin D that causes calcium deficiency and kidney disease." (www.api4animals.org).
"Consumers have reported the deaths of as many as 8,500 dogs and cats as a result of tainted pet food, federal officials said Thursday. ( www.latimes.com, May 4, 2007). "In the two months since reports of a few pet deaths led to a massive U.S. pet food recall, the Food and Drug Administration said about half of the calls to its hot line were from owners of deceased cats and dogs."
"Officials said the agency had not confirmed those reports but added that the numbers of allegations were likely to rise as it caught up with a backlog of calls reporting sick or dead animals."
Notice how quickly FDA bureaucrats resort to the use of the word "allegations".
The numbers FDA is reporting could be flawed for a couple of practical reasons. Emotionally wrought owners don't necessarily take their time from dead pet grief to check in with the FDA hotline. Countless pet owners have no confidence in the FDA as a protector of food safety in either the animal or human kind.
The long awaited statistics indicating an 8,500 dead pet toll were admitted even as the FDA tried to reassure nervous consumers that their food supply was safe, a necessity now that tainted pet food has been fed to both hogs and chickens.
Some two months after the first Menu Food recall, food safety agents are being dispatched to U.S. food manufacturers for inspections. Chinese authorities, which detained the head of a Chinese company suspected of shipping contaminated wheat gluten to U.S. pet food suppliers, were in the news.
Detaining a single shipper is not too likely to bolster public confidence when Chinese suppliers boast that melamine and other agents to boost protein levels in commercial pet food has been in use for years.
Authorities seem to have marginalized brokenhearted pet owners and only made a show of response when the contaminated pet food entered the human food chain.
"New food safety czar David Acheson said he wanted to assure consumers that the human food supply was safe. "It is very unlikely that there is a human health effect here," he said." (latimes.com).
Government agents are doing too little too late by beginning to visit domestic food makers to "raise awareness" and test Chinese ingredients.
Some of the tainted pet foods were sold as "salvage" and fed to 6,00 hogs and nearly 3 million chickens destined for human consumption.
Why are Chinese police remaining mum about confirming the arrest of Mao Lijun, the general manager of Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co--the company Las Vegas-based ChemNutra said it imported its melamine-laced wheat gluten from?
Meanwhile, just as countless pet owners suspected in the first place, the toll of dead animals in the most recent contaminated pet food tragedy is in the thousands and growing.
With apologies to author Stephen King, it's Pet Cemetery 2007.
Folks, whatever your beliefs - take a moment today to say a prayer for all the wonderful pets affected by this tragedy. You gave us unconditional love and we love you more than words could ever say. Our hearts will be broken until we see you again on the other side. But we will not let your deaths be in vain.
And a personal note to my angel in fur: Buckwheat - I miss you so much. I can't believe it's been 7 years tomorrow, it feels like it was just yesterday. I'm so sorry for everything you went through, I wish *so* much that I had known then what I know now. If I had you'd still be alive. I love you sweetie.