Area pets affected by pet food contamination

Monday, April 2, 2007

The nationwide recall of many canned and pouched cat and dog foods from a number of manufacturers all linked to Menu Foods has affected Marshall residents.

According to Pam Deutsch of Odell Veterinary Clinic, the four small-animal veterinarians from Marshall met on Friday, March 30, and discussed their encounters with the kidney failure caused by the contaminated food.

Before the first recall started, Deutsch said she was treating animals for kidney failure. She then realized after the recall list was published, and after talking with the pet owners, that the contaminated food was the cause of illness.

Affected animals have signs of kidney failure including mild to severe anorexia, lethargy, vomiting, increased thirst and urination, Deutsch said.

Local stores have pulled the contaiminated food off their shelves and disposed of it. Mike Fleener, co-manager of Wal-Mart, said that they did have contaminated food. "We have pulled everything off the shelf and it has been destroyed," Fleener said.

Bob Bishop, manager of Orscheln, said they only had a few contaminated items. There were seven items, which included Iams and Science Diet, that had to be removed, Bishop said. There were not many because the recall involved only a certain date code, he said.

"A representative came in and verified it was the correct stuff and then the items were sent back," Bishop said. "It was a nice surprise that it wasn't dry food." Bishop said Orscheln does not carry a lot of wet food.

The kidney failure has been narrowed down to a contaminated wheat gluten provided by a company in China. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has refused to identify the company that has supplied the contaminated gluten. The wheat gluten itself does not cause kidney failure, but the contamination of the gluten does.

The contaminated wheat gluten contains aminopterin, which is used in rat poison. Aminopterin is a cancer drug.

Tricia Grossenburg, formerly a small-animal vet at Saline County Veterinary Services and now at Odell Veterinary Clinic, said that she encountered some of the problems caused by the contaminated food.

According to the Menu Foods Web site and press release, they recalled a long list of wet cat and dog food on Friday, March 16. Since than, the company has recalled over 60 million cans and pouches of food that was produced in Menu Foods plants in Kansas and New Jersey and sold throughout North America. The companies recall only affects food packaged between Dec. 3, 2006, and March 6, 2007.

The list of contaminated wet dog and cat food grew longer over the past weekend.

On Saturday, March 31, according to Purina's Web site, Nestle Purina PetCare Company voluntarily started recalling all sizes and varieties of Alpo Prime Cuts in Gravy wet dog food with specific date codes. The company decided to take the actions after learning on Saturday that wheat gluten containing melamine, a substance not approved for use in food, was provided to Purina by the same company that also supplied Menu Foods.

The contamination of the Alpo only occurred in a limited production quantity at only one of 17 pet food manufacturing facilities owned by Purina.

The recalled 13.2-ounce and 22-ounce Alpo Prime Cuts cans and 6-, 8-, 12- and 24-can ALPO Prime Cuts Variety Packs have four-digit code dates of 7037 through 7053, followed by the plant code 1159. Those codes follow a "Best Before Feb. 2009" date. This information should be checked on the bottom of the can or the top or side of the multi-pack cartons.

According to a press release from Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc., they voluntarily recalled their Prescription Diet m/d Feline dry cat food Friday, March 30, that included the tainted wheat gluten. The FDA said the gluten came from the same source causing contamination of the foods from Menu Foods and Purina.

Hill's Pet Nutrition is the only company, so far, recalling dry food.

Tom Blumhorst of Blumhorst Animal Hospital said he did not deal with any cases directly involving kidney failure due to the contaminated food. He did deal with kidney failure but he diagnosed it according to age-related problems. "In hindsight, I would question a couple," Blumhorst said. He has had several people call him with questions about mysterious deaths to their animals.

People in Marshall should feel comfortable bringing their pets to the vet because with the laboratory equipment all the small animal vets possess, Deutsch said. "We are able to diagnose the kidney failure and treat your animal in time," she said.

If people suspect their animal is ill due to contaminated food, don't hesitate to bring them in for a check-up, Deutsch said.

According to an Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine press release, laboratory results have included elevated BUN and creatinine levels. Fatalities have been reported. Autopsy and microscopic examination of tissues from affected animals indicate acute crystals, as well as other crystal formations. The effects are consistent with exposure to ethylene glycol and derivatives, mycotoxins, ochratoxin and citrinin, some heavy metals or vitamin D toxicity.

Jane Waller of Marshall Veterinary Clinic was unavailable for comment Monday morning.

Contact Rachel Harper at

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