Thursday, April 19, 2007

A new pet food crisis

You may have heard about the Menu Foods recall, involving canned and pouched dog foods containing melamine, a toxic pesticide contaminating wheat gluten. Melamine is banned in the US, but this wheat gluten was purchased from China. It causes acute kidney failure. Several dogs and cats have died. Many foods were recalled because they contained wheat gluten from the same source. We saw several patients who had eaten recalled, but not contaminated, foods; they all had normal kidney function when we checked. Fortunately, it seemed, our area was not affected.

Then, this week my colleagues have had 5 cases of kidney failure. All the dogs ate just two meals from a new bag of "Natural Balance." This is the dog food endorsed by Dick Van Patten, prominently displayed at Petsmart. This time the rice protein is contaminated with melamine. These patients' kidney values are off the charts, some higher than I've ever seen a dog recover from. I haven't personally dealt with any of the cases, but I feel for the doctors who are - the patient's kidneys are shot, their electrolytes are all messed up, and their prognosis is grim. We've euthanized two of the patients (both were geriatric), and the others are improving but are not yet out of the woods. We've heard of a total of 13 cases in the Austin area so far.

It is so tragic for these dogs and their families. Their owners are trying to choose a good food for them, one that sounds natural and healthy, with a kindly celebrity on the bag. At our hospital, three dogs are in the same family; at another, six dogs from the same household are sick and hospitalized. The hospital bills are staggering, and the company hasn't offered to compensate yet. These previously healthy dogs may be left with permanent kidney damage. The ones that are dead should still be alive.

The fear of what may be in our pets' foods is making one of my co-workers research homemade diets. It is ironic, because previously she was critical of our clients that fed their dogs "people food." She wants the very best for her own dog, so she is willing to cook and buy vitamin supplements, for an extended amount of time.

Another co-worker felt the whole contamination issue was indicative of what is "wrong with our country. We need to be supporting our local farmers." I agree with buying locally, but unfortunately, industries in this country usually go for the cheapest source, not the most ethical or safest. I also wonder if any of this toxin will show up in human food, part of a solitary ingredient in a highly processed food. Judging by the vast number of prepackaged items I saw in children's lunches at Anna's school, it could be widely devastating.

At least people have dialysis and the possibility of kidney transplants...

6 comments:

Emily said...

It's so scary and devastating to a family to lose their pet to such a needless death.

Leigh-Ann said...

I use Natural Balance in spite of the celebrity association, not because of it :) The food actually does have excellent ingredients, although I feel the company erred when they recently modified one of their dry cat food formulas to add rice protein. Other than that one food, the food is pretty much void of corn, wheat, and soy, which is why I like it. I'm going to continue to feed it because it's so easy to get, but I'll also keep on reading the labels on everything I buy.

I was reading a "rice information" website, and it said that more than 90% of the rice consumed by Americans was grown in the United States. If we can grow rice to feed ourselves, there's no reason why we need to import it.

Sinda said...

My sister uses Natural Balance - she lucked out and didn't go to get a new bag until after the recall. We switched to Wellness from IAMs a few months ago - after having used IAMS for 20 years. Scary stuff.

chickenflicken said...

Hi, Jen. I don't know if you know Irene of Momster (in Paris), but she has a sick puppy and is having some trouble communicating with her vet and I told her you might be able to give her the right words to ask the right questions. Could you email me from my blog and I'll give you her email addy? Would you mind doing that? (Sorry, I really just kind of volunteered your services, but at least I didn't say you'd diagnose overseas...I just told her that you might be able to help her figure out how to talk to her vet in paris. Thanks!

chickenflicken said...

Or, heh heh, you could contact her directly at her blog, which you would love anyway. You guys remind me a lot of each other with your sweetie-pie selves.

http://irenenam.squarespace.com/

Library Lady said...

I use Purina and Purina ProPlan for the cats and I've noticed that Purina products have not been in any of the recalls, thank heavens. I lost one beloved kitty to kidney failure and would dread losing another!