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Vets urge reading of labels

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

(Photo)
Dr. Becky Smith-Durham, veterinarian, confirms toxic ingredients are not in the dogfood.
SIKESTON -- Area veterinarians are advising pet owners to err on the side of caution when choosing foods for their pets.

In March, manufacturers began making recalls due to contamination in wet and "cuts and gravy" style pet food.

A few local pets have already fallen victim to the tainted food.

"Two were positively diagnosed," said Dr. Becky Smith-Durham at the Animal Health Center, "one of which died."

"And last week we had another suspicious case," said Animal Health Center owner Dr. Stephen Williams.

"We have seen two cats that we were sure were affected by that," said Dr. David Morris of the Delta Veterinary Clinic. "The one that was three years old had a much better appetite than the 20-year-old, so it was much more adversely affected."

Both survived and were sent home after being treated.

"I expect it will cut the life expectancy somewhat on the young cat," Morris said.

Morris said they have also checked several dogs recently for kidney problems, "none of which we could point our finger at it being from the food."

The Tri-County Veterinary Hospital has had about 10 unconfirmed but suspicious cases, according to Dr. Elizabeth St. John.

"I don't think we've had any fatalities," she said.

"We're seeing it more in cats than dogs," Smith-Durham said.

While chances of avoiding contaminated product are better with dry foods, a more sure way is to check the list of ingredients, according to Williams.

"I think the American consumer needs to be reading their own labels," he said. "They recalled some dry foods last week."

Definitely don't rely on official recall lists, Williams advised, "because that list may not be conclusive."

"The cat that died and was diagnosed with food toxicity had eaten a food that was not on the recall list," Smith-Durham said.

Smith-Durham said she took part in an online seminar by IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. April 24 in an effort to learn "what they know now, how to approach it and treat it."

"The researchers think they have it narrowed down," Williams said.

The contamination has been linked to melamine, an industrial chemical found in some fertilizers and pesticides, and/or its byproducts which has been causing kidney damage and even terminal renal failure, according to Smith-

Durham. "They're finding it in the wheat gluten and rice protein," she said.

"Some of the manufacturers are not doing a recall even though they have this wheat gluten," Williams said. "This is my biggest concern."

Williams said as far back as January or February they were getting cases of suspicious renal failures "but we didn't know at that time because they hadn't released anything yet."

As most of the tainted pet food has been in the "cuts and gravy" and moist foods, "they're recommending testing if there's been any exposure to that food whether they are clinically ill or not," Smith-Durham said.

Pet owners who prefer to feed their animals homemade diets should do so on a very short-term basis, Smith-Durham advised, as these meals are not balanced.

For an updated list of contaminated pet foods, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association Web site at www.avma.org.