If you have online friends who are pet lovers or keep track of the news, you may have heard about the recent pet food recall that was announced on March 16. Emails have been flying in cyberspace, but because this recall affects so many pets and the problem is so serious, I thought I’d offer an overview here as well just in case.
A company called Menu Foods manufactures dog and cat foods under contract for various pet food companies under more than 90 different brand names. The product recall affects all of the company’s "cuts and gravy" products. Dry foods aren’t affected, but more than 60 million containers of canned and "moist packet" type pet food are being recalled from such well known brands as Iams, Eukanuba, Hills (Science Diet), and Nutro along with familiar brands such as Mighty Dog, Ol’Roy, and Western Family that are distributed in supermarkets and "big box stores" throughout North America. The recalls affects foods that were produced at two of Menu Foods’ U.S. facilities between December 3, 2006, to March 6, 2007.
The reason the food is being recalled is because a number of cats and dogs developed kidney failure after eating the affected foods. According to information on the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Web site, the recall was prompted by consumer complaints and "deaths following a quarterly palatability trial." The current theory is that the timing coincided with the introduction of wheat gluten from a new supplier, although no one seems to be really sure if it is the source of the problem. The latest possibility is that the wheat contained rat poison.
Because such a wide range of foods is affected, it’s a good idea to check the Menu Foods site for a complete list. If you don’t have Internet access ask a friend or go to the library and ask the librarian to point the browser to this page:
Both the FDA (http://www.fda.gov) and the AVMA (http://www.avma.org) Web sites also have pages about the affected foods. The AVMA site also has advice for pet owners to help their vet diagnose the problem, and the FDA site has links for reporting the incident.
The signs of illness in your dog or cat could include appetite loss, lethargy, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in water consumption, or changes in the frequency or amount of urination. If your cat or dog exhibits these signs, call your veterinarian. Of course, these symptoms are typical of other illnesses too, so you should call your vet anyway whether or not the animal has eaten a recalled product. At the veterinarian, they may do a urinalysis and blood tests.
Locally, veterinarians have been talking to many "concerned pet parents" who have called after hearing about the recall. At Bonner Animal Hospital, they have run a few tests, but have found nothing conclusive among their patients. At Animal Medical Care, they also have tested a few pets, but so far they all have been fine. However, recently they had a client whose cat went into renal failure after switching to one of the recalled foods. Because it was before the recall and because of other health factors, it may not be related, but the owner reported it just in case.
If you find your pet food on the recall list and the package is unopened, you can return it. If the package has been opened, do not feed it to your pet. Dispose of the product and make sure your pet can’t get at it.
On a more personal note, I checked the Web site for the manufacturer of the pet food I feed my cats and dogs, and they have posted a big note that says their foods are not affected. If you are concerned, you can usually find phone numbers and a Web site address for pet food companies on the product label.