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As Pet Food Recall Expands, ASPCA Asks Pet Parents to Stay Alert--But Calm

Focus Still on Contaminated Wheat Gluten—Vitamin D Not Connected
April 5, 2007

NEW YORK, April 5, 2007—With breaking news from Menu Foods that the dates of, and varieties listed in, the original pet food recall of March 16 has just been extended, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) reminds pet parents to stay alert to the wellbeing of their pets—but also of the importance of continuing to look for the direct link between contaminants and adverse effects on the affected pets.

“This new announcement further increases our concern for the wellbeing of pets around the country,” said Dr. Steven Hansen, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist and senior vice president with the ASPCA, who manages the ASPCA’s Midwest Office, including the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC). “It is now even more crucial for pet parents to check the codes of the newly-recalled products, and discontinue use of them immediately.”

“However, it is also important to remember that the extension of the recall is still due to the use of contaminated wheat gluten in these products,” said Dr. Hansen. “In addition, we want to caution consumers against jumping to conclusions on a link between alleged high levels of Vitamin D in the contaminated foods, and the symptoms of acute renal failure displayed by the animals affected.”

Since the link between melamine and renal failure is still not clear, the ASPCA is calling for continued, in-depth investigation into the exact mechanism of the toxin(s) affecting our pets, especially in light of the recently-expanded recall.

“Setting off on a wild goose chase over a completely unrelated toxin (or toxins) will not help us get any closer to solving the mystery of what is sickening and killing our pets,” said Dr. Hansen, “and that is what we need to focus on with an increased sense of urgency.”

“At the APCC, we have an extensive amount of data on the effects of Vitamin D overdose in pets,” continued Dr. Hansen. “Vitamin D3, or ‘cholecalciferol,’ is sold commercially as a rodenticide in the United States. If animals consume significant doses, their blood calcium and phosphorus levels increase significantly.

“Within 12 hours, animals begin to display symptoms such as decreased appetite, depression, vomiting, excessive thirst and urination—and within 48 hours, renal failure sets in.

“However, the difference that we see in cases of Vitamin D overdose is that the increase in blood calcium leads to the generalized calcification—or hardening—of tissues throughout the animal’s body. This calcification can be seen on X-rays, and is especially apparent in the kidneys, heart and intestinal tract.”

The documented reports by veterinary pathologists involved in the pet food recall have thus far not shown any such generalized calcification.

“Further, if these pets were suffering from overdoses of Vitamin D, fluid therapy alone would not be successful—they would require aggressive and early veterinary care to reduce blood calcium levels to achieve any chance of success. And we have seen that fluid therapy has indeed been successful in treating some of these cases, including at our own Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City.”

The ASPCA continues to remind pet parents to monitor their pets’ health closely until the exact nature and reach of the contamination has been confirmed. An updated list of recalled products is available at www.menufoods.com/recall. Adverse effects or deaths of pets linked to eating the contaminated foods should be reported to the FDA. The FDA has posted new information on the pet food recall and its regulation of pet foods on their website. Additionally, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a wealth of resources. The ASPCA is providing updated information and resources to pet parents at its Pet Food Resource Recall Center, at www.aspca.org/recall.