NEW YORK, May 3, 2007With Menu Foods yesterday greatly expanding its recall of pet food products due to new evidence of cross-contamination, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today warned pet parents that this crisis is far from over, and urged them to watch their pets closely for any symptoms that may be related to the recall.
“Given the fact that there is new evidence of cross-contamination in ingredients that may have been considered safe prior to this news, we need to be much more aware of where the ingredients in our pets’ food are coming from,” said Dr. Steven Hansen, a board-certified toxicologist and senior vice president with the ASPCA, who manages the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), located in its Midwest Office in Urbana, Ill.
“We are strongly recommending that pet parents immediately investigate, via their pet food manufacturer’s Web site or by calling them directly, where the ingredientsspecifically protein supplementsare sourced from.”
Given the current situation and until this crisis is resolved, the ASPCA is recommending pets be fed products containing U. S.-sourced protein supplements only.
“The continued expansion of the recall is extremely worrying,” said Dr. Louise Murray, director of medicine at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital (BMAH) in New York City, and a board-certified internist. “The magnitude of this crisis leaves us frustrated as to how to best protect pets and prevent any more illnesses or deaths.”
However, recent media reports that laboratory experiments on the interaction of melamine and cyanuric acid in cat urine showed the formation of crystals, are not surprising to ASPCA experts, and offer a glimmer of hope to veterinarians who have been worrying about how to save sick animals who have ingested the contaminated food.
“The fact that we have started to learn how the presence of melamine may be impacting these animals, gives us a small glimmer of hopethat at least we know we are on the right track when it comes to treating the animals affected,” said Dr. Hansen. “These findings really start putting everything else we have seen into perspective.”
In a study that was done several years ago on dogs and rats, the presence of melamine in their systems was found to only lead to the development of crystals in urine, but there were no further adverse effectsand nothing that showed a direct link between the chemical mechanism of melamine and the renal failure recently seen in the affected animals.
“Now that we see that crystals are formed when melamine and cyanuric acid are combined in cat urine, it may be that the cause of renal failure is somehow related to the obstruction caused by these crystals,” continued Dr. Hansen.
This also explains why animals whose symptoms were detected early enough, and who were rushed to their veterinarians and put on aggressive fluid therapyas the ASPCA has been recommendingsurvived; since this treatment may help to prevent additional crystals from forming, and aid in flushing out the existing crystals from the animals’ urinary tracts, thus relieving the obstruction and reversing the effects of renal failure.
“Patience is the key,” said Dr. Murray, who has successfully treated several animals thus-affected with aggressive fluid therapy at BMAH. “We now understand that we have to bathe these crystals in fluid for as long as possible. With other causes of kidney failure, if there is no improvement in the animal’s condition after a day or two, the prognosis is usually not encouraging.
“In this case, however, when treating animals who have been sickened by eating the contaminated foods, longer-term intravenous fluids may be required so we would strongly recommend that all veterinarians treating such cases be patient and continue administering fluids longer than they might otherwise, because they can really be life-saving.”
Unofficial estimates, including by those in the veterinary community, suggest the number of recall-related deaths may be in the thousands. The pet food recall crisis continues to unfold, with new developments appearing daily, and ramifications at the international trade, business and human health levels. As recently as yesterday, Menu Foods greatly expanded its recall list because of evidence of cross-contamination at plants where the contaminated ingredients were in use.
The ASPCA continues to warn pet parents to stay extremely alert to the situation. “Please stay abreast of recall news, which you can do via our Pet Food Recall Resource Center on our website, and remain extremely vigilant to your pets’ wellbeing. If they have eaten any of the recalled foods or show any of the signs generally attributed to kidney failureor illness in generalplease take them to your veterinarian immediately,” urged Dr. Murray.
The ASPCA continues to monitor the situation, and is providing regular updates and advice for pet parents at its Pet Food Recall Resource Center at www.aspca.org/recall.