ASPCA Urges Caution as Dry Food is Voluntarily Added to Pet Food Recall

Advises Consumers Not to Panic—Not All Dry Foods Contain Wheat Gluten
March 31, 2007

NEW YORK, March 31, 2007—Yesterday, news conferences held by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Menu Foods, Inc., confirmed suspicions by the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) that a contaminant other than aminopterin may be responsible for the illnesses and deaths of animals that ingested the recently-recalled contaminated foods.

The contaminant, melamine, which was found in wheat gluten in samples of the recalled lots, is used to make durable plastic household products; cleaning products; hard, stain-resistant laminates; flame-retardant foam, soundproofing and fertilizer.

To add to the fast-breaking developments, Hill’s Pet Nutrition voluntarily recalled its Prescription Diet m/d Feline dry cat food late on Friday—its only product containing wheat gluten—which it believes may have been contaminated by infected wheat gluten from the same supplier.

At this time, the ASPCA is uncertain as to whether other pet food manufacturers may also issue voluntary recalls, and advises pet parents to contact their pet food manufacturer directly. With the addition of this brand of dry pet food to the massive Menu Foods recall, the ASPCA today urged pet parents not to panic or take any sudden actions, such as refraining from feeding their pets dry food altogether.

“There are several dry cat and dog foods that do not include any wheat gluten in their formulas,” said Dr. Hansen, “and you can get that information from the label on your pet food or manufacturer. In general, the ASPCA recommends high quality, premium pet foods for most pets, since they are research-based formulas that include specific nutrients for your pet’s well-being.

“Foods that fall into these categories, and that do not contain wheat gluten in their formulas, are perfectly safe for consumption. Further, if your pet is used to eating a particular type of food, a sudden change in diet or diet type may upset its stomach. This may be especially problematic for pets with pre-existing illnesses.”

Because we do not yet have direct proof that melamine causes kidney failure in pets, the ASPCA encourages continued investigation. “Ironically, melamine itself has a relatively high safety margin,” said Dr. Hansen. “Studies have shown that at significant doses, it causes a pronounced diuretic effect in dogs and rats, as well as the development of crystals in their urine, but without evidence of kidney damage. Should doses exceed those in published studies, we may start seeing additional adverse effects in dogs.

“Cats, however, are a very sensitive species, and can react adversely to many chemicals and drugs even at lower doses. Because of their unique physiology, we suspect that they may also be more sensitive to the adverse effects of melamine. However, further investigation is required to prove this theory.”

The ASPCA recommends that as a precautionary measure, pet parents should immediately discontinue the use of the possibly-contaminated dry food, if they have not already done so. Further, the use of aggressive fluid therapy to treat pets for kidney failure, which has been directly linked to ingestion of the contaminated food, should continue. Any change in treatment should only be done under the direction of your veterinarian.

“It is imperative to stay in close contact with your veterinarian and follow their direction,” said Dr. Hansen. “In addition, if you have any suspicion that your pet is displaying signs other than those previously noted, and believe these are directly linked to ingestion of the contaminated food, you should notify the FDA immediately.”

Adverse effects or deaths of pets linked to eating the contaminated foods should be reported to the FDA. The FDA has also posted new information on the pet food recall and its regulation of pet foods. Additionally, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a wealth of resources.