One pet death in area tied to tainted food

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2007

At least one area pet has lost his life due to tainted pet food as the pet food recall widens and concerns grow.

Dr. Althea Gammage of Crenshaw Animal Clinic in Luverne, reported on Tuesday she had lost a patient, a small dog she has treated for several years, to acute renal failure this week. The owners had routinely fed the animal the Cuts and Gray wet food that was part of the vast Menu Foods recall.

&#8220Despite our best efforts, we lost him. It's just heartbreaking. It's like losing a member of the family,” Gammage said.

The veterinarian said she had had a number of concerned pet owners call and/or come in to have their animals checked out since the initial recall by Menu Foods of Ontario on March 17.

Melamine, a chemical used in plastics and pesticides, has been found in the wheat gluten used to manufacture the pet food. The chemical has been tied to at least 16 confirmed pet deaths across the country with hundreds more anecdotal reports of deaths and thousands of cases of illness.

And the list of products being pulled from the shelves only grows.

In addition to the Menu Foods massive recall of its wet cuts and gravy food in cans and pouches in mid-March, Nestle Pet Food has now voluntarily recalled all sizes and varieties of its Alpo Prime Cuts in Gravy wet dog food with specific date codes. Purina said in a press release a limited amount of the food contained a contaminated wheat gluten from China.

Del Monte Pet Products has also voluntarily recalled select product codes of its pet treat products sold under the Jerky Treats, Gravy Train Beef Sticks as well as select dog snack and wet dog food products sold under private label brands.

On March 30, the Food and Drug Administration notified Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc. of Topeka that FDA testing has also detected melamine and melamine byproducts in wheat gluten received by the company to make its dry cat food, Hill's Prescription Diet m/d Feline Dry Food.

Previously, it was believed the problem was strictly tied to wet pet foods.

Watson Animal Clinic in Greenville reports they have had no deaths or cases directly linked to the tainted food, but have had many pet owners expressing their concerns.

Gammage said the recall of products like Hill's Prescription Diet, sold exclusively through veterinarians, strikes a particularly sharp blow for her.

&#8220As a veterinarian, you recommend certain products to your customers for their pet for their health and well-being. Now we have to wonder if we were harming some of these animals by doing this.”

She suspects many more cases of pet illness and death may end up having ties to the tainted pet food.

&#8220Six weeks ago, I had two dogs from the same family and both were quite ill. I honestly thought they had gotten out and been poisoned by some substance, but the owner assured me they were safely enclosed,” Gammage said.

&#8220Thankfully, we were able to pull them through, though they are still having some health problems. As it turns out, they were both regularly eating this recalled food. Hindsight is 20-20.”

While both cat and dog deaths have been attributed to the tainted foods, cats seem to be particularly susceptible to melamine.

&#8220Kidney disease is one of the biggest health problems with cats as they age, along with diabetes and thyroid problems. Signs like weight loss and lethargy can be tied to all three,” Gammage said.

&#8220If you have been feeding your pet any of these recalled foods and you have any suspicion they might be ill, bring them to your vet and have them tested. It's a simple process and it can give you some peace of mind.”

While the pet manufacturers are promising to reimburse pet owners for expenses tied to the treatment of their pets, &#8220no amount of money can really replace an animal that you love,” Gammage said.

&#8220That's what is so sad about this whole thing. There have been, and will be, needless loss of pets' lives due to this contamination.”

For more information on the pet food recall, contact Del Monte Pet Products at 1-800-949-3799, Nestle-Purina at 1-800-218-5898, or visit, and