Experts Answer Assorted Questions Concerning Pet Food Recall
Q: I fed some of the affected (recalled) pet food to both my cats, Thelma and Louise, and they seem fine. But what about me? I’m pregnant and handled the food. It is very wrong to make people worried about themselves, not to mention their animals. C. C., San Diego, CA
A: Your question is valid; I understand your concern, as does veterinary toxicologist Dr. Steve Hansen, director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, Urbana, IL. While indeed the contaminant found in the recalled food, a rodenticide called aminopterin is very potent, there doesn’t seem enough in the pet food could affect you or your unborn child by either simply being on your skin (and passing into your system that way) or by you not washing your hands after having fed your pet, and accidentally ingesting a miniscule amount. Hansen says if it turns out an additional foreign substance is found in the food (which remains possible), the answer could conceivably change. Still, most pets who have eaten multiple meals of the tainted food have not become seriously ill. So, it’s unlikely a trace amount would affect a person
Q: My 12-year old Shetland sheepdog died last year from kidney disease. She had always been a healthy and active dogs. She did eat the Iams recalled product. I have always been confused about why my dog contracted kidney disease, and I’m wondering if the food was responsible. A. F., Harford, CN
A: “We have no evidence to support that problems with pet foods occurred on any product before the recall,” says Dr. Richard Goldstein, an internal medicine specialist and assistant professor Small Animal Medicine at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca, NY, Goldstein is working with the Food and Drug Administration and others to determine exactly what happened. He says “Pets have always died of kidney failure; this is nothing new. Chronic kidney failure is a fairly common gradual underlying long-term disease, and it is not caused directly by diet. Sometime it can go undetected for a long time, so it may seem sudden once it is diagnosed. Acute kidney failure is a sudden onset which might be caused by a toxin, as we’re seeing in some of the pets who ate the contaminated food. But there are other possible causes of acute kidney failure as well, including an obstruction, infection and cancer.”
Q: My dog ate some of the food which I know was recalled. He seems fine. What do I do? V. H., St. Paul, MN
A: Goldstein says that some pets who clearly ate the tainted food have appeared asymptomatic, but then once they visit the veterinarian, in fact, the kidney values are shown to be totally out whack. It turns out, these pets do require treatment. However, Goldstein adds that as more and more time goes by, it’s more and more likely your dog was just not affected. Some pets got sick; some didn’t. It’s conceivable pets with underlying chronic kidney disease (perhaps undetected) were more susceptible. Older pet have been more susceptible. In general cats have been more vulnerable, as smaller dogs have been. Larger dogs have better withstood any affects.
Q: Should we all be avoiding wheat gluten in our pet foods from now on? C D., Lexington, KY
Q: What is wheat gluten anyway? Can our pets live without it? C. H., Tampa, FL
A: Internet reports have targeted wheat gluten contaminated with aminopterin (the rodenticide) from a foreign source, such as China. It’s true, aminopterin is not approved for use (by the EPA) in the United States. According to Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the FDA the source of the wheat gluten is unknown. But Sundlof contradicted himself at the press conference held March 23 indicating the FDA knows who brokered the wheat gluten. He did not indicate who that was.
In any case, Dr. Kathryn Michel, veterinary nutritionist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of the Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia says wheat gluten is a protein component in wheat, and is used as a source of protein and/or as a binding agent in some pet foods. It is certainly easy enough to find pet foods without wheat gluten. But there’s nothing inherently bad about wheat gluten, per se. And Goldstein says, so far, while wheat gluten has been implicated in pet food scandal, there’s been no scientific confirmation.