Pet column: Pet detectives wanted |

Pet column: Pet detectives wanted

Dawn Armstrong
Special to the Tribune

Last week, the Federal Food and Drug Administration issued a help-wanted notice to solve the mystery of pets sickened and killed by an unknown ingredient in jerky treats. The FDA is asking pet owners and veterinarians to cooperate in an ongoing effort to solve a baffling and growing pet food contamination crises. The latest outbreak is from a yet unidentified ingredient. Pet owner and veterinarian reporting forms are on the FDA website. Veterinarians will be asked to provide patient blood, urine and tissue samples for further analysis. FDA will request written permission from pet owners and will cover the costs, including shipping, of any tests requested. The FDA can be contacted at 1-888-463-6332. Consumers and veterinarians also can call their state FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator.

The FDA advises that — within hours of eating contaminated treats sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes and/or dried fruit — affected pets exhibited decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption, and/or increased urination. Severe cases involved kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a rare kidney disorder. Some involved collapse, convulsions or skin issues. The agency urges caution in providing jerky treats. If a pet becomes sick, stop the treats immediately, see a veterinarian, and save remaining treats and the packaging for testing and identification.

Finally, in addition to the call for help, the FDA is proposing preventive measures to protect all animal foods from disease causing bacteria, chemicals and other contaminants. This includes companion animal food and livestock feed. Daniel McChesney, Ph.D., director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, explains that the Preventive Controls for Food for Animals rule is part of a focus on preventing food borne illnesses. If an animal has eaten feed contaminated with a chemical such as dioxin and then enters the food supply, consumers could absorb the chemical, putting human health at risk. In one example of recent pet food contamination, 3,600 dogs and cats across the country were sickened and 580 killed in 2007 when melamine, a chemical used to make plastic, was discovered in pet food ingredients imported from China. FDA received about 18,000 calls from pet owners and it’s estimated that many more pets suffered without being reported.

Development of processed foods for World War II troops led to processed foods for everyone, including pets. Contamination problems have been ongoing. With recognition of pets as family members demand for quality control increased Readily available on the internet is documentation of pet food recalls for almost every month of the last decade. Premium pet foods as well as standard brands are involved.

Unfortunately, pet food labeled “Made in America” can contain ingredients supplied by a third party and those ingredients can come from China, not required to be identified on packaging. American manufacturers still can claim the “Made in America” label. Web based Pets Advisor conducted a survey of 10 premium pet food brands in the U.S. Their report states that eight of the 10 manufacturers responded, but none could conclusively state that their product did not include China originated ingredients. On its website, the FDA has issued consumer guidelines on how to read pet food labels. The Association of American Feed Control Officials, an advisory body of state and federal feed regulators, also publishes ingredient definitions and regulations and label guidelines. The FDA as well as watch dog websites issue regular pet food recall alerts. To promote truth about ingredients, Pets Advisor suggests that consumers call the toll free manufacturer phone numbers on packaging and ask if any ingredients originate in China.

— Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.” Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.

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