By Hilary Corrigan
Triplicate staff writer
Cat and dog owners continue to call local veterinarians and grocery stores after a recall this month of 95 types of wet pet foods and a company's move on Friday to pull its dry pet food from market shelves.
The Food and Drug Administration has received more than 8,800 calls from pet owners and veterinarians across the nation reporting sick animals and possible contamination from pet food. The agency has reported fewer than 20 cat and dog deaths in the U.S. that may be linked to contaminated food.
Earlier this month, Ontario, Canada-based pet food manufacturer Menu Foods recalled some of its cat and dog food made in its Emporia, Kansas facility after consumer complaints.
On Friday, Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc. that makes the Prescription and Science Diet brand foods pulled its Prescription Diet m/d Feline dry food. Hill's Science Diet Savory Cuts Feline canned foods had already been pulled from the market.
The move comes after the FDA announced Friday that shipments of wheat gluten from a supplier in China contained melamine. Menu Foods uses the wheat gluten in its manufacturing.
Researchers had found aminopterin a chemical used in cancer treatments and rat poison but the FDA had not confirmed those findings and instead refocused on melamine.
The FDA has found melamine in some sick cats' urine and kidneys but has not confirmed the material as the cause of sickness, said Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine.
Used in industrial manufacturing to make plastic and as a fertilizer in China, melamine should not turn up in food at any level, Sundlof said. The agency began seeking melamine in pet food after a pet company located the substance in its own analysis.
FDA Investigators continued tracing wheat gluten shipments but did not know how the contamination occurred. Doctors know little about melamine's impact on animals that eat it.
A wheat gluten shipment that may contain melamine had possibly been used to make dry pet food, Sundlof said. But the FDA had not recalled any dry products.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has called on Procter & Gamble-owned Iams pet food to pull its dry food, noting consumer complaints about sick pets.
FDA officials also could not confirm that human food remained free of contaminated wheat gluten.
"This is an ongoing investigation," Sundlof said. "We understand that it's confusing. It's confusing to everybody."
Store managers at Safeway, Ray's and Grocery Outlet have pulled recalled foods from their shelves.
At his All Creatures Animal Hospital in Del Norte County, Dr. Dennis Wood has not linked any sick cats or dogs to contaminated pet food. But he has received several calls each day from local animal owners.
"A lot of concern amongst people, as there should be," Wood said. "We take every call seriously when an owner calls and says, My animal was eating one of those foods.'"
The sickness has mostly targeted the kidneys of cats and small dogs a common cause of death in older animals, making it difficult to attribute to contaminated pet food, Wood said.
Confirming a link between a acute kidney failure and the food requires a necropsy, or animal autopsy, that analyzes kidney tissue.
But Wood has warned pet owners to watch for the fast-acting signs vomiting, depression, lethargy, appetite loss, excessive and diluted urine or no urine. Blood tests can confirm kidney problems that intravenous fluids can reverse.
"Many of them will recover," Wood said of sick animals.
Wood refers pet owners to monitor recalled food lists.
"There are some people who haven't really taken it very seriously," Wood said. "Sometimes, with kidney damage, you don't always get a second chance."
Pet food info
The Food and Drug Administration has recalled about 95 pet foods after reports that they have
sickened and killed cats and dogs across the nation. The Food and Drug Administration, Menu Foods and the American Animal Hospital Association provide information on recalled products and how to report suspected contamination cases. Visit the following Websites: