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Tainted pet food causes concern

LINK for cats: http://www.menufoods.com/recall/product_cat.html

LINK for dogs: http://www.menufoods.com/recall/product_dog.html

By Brian Beckley-The Courier-Herald

As the pet food recall continues to widen, veterinarians are advising their clients to keep an eye on their pets and their diets.

“Pay more attention to what your pet's doing,” advised Dr. Ronald LaVigne of the Timber Ridge Animal Hospital on state Route 410. “Check out your food, that's the first thing.”

Across the country, dozens of cats and dogs have been affected by tainted pet food that can cause kidney failure. The Menu Foods company issued a recall March 16 of all “wet” and “pouch” foods for all brands that use their product.

Most recently, the cause of the illnesses has been identified as a toxic substance found in the wheat gluten used in the food. For a link to the list of recalled foods, visit www.courierherald.com.

Since then, at least 16 pets nationwide have died in relation to the tainted pet foods.

“If you have any doubts about food or food on the list, stop feeding it,” LaVigne said.

According to LaVigne, he has only seen three cases at his office that could have been related to the foods, but fortunately all of those animals survived.

“None of these cases are confirmed,” he said of those at Timber Ridge.

However, concern over their animals has led to an increase of clients for LaVigne as owners are bringing in their animals for a check-up.

“The phone's been ringing a lot,” LaVigne said.

Pet owners are urged to check their foods and watch their animals carefully as many of the signs and symptoms can be subtle, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting and an increase in water intake or urine output.

“A lot of times the symptoms aren't going to be that specific,” LaVigne said, adding, “It's an animal. They're not going to let you know if they're not feeling well.

“Most owners have a pretty good idea of what's normal for their pet,” he said.

LaVigne said if anything doesn't seem right, pet owners should take their animals to their veterinarian and have them checked. He also said most animals can be treated, but it depends on the level of exposure to the tainted food as well as the animal's health before exposure, with older pets being more at risk.

Treatment involves IV fluids to boost the animal's electrolyte levels.

LaVigne said as this issue continues to evolve, with some dry foods even being recalled in recent weeks, pet owners need to be “more critical.”

“I don't think there's anything that replaces careful monitoring of how your pet is doing,” LaVigne said.

Brian Beckley can be reached at bbeckley@courierherald.com.

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