Veterinarians, shop owners on frontline of pet-food recall

Pet owners are taking matters into their own hands after a massive pet food recall.

Spiralling events starting in mid-March prompted a recall of various wet and dry pet food products. Initially, Menu Foods recalled its “cuts and gravy” wet pet food product.

Shortly after, brand name products like Presidents Choice and Iams, both manufactured by Menu Foods, were also recalled. 

Within the last week, brand names like Del Monte and Nestle Purina have followed suit by issuing recalls of their pet food products. Dingo Chick’n  Jerky treats is the latest brand that has been recalled.   

According to a CBC report, the China-based plant, Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company Ltd., may be the orginal source of the pet food poisoning. 

“Both (Del Monte and Purina) have said that the wheat gluten supplied to them from a Chinese plant contained melamine — a chemical used in fertilizers in Asia and to make plastics and laminates” (CBC report). 

Melamine-poisoned pet food

Dogs and cats in the U.S. and Canada have reportedly fallen ill or have died as a result of eating the melamine-poisoned pet food.

Many pet owners are not taking any chances with their pets and have decided to make their own pet food. David Mooney, the manager and franchisee of PET VALU on Queen Street East, has noticed the affects of the pet food recall.

“Business is slower,” he said.  “A lot of people are scared and have decided to feed their pets what they’ve got at home, like chicken and rice, rather than buy food from a pet store.”

Pet owner, Damir Andrei, takes his two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels for a walk everyday in Withrow Park in East Toronto. Andrei had a close-call with his two dogs, Rosie and Lizzy, but was lucky enough to avoid the pet food crisis.

“I bought two of the Presidents Choice pouches, and normally my dogs would love it, but they were strangely not interested in it,” Andrei said. “My dogs ate some of the food, but thankfully, I threw away the rest and my dogs didn’t get sick.”

Andrei is worried about the recall and continues to closely monitor the food he gives his dogs.  Once he runs out of dog food, he said that he will not go out and buy more.

“I will consider making my own food. There are recipes on the Internet and some people are switching to raw meat,” Andrei said. In the meantime, he will continue to monitor his dogs closely and do more research into preparing homemade or raw food meals for his dogs.

Dr. Judy Au has been a Veterinarian for the past 15 years. She practices at the Danforth Veterinary Clinic on Pape Avenue. Dr. Au suspects that two cats she examined in her office may have been exposed to poisoning.

“Both (cats) came in with drinking and peeing excessively, not eating well and lethargic,” she said. “The main problem we are seeing is kidney failure.”

Dr. Au said one of the cats was on the Iams Select Bites and Presidents Choice gourmet pet food. Both Iams and Presidents Choice products have been recalled. Dr. Au explained that one of the cats had to be euthanized, but she cannot confirm the cause of death until an autopsy is done.

“A lot of people are scared, and they want to go an alternative route, which means either the homemade diet or the prepared raw food diet,” Dr. Au said. She explained that the homemade diet and the raw food diet are difficult and dangerous alternatives.

“What is balanced for people is not balanced for dogs,” Au said. “You can’t just throw a piece of meat, potatoes and lettuce together, and think that it’s going to be a balanced meal.”

Seek advice from animal nutritionists

Dr. Au does not suggest downloading recipes from the Internet because such recipes could include the wrong ingredients for your pet. “In order to make a proper homemade diet, people should be seeking advice from an animal nutritionist to make sure (the meal) is balanced for their individual pet,” she said. 

Pet owners who decide to prepare a raw food diet for their dog, Dr. Au suggested to not only get advice from an animal nutritionist, but to get a good source of prime cut meat, store the meat properly and add vitamin supplements.

“I am not a big supporter of pet owners making their own raw food,” she said. “The big problem with preparing and handling raw meat is the potential for human contamination. A person can get E. coli or salmonella.”

For example, “If (the raw meat) is sitting in a dog bowl, a little baby can touch it and become infected,” Dr. Au said.

She stressed that it is important for dog owners to monitor their dogs, take them in for regular blood work, and if owners decide to take matters into their own hands, contacting an animal nutritionist is recommended.

Dr. Au said, “Overall, making your own food may not be the best thing to do because you don’t know if your giving the right amount, and you could potentially be doing more damage than good.”