Recent pet food contaminations: what to expect in the future (Proceedings)


It is not uncommon for veterinarians working with companion animals to run into suspected intoxications, especially when multiple animals from the same household are affected.

It is not uncommon for veterinarians working with companion animals to run into suspected intoxications, especially when multiple animals from the same household are affected. There is a seemingly natural inclination for people to think of pet food company negligence or post-manufacture contamination, possibly by dog- and/or cat-hating "terrorists", when apparently healthy animals become sick and/or die. Unfortunately, over the last five years, there have been multiple, well-publicized pet food contaminations and/or recalls, which have reinforceed pet owner distrust of manufactured diets.

As discussed previously, in 2008, the most common intoxications about which the National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) received inquiries included Human Medications (more than 50,000 calls), Insecticides (31,000 calls), People Food (15,000 calls), Rodenticides (8,000 calls), Veterinary Medications (8,000 calls), Plants (8,000 calls), Chemical Hazards (5,500 calls), Household Cleaners (3,200 calls), Heavy Metals (3000 calls), and Lawn Products (2,000 calls). However, in 2005 and 2007, thousands of calls to the NAPCC and companion animal veterinarians were from pet owners concerned about the possibility of their beloved pets being exposed to tainted pet foods or pet products. The purpose of this particular presentation is to provide pertinent information regarding potential pet food contaminants, especially those associated with past recalls, the circumstances suggesting pet food contamination, the timing of potential contaminations, and the appropriate roles of pet food manufacturers, pet food retailers, pet owners, veterinarians, diagnostic laboratories, and government regulatory agencies, as well as the media and general public, when pet food contaminations are suspected. The information outlined below will be presented in an interactive format, which will hopefully be helpful in the recognition, management, and prevention of future pet food contaminations.

Past and/or potential pet food contaminants

     • Melamine and Cyanuric Acid

     • Mycotoxins

     • Ionophores

     • Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

     • Human and Veterinary Medications

     • Pesticides

     • Heavy Metals

     • Miscellaneous Malicious and/or Negligent Intoxications

When pet food contaminations should be suspected

     • Multiple Affected Animals in a Single Household

     • Multiple Households of Affected Animals

     • Recent Purchase of New Brand or New Batch of Pet Food

     • Recent Purchase of Pet Food from New Source

     • Same or Related Brands of Pet Foods in Multiple Affected Houeholds

     • Clinical Signs/Necropsy Findings Consistent with Potential Contaminants

     • Decreased Consumption of Usual Brand of Pet Food

     • Gastrointestinal Signs following Consumption of Pet Food

     • Pet Food with Unusual Smell or Appearance

     • Inexpensive Brand of Pet Food with High Grain Content

     • Drought Years and Harsh Economic Times

     • Owners or Pets with Enemies

     • Suspicious Neighbors

When contamination might have occurred

     • Pre-manufacture

     • During Manufacture

     • Post-manufacture

     • Pre-purchase

     • Post -purchase

Appropriate roles for the parties involved in contaminations

     • Pet Food Manufacturers

     • Pet Food Retailers

     • Pet Owners

Appropriate roles for other parties involved in contaminations

     • Veterinarians

     • Diagnostic Laboratories

     • Government Regulatory Agencies

     • The Media

     • The General Public

Helpful sources of accurate information on pet food recalls

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