Archive for Thursday, April 19, 2007

Recent scare will improve pet food industry

April 19, 2007

Just when we thought spring had arrived, winter came back recently in a fierce way to bite us at our toes.

My own dogs and cats are not as playful and reluctant to stay outdoors for too long. They long for their warm beds in the garage or barn. The livestock is voicing their opinion for "more hay, more grain" as their water troughs freeze over again.

"Mother Nature" can we get a break?

So much for the brief arrival of spring, albeit, glorious in its color and array.

When have you seen lilac bushes so full and early in bloom? With early warm days, even the ticks and mosquitoes were on the run, giving rise to concern for heartworm and infestation.

So much for "global warming," eh, Al Gore? (Somehow they'll find a way to explain this freaky weather pattern).

While the weather was figuring itself out, the pet world got thrown a curve ball with an apparent food scare. In fact, tainted food, processed by a company in Emporia (this writer's hometown) was found to contain a chemical in a batch of imported wheat gluten, which caused kidney failure.

The pet food recall has affected only about 1 percent of the overall pet food industry, but many animals, cats and dogs alike, have suffered, even to the point of death.

So far at our clinic, we are not aware of one animal directly affected, i.e. become sickened. But many clientele have had notices to stop feeding certain brands of food. In return, owners are greatly concerned about their pet's welfare.

It is only fitting certain guidelines should be considered.

One, don't panic. Check the bag of food you are currently feeding to see if one of the ingredients is "wheat gluten." If so, the manufacturer of the food will have an 800 or 888 number to call to inquire if the food is in "recall" and you should stop feeding and return it.

When it comes to the health of your pet, some sound advice also is in order. Signs of kidney disease range from drinking a lot of water (polydypsia), urinating more than normal (polyuria), vomiting, weight loss, dull hair coat, lethargy and anorexia (not eating).

We recommend a physical exam with a blood test and urinalysis to assess any damage to the kidneys. Appropriate treatment would then be instituted. So far, again, our clinic has not had a "clinical" case of direct poisoning.

Has this recent trouble been a deliberate action to sabotage the pet food industry? I think not. Who is responsible for the safety of pet foods in general? This is shared. At the top, the Food and Drug Administration is under the umbrella of an act of Congress called the "Food and Cosmetic Act." This act simply states the FDA, in its guidelines for manufacture and safety, insures the "wholesomeness" of the product. It is then left to the individual state(s) to oversee plant inspection and set standards in production for making an edible and wholesome product.

Finally, in this case, "Menu Foods" of Emporia in my estimation, got a bad batch of wheat gluten, which unfortunately was tainted with a toxin.

Did "Menu Foods" deliberately set out to poison pets? Absolutely not, I would say. This would certainly be an act of professional suicide.

It is said the wheat gluten may have been imported from out of the country. Ironically, with some of the most productive wheat fields in the world, it is a shame the company could not justify purchase of product domestically. Hopefully, if a problem were there, our system of checks and balances would have caught the culprit (I'm editorializing now).

As all this was brewing, the question of overall safety of the pet food product hangs in the balance.

Some have advocated going "organic." This is very costly to the consumer as well as not regulated by the FDA, to our knowledge.

Others have advocated homemade menus. These are far from nutritionally balanced, costly, and time consuming to prepare, much less shelf life is limited.

Again, only 1 percent of pet food is involved. Do we always question groceries on the store shelf? Not me. I'm hungry, and usually always in a hurry to check out.

Please do not get me wrong. I never intended to "poo-poo" this off, but feel the industry is a good one. It would be a shame to have one's pet affected by this matter and I pray for those directly affected or who have suffered losses.

It is our belief through this recent scare, a more wholesome and better pet food industry will emerge. We feel definitely, if you have had no trouble, continue to feed your pet as before. Through common sense, patience and study, we, as pet owners -- you and I alike -- will weather this storm, too.

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