Hundreds of veterinarians have reported cases of sick and dead dogs and cats related to rat-poison-tainted pet food, a veterinarians’ group said Monday -- far more than reported by the Food and Drug Administration.
Veterinarians Information Network, a website of 30,000 veterinarians and veterinary students, said members had reported 471 cases of kidney failure in the 10 days since Canada-based Menu Foods Income Fund announced its pet food recall.
Last week, the FDA said it had confirmed 14 pet deaths in the U.S. as a result of the recalled food.
The number from the FDA “is barely the tip of the iceberg,” said veterinarian Paul Pion, a co-founder of the network. “There will be much more than this.”
The recall included 60 million “cuts and gravy"-style canned and pouch foods from 88 brands, including some “wet” food from Procter & Gamble’s Iams and Eukenuba lines as well as many retailers’ private brands.
Of the cases reported on the veterinarians’ website, 292 included outcomes: 104 deaths, including at least 11 dogs and 88 cats, with some of the reports not indicating species.
The vets reported that 59 pets survived the illnesses and that 129 animals were still being treated.
News of a wider pool of sick pets saddened Jane Lehman, a 43-year-old registered dietitian from Burbank. Her 3-year-old cat, Edmund, suffered renal failure three weeks ago after eating one of the recalled foods.
Edmund, a beige Siamese-tabby mix with blue eyes, has rung up $5,000 in veterinary bills, Lehman said -- “and the meter is still running.”
Every night, Lehman said, she and her husband administer a shot of fluids into Edmund’s back in hope that the cat’s kidneys will recover.
“It makes me sad and it makes me angry,” Lehman said. “How many people can afford to spend $5,000 on a cat?”
Pion said his veterinarians’ group was following up with a survey of its members to elicit more complete information.
Websites devoted to pet owners’ reports also tallied far more, if unconfirmed, cases. PetConnection.com, the website of a syndicated pet column, posted a note Monday that 1,792 owners had reported dead pets -- 1,018 cats and 774 dogs -- as a result of the tainted food.
The FDA said March 20 that the number of dead pets probably would increase from the 14 it had confirmed. The agency said it had received 4,400 complaints and inquiries from pet owners and veterinarians.
Ontario, Canada-based Menu Foods, which owns two U.S. manufacturing plants, said last week that it had received 200,000 calls from pet owners.
In Los Angeles County, health officials reported 10 confirmed pet deaths -- five cats and five dogs -- from kidney failure in recent days and 15 additional cases of very sick animals with similar symptoms. The department said it was checking 86 other cases related to the recalled food.
The FDA has asked pet owners to call its local officials -- at (949) 608-3530 for Southern California -- with reports of animals that have been sickened by the recalled food.
A list of recalled food is available at www.menufoods.comor by calling a Menu Foods hot line at (866) 895-2708.