Pet food recall hits home for Cape Girardeau cat owner

Monday, March 19, 2007
Laura Norton-Dye visited her cat, PJ, Sunday at the Lacroix Pet Hospital. Norton-Dye realized, with the help of a veterinarian, that she fed PJ packages of Iams that have now been recalled by Menu Foods. (KIT DOYLE)

Cape La Croix Pet Hospital is treating the area's first cat affected by a nationwide pet food recall announced Saturday.

Ontario, Canada-based Menu Foods is recalling dog food sold in North America under 48 brand names and cat food sold under 40 brand names, including Iams, Nutro and Eukanuba. The food was distributed by major retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger and Safeway.

Laura Norton-Dye of Cape Girardeau had been feeding her cat, PJ, Iams cuts and gravy, which she purchased at the Jackson Wal-Mart. Last week, Norton-Dye became worried when PJ suddenly stopped eating and using her litter box.

When she brought PJ to the animal hospital early last week, veterinarians couldn't determine what caused PJ's acute renal kidney failure.

It wasn't until the announcement of Saturday's recall that Dr. Gwenn Freitag asked Norton-Dye which pet food she had given PJ.

"I thought I was giving her the best food I could," Norton-Dye said.

An unknown number of cats and dogs have suffered kidney failure and about 10 died after eating the affected pet food, the company said.

But Dr. Ann Seabaugh, a veterinarian at Cape La Croix Pet Hospital, believes that number is even higher.

At the pet hospital late Sunday evening, Seabaugh logged onto Veterinarian Information Network -- an online resource center for veterinarians. Across the country veterinarians had posted information about pets they were treating from problems associated with the recalled pet food.

During the weekend, veterinarians from at least 15 states, including Missouri, Kansas and Texas, had posted information about sick or dead cats and dogs.

In her 19 years as a veterinarian, Seabaugh said she has never seen anything like the pet food recall or the number of illnesses and deaths. "This will be immense," she said.

Veterinarians who had posted on the VIN Web site said many of the pets treated over the weekend had to be euthanized because owners couldn't afford treatments.

PJ has been hooked up to an IV for the last week. Her kidney function has improved, but she still won't eat, Seabaugh said.

"She's worth it, because she'd do the same for me," Norton-Dye said. "I'm a cancer survivor, and PJ took care of me when I was sick."

Seabaugh warns pet owners to watch their pets if they've consumed any of the recalled pet food. Symptoms include loss of appetite, increased thirst and urination, lethargy and vomiting.

A complete list of the recalled products along with product codes, descriptions and production dates is available at www.menufoods.com/recall. The company also designated two phone numbers pet owners could call for information -- (866) 463-6738 and (866) 895-2708 -- but callers kept the lines busy much of Sunday.

Two other companies -- Nestle Purina PetCare Co. and Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. -- also instituted voluntary recalls Saturday of some products made by Menu Foods.

Many stores that sold the affected brands frantically pulled packages off shelves.

Schnuck's co-manager Jon Townsend said the Cape Girardeau grocery store received notice of the recall late Friday night.

"Anytime there's a recall, we pull it immediately," he said.

Menu Foods' chief executive and president Paul Henderson said the company was still trying to figure out what happened.

He said that the company had received an undisclosed number of complaints that dogs and cats were vomiting and suffering kidney failure after eating its products. He estimated that the recall would cost the company $26 million to $34 million.

Sarah Tuite, a company spokeswoman, has said the recalled products were made using wheat gluten purchased from a new supplier, which has since been dropped for another source. Wheat gluten is a source of protein.

Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Julie Zawisza said it is still too early to determine what could have contaminated the food. She said that even if wheat gluten is the source "it doesn't necessarily mean the wheat gluten per se. It could be another substance associated with the wheat gluten."

The recall covers the company's "cuts and gravy" style food, which consists of chunks of meat in gravy, sold in cans and small foil pouches from Dec. 3 to March 6.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

jfreeze@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 246


Recalled

Menu Foods Inc., a major manufacturer of pet food, has recalled several brands of its "cuts and gravy" style dog and cat food. For a complete list of recalled pet food, log on to www. menufoods.com/recall. Recalled brands include varieties of:

* America's Choice

* Best Choice

* Eukanuba

* Fine Feline Cat

* Iams

* Nutriplan

* Paws

* Pet Pride

* Sav-a-lot

* Schnucks

* Science Diet

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