Area pet owners suspicious
An 11-year-old Bengal cat owned by a Spokane couple may be among the growing number of pets in the Inland Northwest and nationwide to die after eating tainted food, despite official figures to the contrary.
State officials in Washington and Idaho said Tuesday they have had no reports of animals becoming sick or dying in the wake of a recall of 60 million containers of cat and dog food manufactured by Menu Foods Inc. of Canada.
Food and Drug Administration officials were still limiting the death toll to 14 animals nationwide, according to a federal Web site.
But that was small comfort to Spokane residents Carrie and Darren Johannesen, whose cat, Pixie, had to be euthanized March 9 for kidney failure after eating food later confirmed to be part of the recall.
“Nothing’s going to bring her back,” said Carrie Johannesen, 31, who adopted the purebred cat. “Just in the two years we had her, she became part of the family.”
Pixie’s veterinarian, Dr. Brian Hunter of Spokane, said it was difficult to confirm the cause of death, partly because renal failure is very common, especially in older animals.
Several pet owners in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, however, also contended their animals died after eating food possibly tainted with aminopterin, a rodent poison identified as the likely contaminant by New York state scientists.
A 4-year-old cat in Pullman died in January of acute kidney failure possibly related to the food, said Dr. Linda Robinette of the Alpine Animal Hospital.
A 16-year-old cat in Bonners Ferry was treated Tuesday for kidney failure after eating a variety of the recalled food, said Dr. Beth Walker of the Bonners Ferry Veterinary Clinic.
And Lloyd and Teri Weiss of Deer Park said their 8-year-old tabby cat, Snicker, had to be euthanized in December after eating one of 95 recalled brands of “cuts and gravy”-style dog and cat food.
“My wife was kind of fond of that little kitty cat,” said Lloyd Weiss, 45. “I’m a dog person. If they had killed my cocker spaniel, I’d be taking a trip up to Canada myself.”
By Tuesday evening, more than 2,100 pet owners locally and across the country had reported deaths believed to be caused by the recalled food to a Sandpoint-based Web site, www.petconnection.com.
“Definitely the chorus grew so loud that it was heard,” said Dr. Marty Becker, the celebrity Sandpoint veterinarian who is one of the site’s operators.
But state veterinary experts in Washington and Idaho insisted that the chorus hadn’t reached them, even if it had in Oregon, where officials reported 13 deaths among 47 sickened pets.
Charlie Powell, a spokesman for the state veterinary association and the Washington State University veterinary college, said his agency reviewed hundreds of the 15,000 cases they receive each year, looking for a spike in renal failure that could have been tied to the tainted food. They didn’t find it.
“That doesn’t mean that it’s not out there,” Powell said Tuesday. “It just means that we’re not seeing it.”
In Boise, John Chatburn, an administrator with the Idaho Department of Agriculture, said veterinary experts haven’t received a single report.
“I don’t know if none of the bad food was here or what,” Chatburn said.
That’s sharply at odds with figures being reported by several national veterinary groups.
At least 471 cases of pet kidney failure were logged by members of the Veterinary Information Network in the 10 days since the pet food recall was posted, according to news reports.
Letrisa Miller, a member of the board of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, said some 75 cases of pet kidney failure were reported by 24 members of her group. That included 42 cases possibly linked to the tainted food, 33 confirmed links – and 15 deaths.
“I think that (national officials) just are not yet accepting that the numbers out there are from the pet food and I believe they are,” Miller said. “It looks like it’s going to be a large number. And it’s really sad.”