Recalls scare pet owners

Recent pet food recalls have left local pet owners fretting over the health of their pets and veterinarian offices flooded with patients.

The U.S. Food and Drug administration’s Web site said FDA laboratories have pinpointed melamine that was found in samples of pet food as well as in the wheat gluten used in pet food to be the causative agent of kidney problems in the animals.

Melamine is often used as a flame retardant or fertilizer. Following the recall of Menu Foods products, Nestlé Purina PetCare Company, Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Del Monte Pet Products issued voluntary pet food recalls of many of their products including some canned food, dry food and even dog biscuits.

After four continual recalls, some pet owners said they have lost trust in the pet food market.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Travis Roberts, 20, a sophomore biology student from Fort Lauderdale, rates the trust he has in the industry as a four. “This was too big of a mistake,” he said.

“Mistakes always happen and are liable to happen again. I love my dog.”

Sick animals displayed symptoms of drinking more water, increased urination, lethargy, decrease in appetite and vomiting.

Michelle Richardson, a veterinarian at Lakewood Animal Hospital said, “We’ve probably seen six or seven animals that we’ve done testing on.”

She added that depending on whether their pet is ill and the severity of the pet’s illness, pet owners could potentially expect high costs. These costs can stem from patients that need continual testing and vet visits, special diets and pricey prescription medication possibly for the duration of the pets’ life.

Richardson also said that animals with severe kidney problems might be forced to receive a kidney transplant, because animal dialysis does not exist.

However, that option can be expensive and impossible in some cases.

Reed Guhrt, a veterinarian at Paws&Claws Veterinary Hospital, said, “Kidney transplants are usually done in a university setting.”

He continued, “Only a small amount of people will go for this option because it’s very costly, and you have to make sure that you have a donor.”

She said pet owners should be financially prepared to care for their pet’s health.

“When you have a pet there’s always the chance that something will happen. You can’t say ‘I don’t have the money’ and then dump the animal. It’s a financial responsibility,” Richardson said.

However, some students admitted they would not be able to meet the extra financial costs of a seriously ill pet.

Roberts, the owner of a 4-month-old pit bull named Precious, said, “I would just have to put her to sleep if it’s too much money. I’m struggling to pay tuition and rent.”

Some pet stores said the recall slightly affected the way they sell products.

“We’ve been steering people away from wet foods just in case,” said Caroline Dorman, manager of Panhandle Pet Supply. Guhrt criticized the quality of the pet food industry.

“It needs better quality control. All companies use the same supplier. It has a tremendous impact if you have one source that supplies all the food,” Guhrt said.

“It caught us all by surprise and made us more aware what can happen with food.”