Pet food scare hits county

Friday, April 6, 2007
John Scamahorn

At least one animal in Putnam County appears to have fallen victim recently to a nationwide scare over tainted pet food, according to a local official.

Veterinarian John Scamahorn, from Greencastle's Animal Medical Clinic, told the BannerGraphic Tuesday that he recently treated a cat for symptoms that he believes could be the result of eating melamine-tainted pet food.

Melamine is used in making plastics and apparently made its way into the wheat gluton that is contained in many wet and dry pet foods. Canada-based Menu Foods remains the primary target of the recalls that have affected almost 100 brands of cat and dog food nationwide.

Scamahorn said melamine attacks the kidneys in cats and dogs, which can lead to all out kidney failure, however cats seem to be more sensitive to it than dogs.

In the weeks since the scare became national news, Scamahorn and other veterinarians in the county report having received numerous phone calls from concerned pet owners, wanting to know what to do.

"We've had a lot of inquires and have done a few tests," Scamahorn said.

His advice to pet owners is to, first, check to see if their pet's food is on the recall list.

A complete list of recalled foods is available from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

The list of recalled foods is available on the association's website, On the main website, there is a special section dedicated to pet food recalls.

Second, Scamahorn says pet owners should stop feeding the food to their pets if it is on the recall list.

Thirdly, he said pet owners should observe their pets for any abnormal behavior or effects, such as a lack of interest in eating or drinking, fever, vomiting or loss of a desire to play. If the animal displays these symptoms, they should be seen by a vet.

Finally, pet owners should keep the suspected food for a while, just in case it needs to be tested at a later time.

Scamahorn said the prognosis for animals who are adversely affected by melamine-tainted food depends on the degree of exposure.

Animals that have consumed a lot of contaminated food and go undetected for a long period of time, are more likely to have severe symptoms, including death.

Animals that eat a little of the contaminated food and are discovered sooner have a better chance of survival, Scamahorn explained.

"A lot of damage can be done before you know it," he said.

The pet food scare has had an affect, though somewhat minor, on operations at the county's animal shelter operated by the Humane Society of Putnam County.

Shelter manager Tammie Gardner said she and her staff checked the food supply at the shelter immediately after learning the details of the recall. Fortunately the shelter's food is not on the recall list at this point, but officials are continuing to monitor the situation.

Like Scamahorn, Gardner said the shelter has been receiving numerous phone calls from concerned residents, wanting to know what to do.

She advises owners to contact their veterinarians for help because they are better equipped to answer their questions.

Nationally, news agencies reported Thursday that nearly 40 animals in Oregon have died recently as an apparent result of eating tainted pet food.

Also Thursday, dog biscuits sold in Wal-Mart stores under the Ol'Roy brand were added to the recall list.

The Food and Drug Administration said manufacturer Sunshine Mills is recalling biscuits made with Chinese wheat gluten.

Meanwhile, residents in several states, including Illinois, have filed a class action lawsuit against Menu Foods, claiming the company knew months ago that melamine had made its way into its products.

The news has not been all bad, at least for one northern Indiana pet food company.

Mishawaka-based Eagle Pack Pet Foods announced this week that it saw a 20- to 25-percent leap in sales over the past two weeks, which the owners believe is a direct result of the pet food scare.

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