By: Dr. Jack Stephens
On Saturday, I spoke with yet another pet owner who only recently learned of the Menu Foods recall. She said that she hadn’t taken her cats in yet, though one of them had been vomiting. Cats (and dogs to a certain extent) tend to hide symptoms of illness. This is troublesome and means that even if you have stopped feeding the recalled food and think that things are fine, if your pets show any signs of illness, it’s best to have them checked. Kidney failure can sometimes take weeks or months to manifest signs, but early detection is truly the key to saving your pet and reducing the trauma to the kidneys.
At Pets Best, our heartfelt sympathies go out to every pet family affected by the recent pet food tragedy, especially those who are financially unable to pay for their pet’s care, as we read about last week. In response, we have committed to all policyholders affected by the recall to pay claims at 100% up to policy limits, waiving the deductible and co-payment, which we will recoup ourselves from the manufacturer.
We believe that pet owners have been affected enough by the stress of the recall and want to do what we can to help ease the emotional and financial burden for pet families.
We also learned over the weekend that Menu Foods has expanded their recall, and it was announced today that the New York State Food Laboratory is continuing their tests on the food to confirm that aminopterin is to blame for the deaths and illnesses of pets who consumed the “cuts and gravy” style food.
By: Dr. Jack Stephens
ABC News and others this morning are reporting that a rodent-killing chemical is the toxin in the tainted pet food that has killed pets across the nation.
A source close to the investigation told ABC News that the rodenticide, which the source says is illegal to use in the United States, was on wheat that was imported from China and used by Menu Foods in nearly 100 brands of dog and cat food.
The Food and Drug Administration, which was notified of the tainted food one day before the recall, said it’s frustrated and realizes the growing crisis is an emotional one.
“This is tragic,” said Stephen Sundolf of the FDA’s Veterinary Medicine group. “It is certainly uncommon. We expect pet food to be safe.”
The New York Department of Agriculture has announced a press conference for 1 p.m. EDT.
Again, if you believe your pet ingested any of the foods on the recall list, stop feeding the food immediately and call your veterinarian to schedule a blood test.
By: Dr. Jack Stephens
As news of more and more pets affected by the recalled food continues, we want to share with you some of the questions we are receiving from callers to help ease fears and provide resources during this time.
1. If my pet is insured with Pets Best prior to the announcement of the pet food causing kidney damage is my pet covered for veterinary claims associated with the tainted food?
Yes, Pets Best considers this an accidental poisoning, and it is covered under ALL Pets Best plans.
2. When was this problem with pet food first noticed and the recall reported?
The recall began on March 16. Pets Best became informed the next day and immediately reviewed the information and sent an alert bulletin to all of our policyholders. Our emergency bulletin informed pet owners of the problem, provided a link to the list of pet foods affected, informed pet owners regarding the symptoms to look for and what to do if their pet had symptoms.
The problem may have been known some time prior to the recall, according to some news sources. Please note that the actual cause has not yet been determined. An investigation is underway to determine how it happened, what caused the problems and who is responsible.
3. If my pet has been eating the food listed from the website, what should I do?
You should IMMEDIATELY STOP feeding the food. Save the packaging or labels and any receipts you have and have your pet’s kidney function tested. Call your veterinarian for an appointment to have a simple blood test to check if your pet’s kidneys have been damaged.
There were 95 brands of dog and cat food affected by the recall, reportedly produced and sold between Dec. 2006 and March 2007.
4. What if my pet has damage to their kidneys?
Follow your veterinarians’ advice and seek the care they recommend. Treatments will vary according to how severe the kidneys have been damaged. The blood test and your veterinarian will determine the damage. There may be other tests that are recommended depending on the test results and your pet’s age and health status.
5. What are the symptoms of kidney damage?
The symptoms will vary by the degree of damage, but look for the following symptoms: lethargy, listlessness, vomiting, drinking excessive amounts of water, urinating excessively, not eating and general malaise or simply not feeling well.
So far, most of the affected pets have been cats, and they typically start with vomiting. Several pet owners have reported that their cat would not eat the offending food. Our first policyholder to submit a claim reported that her cats started with vomiting and staggering gait. She rushed them to the emergency clinic and most unfortunately one died. The other cat is undergoing treatment.
6. What should I do if my pet has these symptoms?
Consult your veterinarian immediately and, again, STOP feeding the listed food. Your veterinarian will need to take a small sample of blood for a laboratory test that will check kidney function, as well as a host of other tests to determine your pet’s general health. If your pet is demonstrating symptoms, the key is quick treatment.
7. How did this happen?
We do not know yet, our website will be posting the latest information as it develops. The manufacturer, Menu Foods, thinks it was an ingredient commonly utilized in pet foods that was from a new vendor who unknowingly provided the tainted product. Again, more research and much investigation will be conducted in order to determine the exact cause.
8. I heard that Pets Best has offered to pay policyholders 100% of the claims associated with poisoning from the recalled food up to the policy per-incident limit for this recall and then obtain the co-payment and deductible from the manufacturer. Does that mean I give up my rights to sue or seek restitution?
No, Pets Best is not involved in any legality or in the rights of affected consumers. We are offering to help our policyholders obtain a quick reimbursement of their pets’ medical expenses related to the food recall. Our action to help our policyholders has nothing to do with their rights as a consumer.
We are not even sure we will recover subrogation rights, however if we do, we will only seek the payments we made to protect and help our policyholders.
We will subrogate (or request that the manufacturer repay us) for our losses associated with any claims we pay on your behalf. This is important to avoid any rate increase due to this unfortunate incident that would otherwise affect our policyholders.
Our goal is to ease the entire financial burden quickly for our policyholders. This is a very abnormal situation, and we want pet owners to only worry about regaining their pets to a healthy state.
9. What is the Pets Best policy limit for poisoning?
For the Accident-Only plan, the accidental poisoning limit is $1,500, for Pets Basic the per-incident limit is $2,500 and for Pets First the per-incident limit is $7,000. If you are unsure which plan you have, please call or e-mail us. 1-877-738-7237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
10. What if I want to sue the food company involved?
That is up to you. Pets Best is not and will not be involved in any legal proceedings associated with the recall. Our goal is simply to help our policyholders receive reimbursement for all expenses related to any damage their pet received from the pet food recall.
11. How many pets were affected by the offending pet food?
To date 16 pets have died and over 500 have been identified as probable for poisoning, however more are reported or suspected daily. The damage caused may be progressive or acute. Most reports are of an acute illness associated with the food, within hours or days. There may be more pets developing chronic kidney damage, especially if they received small doses over longer periods of time. It is still too early to determine the exact responses and illnesses that will be the result. Also, because there were pets experiencing kidney failure due to unknown causes prior to the recall announcement, there may be many more related illnesses.
12. I am not sure if my pet ate the offending food and he seems fine now, what should I do?
First, we recommend not overreacting. If you are concerned, have your veterinarian take a blood sample from your pet and screen all the internal organs and blood. This is something that you should have performed for your pet anyway. Annual exams and health screens are a must. You should consider twice-a-year health exams and screens if your pet is aged or has history of medical problems.
An annual blood test, along with annual exams and other wellness benefits are provided with our Pets Wellness coverage (which can be chosen in addition to your Pets First or Pets Basic plans). Your pet should have these benefits at least once a year to detect any problems early.
13. Will Pets Best pay for the blood test?
If you have Pets Wellness, an annual blood test is included in the benefits, as well as a urinalysis and wellness exam. Should your pet have kidney damage or any other abnormal finding that developed and was acquired after your pet’s policy went into effect the appropriate test would be covered under both Pets Basic and Pets First plans.
14. As a pet owner what is my recourse?
We will keep you posted on our website, but be assured the pet manufacturers and distributors are taking this problem very seriously. Our interest is to make sure you have the right information to protect your pet and help you pay for medical expenses when your pet requires veterinary care.
15. Why is Pets Best providing early information and advice?
We truly care about the health of your pet, which is why we provided the early alert bulletin, even when we were not sure of the severity of the recall. We will continue to post updates, status and advice for our policyholders and pet owners in general as they develop.
While paying for your pet’s medical needs is our business, I truly love pets and have six dogs, two cats and four horses of my own. Keeping your pet healthy is my passion and has been for more than 30 years.
By: Dr. Jack Stephens
As promised, we want to keep you updated as we learn more information about the pet food recall. Below are some of the things we have learned and information specifically for our policy holders, as well. We are also working on information to help you change your pet’s diet, if you have been feeding one of the recalled products, and will continue updating you as we learn new information. For more information on the recall itself, call Menu Foods at 1-866-895-2708.
THE PROBLEM IS BIGGER THAN WE THOUGHT
-Pets Best Insurance is receiving claims for kidney damage.
-Veterinarians are treating more cases of kidney damage as now being reported in the leading veterinary network.
-Preliminary estimates of affected pets may be low and requires a national reporting network. No one yet knows the magnitude of the problem, but the potential offending agent in the pet food could cause significant kidney failure in thousands of pets who ate the food. The longer they were ingesting the offending food, the worse the damage, though the specific cause is still not known.
IMPORTANT THINGS FOR YOU TO KNOW
-Kidney damage can occur slowly. Symptoms and damage may be progressive or cause acute illness if larger doses of the offending ingredient are given or if the pet is older or in poor health.
-Symptoms will depend on a host of factors, such as amount and time span of the toxin introduced into the pet, age, health, how quickly the toxin is removed, and how quickly treatment is initiated.
-Look for lack of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, weight loss, listlessness, increased urination and drinking water excessively. -A simple blood test is the first and best solution to determine if your pet has any kidney damage.
-If your pet is older, the damage can become more irreversible.
-Your veterinarian can collect necessary samples and interpret your pet’s kidney function.
-To date the pet food in question is only from certain “wet” pet foods, no dry pet food is known to be involved.
We have also been receiving calls from our policyholders about coverage and want to assure customers who have questions about whether or not their medical bills will be covered.
YOUR PETS BEST POLICY
-Will cover any kidney damage that developed from exposure after your enrollment.
-Will pay 80% after the deductible, up to the per-incident limit of $2,500 or $7,000, whichever you chose at enrollment.
For those of you who signed up for the additional wellness coverage, your wellness coverage will
-Provide $ 35 for a wellness exam.
-Provide $ 60-100 for blood panel, which includes the kidney function (depends on your particular state coverage).
-Provide $ 25 for a urinalysis test.
Wellness benefits provide much more per year, however, these tests are pertinent to this issue if you have the wellness coverage and simply want to have your pet tested as a precaution.
PETS BEST WILL ALSO SUBROGATE (HELP YOU COLLECT) ANY CO-PAYMENT AND YOUR DEDUCTIBLE FROM THE PET FOOD MANUFACTURER THAT IS OVER AND ABOVE OUR 80% PAYMENT OR PER-INCIDENT LIMIT. We will be providing subrogation forms should you wish our help. Do keep any proofs of purchase, including store receipts and can or pouch labels.
By: Dr. Jack Stephens
Few things, other than politics, can bring up such emotion as pet food preferences. The recent recall of certain “wet” pet foods has gained national attention. The results are not in as to how many pets were negatively affected and what it was in the pet food in question that caused the problems, but I commend the pet food manufacturer for their rapid action and even recalling pet food beyond what was to be expected. This rapid and broad response demonstrates how committed the pet food manufacturers and distributors are to your pet’s health and to protecting their brands.
It has been several years ago, but I have visited pet food plants and was amazed at how clean and efficient they were. In fact I found the few I visited were even cleaner and more modern than a couple of the canned food plants for humans I visited. Food contamination whether pet or human is most regrettable and shakes our faith.
Fortunately it is not that common or prevalent. We must stay diligent to prevent this type of problem from reoccurring, and I am sure this episode will create more safeguards to protect our pets.
When I was a child, commercial pet food was not common. Now we have special diets for particular medical problems, gourmet foods and a large selection from which to choose.
I have witnessed incredible growth in the pet food industry, from few commercial selections to today where the pet food isle is the largest single product area in a grocery store. I have also witnessed the expanded life spans of pets, much of which is due to great quality commercial pet foods.
In addition, I can relate that after 25 years of reviewing pet health insurance claims, pets have fewer medical problems, such as pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas and other ailments, when on a stable diet of high quality pet foods as compared to feeding leftover people food (or people food in general). My best advice is to not panic or overreact and to be certain your cupboard does not have any of the suspected products.
I am sure more answers will be forthcoming and that they will find the cause of the offending agents. If your pet has been eating any of the products listed on the pet food manufacturer’s website, call or make an appointment with your local veterinarian and have a urinalysis and blood screening test performed on your pet.
The tests are easy, fast and can detect a host of other problems, as well as detecting kidney failure. Early detection is the key, while there is still time to prevent symptoms or disease and before the damage is irreversible. Remember, if you have a pet wellness plan, those tests are covered, and your pet should have those tests annually anyway.
When anything new develops that will help you have a healthier pet, or we learn more news on the pet food recall that might help, we will keep you informed.