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New Foods Added to Recall List

Posted on: April 3rd, 2007 by

By: Dr. Jack Stephens

As a precautionary measure, Del Monte Pet Products is voluntarily recalling select product codes of its pet treat products sold under the Jerky Treats®, Gravy Train® Beef Sticks and Pounce Meaty Morsels® brands as well as select dog snack and wet dog food products sold under private label brands.

Nestle Purina PetCare Company also announced late Friday that it is voluntarily recalling all sizes and varieties of its ALPO(R) Prime Cuts in Gravy wet dog food with specific date codes. The company is taking this voluntary action after learning that wheat gluten containing melamine, a substance not approved for use in food, was provided to Purina by the same company that also supplied Menu Foods. The contamination occurred in a limited production quantity at only one of Purina’s 17 pet food manufacturing facilities. Purina says they are confident that the contaminated wheat gluten has been isolated to this limited production quantity of ALPO Prime Cuts canned products.

Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. is also voluntarily recalling Prescription Diet m/d Feline dry food from the market. Hill’s is taking this precautionary action because during a two-month period in early 2007, wheat gluten for this product was provided by a company that also supplied wheat gluten to Menu Foods. Prescription Diet m/d Feline Dry represents less than one half of one percent of all Hill’s products.

Hill’s is reiterating that there is only one product affected by Hill’s voluntary recall announcement yesterday: Hill’s Prescription Diet™ m/d™ Feline Dry Food. This is the only product Hill’s currently sells in the United States and Canada that contains wheat gluten from any supplier. No other Hill’s Prescription Diet® or Science Diet® products are affected by this voluntary recall.

As always, we will keep you informed as new reports are released. Do continue to check your cupboards and monitor your pets for illness. If they are vomiting, lethargic, not eating, drinking excessively or urinating excessively, have them checked by your veterinarian. Again, our sympathies go out to everyone affected by the recall during this stressful time.

FDA Blames Melamine, Not Rat Poison

Posted on: March 30th, 2007 by

By: Dr. Jack Stephens

Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that testing of Menu Foods pet food had revealed the presence of melamine, a chemical used in fertilizer, but has not been able to confirm the findings of aminopterin, the rodent poison that was reported last week to have been the likely culprit.

In a news conference earlier today, it was also reported that the tainted wheat gluten was sold to an undisclosed manufacturer who produces dry food, as well. The FDA could not say whether or not dry food had been contaminated, only that it was under investigation and that it would alert the public quickly if melamine was found in any foods other than the recalled pet food.

MSN is also reporting today that Menu Foods has received more than 300,000 calls from worried pet owners, and the most recent numbers from the Veterinarians Information Network, a website of 30,000 veterinarians and veterinary students, said members had reported nearly 500 cases of kidney failure since the recall was announced.

As a pet family dad of six dogs and two cats, I want pet owners to be armed with the best information and financial assistance to provide the best healthcare possible and prevent disease and illness when possible, and we will continue to post updates as we are made aware of them.

Pets Best Offers to Pay 100% of Bills Related to Food Recall

Posted on: March 27th, 2007 by

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.

Pet Deaths Reportedly Linked to Rat Poison

Posted on: March 23rd, 2007 by

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.

Questions Surround Pet Food Recall as Pet Owners Look for Answers

Posted on: March 22nd, 2007 by

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 customerservice@petsbest.com.

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.