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.