Did your dog or cat get sick after eating one of the recalled brands? Been getting the run-around by the pet food company, overwhelmed, confused, worried sick, all of the above? Panic sets in and no matter how hard you try to think straight it just ain’t gonna happen.
Sometimes, all we need are answers to our most basic concerns to keep us from going completely off the deep end. In an effort to keep that from happening, I decided to answer some of the most frequently asked questions. So, take a deep breath, sit in a comfy spot with a nice piping hot cup of cocoa and relax. Help is at hand…
Q. Mollie! How do I know if my fur baby has Salmonella infection? Help!!!
A. Dogs and cats that become ill from Salmonella infection generally will have diarrhea that may contain blood or mucus. Affected pets may seem more tired than usual, and may have a fever or vomit. Some cats do not have diarrhea, but will have a decreased appetite, fever, and excess salivation. Some dogs or cats may have Salmonella infection but may not appear to be sick.
In some pets, the diarrhea may be so severe that the pet needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other body sites and can cause death unless your pet is treated promptly.
If your dog or cat has these signs of illness or you are concerned that your pet may have Salmonella infection, please contact your pet’s veterinarian. Let your veterinarian know if your pet recently consumed a recalled product.
Q. How do I find out for sure if it is Salmonella and not something else?
A. The only way to know for certain is to have your vet confirm the presence of the Salmonella bacterium. This is typically done using a fecal sample. Yup, that’s right poop, but preferably diarrhea. The preferred method for the purposes of identifying the specific strain of Salmonella, specifically Salmonella Infantis, is to have your vet submit a sample for Salmonella culturing and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis testing (PFGE).
It is not recommended, however, to use the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing method. The downside is that all you find out with PCR testing is whether Salmonella is present or not. With culture, the bacterium can be tested further to see if it is the outbreak strain, and it can be tested for its susceptibility to antibiotics in the uncommon event that antibiotic treatment is needed.
Q. I’m going to the vet and I’m as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs! What should I expect, as far as labs and stuff?
A. Well, since I am not a vet, I referred to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) page on information for veterinarians regarding the Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Infantis Infections Linked to Dry Dog Food. What they recommend, is that if your pet is ill and has come into contact with the recalled pet food or with clinical signs consistent with salmonellosis, you and your vet need to report the case to FDA.
As far as testing is concerned, it is recommended by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) that your vet will submit a diarrhea (preferred) or vomitus sample to a state or university veterinary diagnostic laboratory for Salmonella culturing and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis testing (PFGE).
Additionally, stool samples can also be submitted for pets that appear healthy but were known to eat a recalled product. If the laboratory isolates Salmonella but cannot perform PFGE, the isolate maybe forwarded to a laboratory that can perform the procedure such as one of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) labs in your area or the Diagnostic Bacteriology Laboratory at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa.
If your vet needs to locate an AAVLD laboratory in your area, they should go to AAVLD Accredited Labs, or go to the AAVLD’s home page and click on the “Accreditation” link on the left side menu bar. To submit isolates to NVSL, complete Form VS 10-3 indicating whether serotyping, PFGE, or both are requested. Form VS 10-3 and additional information on sample submission is located at the NVSL website.
Q. Mollie, I am pretty sure the recalled pet food made my fur baby sick. Now what? Should I ask my vet to have the pet food tested too?
A. According to the CDC, if you take a sample of the suspected pet food into your vet and your pet has the clinical signs of salmonellosis after eating the recalled food, the vet should report the case to the FDA through the FDA’s consumer complaint system. Pet food that has been recalled should be assumed to be contaminated and according to the CDC, “does not need to be tested”. the CDC recommends that if your pet is ill and the product has not been recalled it is very important that vet report the case to FDA.
If you want to have the pet food tested by a private laboratory, please keep in mind that it may be costly to have numerous tests conducted on the sample. Have the vet contact your state/local public health or agriculture laboratory, or state/ university veterinary diagnostic labs for information on how to collect and ship a potentially contaminated pet food or treat sample.
Q. How do I report a suspected or confirmed Salmonella illness in my pet?
A. Veterinarians and clients alike can and should report cases of animal illness associated with pet food in two ways: (1) call the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator in their state, or (2) report electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal. Reports should include product details and should also should include medical information, including a veterinarian’s report. At that point, the FDA will review the consumer complaint and determine next steps including whether a sample collection (diagnostic and/or finished product) is necessary.
Q. Mollie! I was told by Diamond that in order to file a claim my pet has to test positive for Salmonella. Is that true?
A. Yes, it is true. For the purposes of filing a claim your vet needs to have a positive test result for Salmonella in your pet. If you experienced a problem with 4Health, Apex, Chicken Soup for Pet Lover’s Soul, Country Value, Diamond, Diamond Naturals, Kirkland, Premium Edge, Professional or Taste of the Wild, these brands are owned by Diamond, therefore any questions or problems should be directed to Diamond Pet Foods.
Brands not owned by Diamond Pet Foods but manufactured by Diamond involved in the recall are Canidae, Natural Balance, Solid Gold and Wellness; those companies need to be contacted individually. Criteria for submitting claims to those companies may be different than Diamond’s. For example, WellPet (Wellness) has indicated that a positive result for Salmonella is not necessary.
Q. I was told that there are only two confirmed cases of Salmonella Infantis in dogs. How can that be?
A. There’s no reason to think that the strain of Salmonella involved here would infect people but not dogs. The reason that there are reports of human but not canine cases could simply be because there is a formal surveillance and reporting system for humans but not dogs. Also, testing is not commonly performed on dogs with diarrhea, so large numbers of cases could go unidentified.
The CDC is aware that animal illnesses associated with recalled products have been reported to FDA’s consumer complaint system. The FDA is aware of the number of confirmed case of salmonellosis, however they are not required to share that information with the public, particularly when an investigation is ongoing (which is the case with regards to Diamond Pet Foods).
(Sources: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/dog-food-05-12/pet-owners-info.html, http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/dog-food-05-12/vet-info.html)
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