Food For thought

It's been several months since tainted pet food was recalled, but we still receive many questions about it. Let's review facts about the contamination and then look at renal failure, which is the medical condition caused by the contaminated food.

Gluten and melamine. Wheat gluten was blamed by many as the culprit, but wheat gluten is a high-quality protein found in most pet foods as well as in people food. The problem was caused by a substance found in the gluten: melamine, a chemical used to make plastics. Melamine, when ingested, is toxic to the kidneys, resulting in renal failure.

Renal failure, which affects dogs and cats of any age, can be the result of: 

  • intoxication (as was the case with the food contamination),
  • a decrease in blood flow to the kidneys,
  • infection,
  • cancer,
  • immune abnormalities, 
  • trauma.

Symptoms. Animals become weak and sluggish. They drink more and urinate more. Some may stop eating because they feel nauseated from an increase in toxins not being excreted from the body.

Diagnosis. Renal disease's symptoms are similar to other conditions. The veterinarian will take a thorough history and examine the animal. A blood test and a urinalysis are also needed to gauge the function of the kidneys.

Prognosis. There is no cure for renal failure, but early detection and good follow-up care can sometimes slow the progression of the disease. Sick animals require hospitalization for fluid therapy, management of blood abnormalities and control of vomiting. Diets and supplements are also used to preserve the kidney function that remains, slowing the progression of the disease.

Prevention. There are no  recommendations for preventing renal disease.  If your pet is not feeling well, an early examination and implementation of treatment are needed to try to prolong life.