Pet Tip of the Month
Contamination Scares and How to Handle Them
By Krystle Wright
April 2012 brought a rather bizarre headline to the news media: dog food sickens people.
The people poisoned by an outbreak of Salmonella infantis in bags of dry dog food by Diamond Pet Foods brand weren’t eating the dog food, of course. They were exposed to dogs during the week they contracted the infection, though. Some of the sickened humans handled dry dog food like the kind currently being recalled, while others only came into contact with dogs that presumably ate contaminated food.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development initially noticed the presence of salmonella on April 2, 2012, during a routine check of a bag of Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice dog food. Since then, 15 cases of human salmonella poisoning have occurred in the United States, with illnesses reported in Alabama, Connecticut, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. A 16th illness has been reported in Canada. As of this writing, no deaths have occurred (thankfully), but at least five of the victims have required hospitalization.
Diamond has issued a recall on three dozen pet food products produced in its Gaston, South Carolina facility between Dec. 9, 2011 and April 7, 2012. The list includes products by Apex, Canidae, Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul, Country Value, Diamond, Diamond Naturals, Kirkland Signature, Natural Balance, Premium Edge, Professional, 4Health, Solid Gold, Taste of the Wild and Wellness Complete Health brands. (The complete list of sizes and code numbers can be found at http://diamondpetrecall.com/.) The recall has been extended to certain cat food products produced in the facility, as well.
It is still unclear whether any pets have gotten sick from eating the contaminated dog food. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, healthy adult dogs are “relatively resistant” to salmonella poisoning, though puppies and senior dogs may be at higher risk for the vomiting, diarrhea, fever, lethargy, and drooling or panting that can characterize salmonella exposure. However, the issue shouldn’t be taken lightly. When a dog is infected, salmonella poisoning can be fatal.
The Diamond Pet Foods brand salmonella incident is far from the only contamination scare people and pets have faced in recent years, but the good news is that vigilance can help detect contamination before it becomes a full-blown epidemic. That’s what happened when an instance of mad cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) was found in California, also in April. Veterinary officials from the United States Department of Agriculture were able to isolate the problem, and within hours they were able to confidently assure local and international consumers that there was no further danger.
So what can you do? First of all, if your pet shows symptoms of poisoning, contact a veterinarian immediately to get your pet treatment for the issue. Hospitalization, antibiotics and a fluid regimen may be required. Of course, if a human member of your family shows symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping or fever, contact a doctor or go to a hospital.
If there’s any chance that you have the recalled pet foods in your possession, stop feeding it to your pets. Dispose of it safely – the Center for Disease Control recommends storing the potentially contaminated food in a closed plastic bag inside a sealed trash can, so other people and animals, especially wild animals, won’t be exposed to it. (You can request a refund from Diamond Pet Foods – check the address above for the procedures.)
If you’ve handled recalled dog food recently, start by washing your hands thoroughly.
In fact, that’s an important safety tip anytime you handle pet food, even if it’s not included in this recall. The Center for Disease Control also recommends preparing your pets’ food and feeding them in areas where human food isn’t prepared or served. Keeping pets’ food and water dishes clean can help reduce the risk of illnesses spreading, but make sure you sanitize your sink before using it for human food products again – or, even better, use a separate area to clean your pets’ dishes. Store pet food as safely as you would store people food, by keeping wet food leftovers in the refrigerator and dry food in closed containers. Clean up after your pets. Watch young children especially carefully around pets and pet food. And always wash your hands – it’s worth repeating.
This article would not be possible without the help and guidance of Dr. William McAlonan, DVM, Wilwynn Animal Hospital, 496 Greenwich Road, Bridgeton, NJ. (856) 451-0789
Krystle L. Wright graduated from Rowan University in May 2011 with her M.A. in Writing and her B.A. in Writing Arts.
Krystle just took on her first client as a freelance public relations writer. She loves all kinds of writing but especially fiction, and she’s working on her first novel. When she’s not writing (and even when she is), she’s probably listening to music or shopping.