Counting casualties

VIN survey shows one-third death loss in suspected cases
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May 01, 2007

DAVIS, CALIF. — "It's like a wet finger in the wind," says Dr. Paul Pion, of the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), in assessing the health impact of the massive recall affecting about 1 percent of all pet foods.

"We may never know the true numbers," Pion tells DVM Newsmagazine, but the fatalities of pets consuming tainted pet food probably ranks in the thousands to tens of thousands.

At press time, VIN released survey results tallying up more than 1,097 reported medical cases. Of the 1,415 veterinarians taking the survey, 36 percent (512) believed they treated ill patients after consuming tainted pet foods.

Of the illnesses reported:
  • 67 percent were cats
  • 33 percent were dogs

Of the total cases, 313 pets died or were euthanized after consuming contaminated pet food, while another 348 dogs and cats survived with therapy. Veterinary treatment continued for 262 pets at the time of the survey. The condition of the 28 remaining pets in sample either were not reported or lost to follow-up.

VIN's online community rallied in the early stages of crisis in an effort to disseminate information, attributed greatly to efforts of Dr. Melissa Nixon, Pion says. As the crisis grew, so did VIN's traffic – from 8,000 unique log-ins a day to 14,000. Veterinarians were hungry for information.

"We were hearing, 'My clients are calling, and they know more than I do. And they are accusing me of selling the food that made them sick.' "

Of the VIN respondents, 17 percent were confident they saw cases related to tainted pet food. VIN's survey shows an average cost of $925 and a total cost of $812,000 for tests and treatment.

Extrapolated to the pet population, the magnitude of the crisis grows proportionately.


VIN'S Survey
VIN estimates the costs of veterinary care alone could reach $20 million.