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 estimates the costs of veterinary care alone could reach $20 million.