The Veterinary Information Network News Service is digging into a two-year mystery as to exactly what's causing symptoms of kidney disease in dogs, including vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination, glucose in the urine and sometimes death.
The first reports came two years ago, and were linked to chicken jerky treats made in China that were subsequently recalled in both the United States and Australia. However, the contaminant, which was not melamine, was never identified.
A new outbreak of what's being called Fanconi-like syndrome, after a genetic disease that it resembles, is occuring now in Australia. This time it seems to be associated with dental chew treats called Veggie Dents, manufactured by Virbac in a plant in Viet Nam. Some of the affected dogs had also been chewing Greenies, a similar treat made by Mars, Inc., but Veggie Dents only became available recently in Australia, and all the cases date to after their debut in that country.
VIN News Service reporter Edie Lau contacted Michael Walsh, marketing manager for dental products at Virbac Animal Health, located in Texas. From her story:
[Walsh] said he was unaware of any potential link between Veggie Dents and Fanconi-like syndrome outside of Australia, and was unaware of problems in Australia until he was contacted this week by The VIN News Service.
Walsh noted that he received an e-mail from a colleague in Australia on May 11 asking if he’d heard any reports of Fanconi-like syndrome in dogs after being fed Veggie Dents.
“I said, ‘I have no idea what Fanconi is, so no,’ ” Walsh recounted. “This,” he added, referring to the interview with a reporter, “is the second encounter I’ve ever had with the word ‘Fanconi.’ ”
Walsh said he didn’t think anything of the inquiry from Australia because the colleague had noted that some chicken jerky products made in China recently had been recalled in that country, so the issue was fresh on pet owners’ minds.
“We had just launched the chew treat (in Australia),” he said, “so people ask a lot of questions (such as) ‘Is this another chicken thing, or a China thing?’ ”
Walsh said Veggie Dents are composed of corn, starch, glycerin, soy, rice, yeast, sorbitol, corn derivatives and water, and are manufactured in Vietnam.
He said the product has been sold in Europe and Japan for about two years, and was introduced to the United States last September.
I had to read that part about how he "didn't think anything of the inquiry from Australia" on May 11 because "some chicken jerky products made in China recently had been recalled in that country, so the issue was fresh on pet owners' minds"a few times before it really sank in. I guess I didn't want to believe what I was reading.
He didn't know what Fanconi's sydnrome was, didn't check into it, didn't even think about it, and just dismissed it as the hysterical imaginings of a bunch of pet owners spooked by previous recalls? Did I get that right?
Let me try a different way of putting that: Despite mountains of evidence that foods and treats being sold for our pets are contaminated with disease-causing substances, some of which have yet to be identified and one of which turned into the largest consumer recall in history only two years ago, and even more evidence that the global food manufacturing system is dangerously broken, Mr. Walsh ignored this early report and didn't even, apparently, Google "Fanconi" to find out what it meant and if that syndrome had been associated with any past pet product recalls.
Considering that dogs actually died from this during the first outbreak and the contaminant is still not known, you'd think Virbac would be all over this.
Fortunately, even though they don't seem to be, Lau reports that Dr. Linda Fleeman at the University of Sydney is. Read the full story here.