by Andrew Bridges AP Writer
...That suggests the contamination was more toxic to cats, Lewis said. That is in line with what other experts have said previously.
At least six pet food companies have recalled products made with imported Chinese wheat gluten tainted with the chemical. The recall involved about 1 percent of the overall U.S. pet food supply.
Measuring the tainted food's impact on animal health has proved an elusive goal. Previous estimates have ranged from the FDA's admittedly low tally of roughly 16 confirmed deaths to the more than 3,000 unconfirmed cases logged by one Web site.
"On a percentage basis it's not breathtaking, but unfortunately it's a number that, if it was your pet that was affected, it's too high," veterinarian Nancy Zimmerman, Banfield's senior medical adviser, said of the newly estimated incidence rate.
In another estimate Monday, the founder of a veterinary group said 5,000 to 10,000 pets may have fallen ill from eating the contaminated food, and 1,000 to 2,000 may have died.
The estimate was based on a Veterinary Information Network survey of 1,400 veterinarians among its 30,000 members. About one-third reported at least one case, said Paul Pion, the Network's founder. He cautioned that a final, definitive tally isn't possible, and that even his estimate could be halved — or doubled.
"Nobody is ever going to know the truth," Pion said. "It's always going to be a guess."
Also Monday, the Web site petconnection.com said it had received reports of 3,598 pet deaths, split almost evenly between dogs and cats. The site cautioned that the numbers were unconfirmed.
Banfield's veterinarians treat an estimated 6 percent of the nation's cats and dogs. After the first recall was announced, the chain beefed up its software to allow those veterinarians to plug in extra epidemiological information to help track cases, Zimmerman said.
The new template allowed vets to log what a sick pet had eaten, any symptoms its owner may have noticed, the results of a physical examination, any urine and blood test results and other observations.
Lewis said there is no reason to believe the company's findings — including an apparently heightened vulnerability of kittens to the contaminant — wouldn't hold for other veterinary practices as well.
In outbreaks of foodborne disease in humans, the FDA leans on its sister agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to help track and confirm cases. During the ongoing pet food scare, FDA officials have repeatedly reminded the nation that there is no CDC for dogs and cats.
A spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association said the lack of hard numbers has worried pet owners eager to understand the extent of the problem. He suggested the recall could spur the creation of an animal counterpart to the CDC.
"This might be something that would push this in the future," AVMA spokesman Michael San Filippo said.From CNN.com (Pet food scare: Details on recall) POSTED: 9:27 a.m. EDT, April 17, 2007
...Menu Foods said the problem was traced to wheat gluten obtained from the Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company in China. The FDA has blocked further gluten imports from the company.The Chinese company termed the reports of chemicals in its product "rumors," but says it is cooperating with the FDA investigation.
Gluten brings elasticity and chewiness to baked products.
Menu Foods makes only "wet" pet food, such as "chunks and gravy" style varieties.
Nestle Purina also has recalled its Alpo Prime Cuts in Gravy dog food that was supplied with some of the suspect wheat gluten.
The only dry product affected is Prescription Diet dry cat food made by Hill's Pet Nutrition of Topeka, Kansas. Hill's obtained wheat gluten from the same supplier as Menu Foods.