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Kidney Health and Last Springs Pet Food Recall

Posted Friday, November 9, 2007, at 11:03 AM

I just found something we pet owners should be concerned about especially if we fed some of the foods recalled last spring. The following is a press release from Veterinary Pet Insurance.

The Nation's Largest Pet Insurer Examines Effects of Pet Food Recall

Spike in Kidney-Related Claims Highlights Importance of

Kidney Health Testing

Brea, Calif. (October 16, 2007) -- Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the nation's oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, reported a significant rise in the diagnosis of kidney conditions in the month of March -- the same month Menu Foods recalled 60 million cans and bags of tainted pet food. VPI, which insures more than 450,000 pets nationwide, has examined claims data to assess whether the recall had an effect on policyholder behavior and the diagnosis of kidney conditions. The company found that health testing increased by 37 percent in March and initial diagnosis of kidney conditions increased 33 percent for dogs and 46 percent for cats compared to expected seasonal averages.

"Our data shows that the pet food recall motivated a considerable number of our policyholders to take their pets to the veterinarian," said Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. "A few serious kidney conditions, whether caused by tainted food or other unrelated factors, were discovered as a result."

At the time of the recall, VPI saw a rise in phone calls from concerned pet owners, but could not determine whether more pet owners were visiting the veterinarian, since policyholders may submit claims several months after treatment. A possible link between the recall and an increase in testing and diagnosis of kidney conditions became more apparent as claims were subsequently received and processed. Claims submitted for treatment of uremia, an excess of metabolic waste products in the blood, showed the largest spike, increasing 141 percent for dogs and 152 percent for cats in March.

This spring's pet food recall has prompted increased awareness among pet owners on the importance of kidney health. Contaminated food and other toxins, as well as systemic, inflammatory, infectious, and neoplastic disease (abnormal cell growth) in the body, can result in damage to the kidneys. This damage leads to the buildup of toxins in the body which results in clinical signs often not apparent until the more advanced stages of disease. Kidney health diagnostics are an important tool for veterinarians to detect kidney disease as early as possible in their patients. Protein levels in the urine can be one early marker of certain types of kidney disease.

A test to detect small amounts of protein, specifically a protein called albumin, is the Early Renal Disease (E.R.D.)-Healthscreen Urine Test. A positive E.R.D.-Healthscreen Urine Test can indicate the presence of underlying disease to prompt additional testing. Although kidney damage is irreversible, early detection can lead to earlier intervention to help prolong a pet's life with treatments to alleviate stress on the kidneys.

Veterinarians may recommend that pets receive an E.R.D-Healthscreen Urine Test as part of their annual physical examination. A veterinarian will assess each patient individually and may recommend this test depending on a pet's age, breed, and other risk factors. Dogs and cats can have different onsets and progressions of kidney disease, so the age for screening may vary.

Clinical signs of kidney disease can include increased drinking and urinating, weight loss, decreased appetite, vomiting, constipation, lethargy, and weakness. There are various causes of any of these clinical signs, so your pet should be examined by a veterinarian promptly for evaluation if any of these signs are noticed. Kidney disease was the third most common feline claim filed by VPI policyholders in 2006 and was among the top 40 most common claims filed for canines.

Though the kidneys can function with limited damage, delayed diagnosis and treatment of kidney insufficiency can lead to kidney failure Once the kidneys have been damaged to the point of failure, a pet's survival depends on dialysis or kidney transplant surgery.

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