The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

April 18, 2007

Local veterinarians, others discourage homemade pet food

By Sherri Slafka, Herald Intern

Pet owners have been frantic over the pet food contamination and recalls which continue, another coming this week. Pets died and others were sickened. The worry that remains is what to feed their pet now.

Dr. Gerald Uzarski, a Delaware Township veterinarian, says go to the source of the food.

“Read labels, and anything manufactured by Menu Foods with wheat gluten, stay away from,” he said of the manufacturer of most of the poisoned food and the ingredient identified as the contaminant.

Uzarski said that if an animal has been eating recalled food, have it examined by a veterinarian and have blood work done. Making food for your pet is OK, he said, but noted that providing a well-balanced diet is difficult.

Asked about homemade food for pets, Dr. Tammy Clark of Greenville Veterinary Clinic in West Salem Township said she thinks it is a bad idea because it’s not nutritionally complete. “Our recommendation is to feed a dry food, and just make sure it doesn’t contain wheat gluten.”

Dr. Daniel Baker of Baker Pet Hospital in Clark said he understands the concern of pet owners who have resorted to homemade diets. For the short term, Baker said he doesn’t think that’s a problem, but for the long term, owners must get reliable information to make sure their pet is getting a well-balanced diet.

“They’ve already pulled everything the FDA said has been affected,” said Joe Gilk, manager of Pet Supplies Plus in Hermitage said of retailers acting on orders from the Food and Drug Administration. “People can feel free to call and clarify,” if unsure about their food, he said.

Baker said he received many phone calls from concerned pet owners, and a dozen or so brought their pets in. He tested some dogs and said one cat showed minor complications. He cautioned owners about false information being disseminated and urged them to verify information with veterinarians or online sources.

Lisa O’Hara of Transfer said her 10-year-old golden retriever, Sir Laika, died from contaminated food. In January, after the family purchased canned pet food as a treat to mix with Sir Laika’s dry food, the retriever’s health deteriorated, she said. On March 2, the family took him to Uzarski for a blood test. By the next day, the dog was experiencing renal failure and quit eating altogether. He died at home on the evening of March 6. The O’Haras had to deliver the news to their children, ages 5 and 9, the next morning.

“Many clients have gotten blood work tests for pets, and it’s a pretty reasonable test to have done,” said Dr. Clark. “Having a blood test can check the kidney function to ensure your pet is healthy.”