1LINDERMAN.JPGKENT KRIEGSHAUSER/The Register-Mail

The Linderman family looks at photos of their pet boxer Winchester as they recount stories of him Tuesday afternoon. The dog died recently from kidney failure. From left are C.J., Destini, Curt, Kaden, Kim and Kassidy.

Couple: Recalled food killed dog

Pet owners changed to wet dog food to spur weight gain

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Curt and Kim Linderman's 9-year-old boxer, Winchester, lost weight every winter.

She was a little less active and ate less of her dry dog food. She was getting a little older this year and Curt wanted to entice her to keep weight on, so three weeks ago he picked up a couple cans of Hy-Vee brand wet dog food.

But Winchester, Winnie for short, didn't gain her weight back after eating the wet food. They took her to Doc Joe's Animal Hospital, 1235 N. Henderson St., and Winnie was put on antibiotics for a kidney infection.

"She dropped 25 pounds in two weeks," Curt said.

LINDERMAN2.JPG
Submitted photo

Kaden Linderman plays with the family pet, a boxer named Winchester, in the backyard of their home.
Submitted Photo

Winnie died March 9, before her antibiotics were finished.

One week later Kim was watching the news and saw that several brands of wet dog and cat food were being recalled.

"I saw it and it just snapped," Kim said. "That's what killed Winnie."

On Friday Menu Foods of Streetsville, Ontario, recalled more than 60 million cans of cat and dog food. Menu Foods makes store brands for companies like Wal-Mart, Kroger and Safeway, and makes food for brand-name pet food companies like Iams, PetCare and Science Diet. Gravy-style foods sold in cans and pouches made from Dec. 3, 2006, to March 6 have been recalled after complaints were made of dogs and cats having kidney failure after eating the food.

Winnie showed all the symptoms occurring in pets affected by the recalled food, Curt said, including weight loss, lethargy, and increased thirst and urination.

Because it had already been a week since Winnie died it was too late to do an autopsy, but Kim and Curt both think the wet food caused Winnie's death.

On Monday the government reported that a study conducted by Menu Foods found that as many as one in six animals died after eating the suspect foods.

The Lindermans have been trying to reach Menu Foods by calling the numbers posted on the company's Web site, but haven't been able to get through so far.

"I think it's reprehensible that we have lost our pet and are unable to get through to this company," Curt said. "People need to be aware, and pay attention to (Menu Foods') Web site because they're still updating the list.

"I just don't want this to happen to anyone else. And I'd like some answers from the company."

The Lindermans have four children, Carl Jr., Destini, Kassidy and Kaden. They say Winnie was a family member and a hero to them. Winnie had protected the children and even saved the life of the family's other dog, Duchess, a border collie.

Winnie also was a companion to 5-year-old Kaden, who is autistic. Kaden would take naps on top of Winnie and they would play together in the summer.

"We're going to have to get another dog, but it's not going to be anything like Winnie," Kim said. "Winnie was really good with Kaden, they had such a connection. She really understood what he needed."

Kim said the family visited the Guardian Angels at the mall to adopt another dog, but want to find a good-tempered puppy who can grow up with Kaden.

But they'll still miss Winnie.

"It's not like she was old and expected to go anytime," Curt said. "We should have had another five years with her."

There is a federal investigation looking into the recall. It is focusing on wheat gluten as the likely source of contamination that sparked the recall, said Stephen F. Sundlof, the Food and Drug Administration's top veterinarian. The ingredient, a protein source, is commonly used as filler.

Menu Foods told the FDA it received the first complaints of kidney failure and death among cats and dogs from pet owners on Feb. 20. It began new tests on Feb. 27. During those tests, the company fed its product to 40 to 50 dogs and cats. Seven animals - the mix of species was not immediately known - died, Sundlof said. The contamination appeared to be more deadly to cats than to dogs, he said.

Menu Foods spokeswoman Sarah Tuite told the Associated Press that the recalled products were made using wheat gluten purchased from a new supplier, which has since been dropped. Wheat gluten itself wouldn't cause kidney failure, leading FDA investigators to suspect contamination by other substances, including heavy metals such as cadmium and lead or fungal toxins.

Local veterinarian clinics have also been fielding calls this week regarding the recall.

Lisa Noel, a veterinary technician at Animal Medical Center, 371 E. Carl Sandburg Drive, said they have had several phone calls from pet owners concerned about the pet food they use.

"A lot of people want to know if what they're feeding their pets is on the list or not," Noel said. "We haven't seen any symptomatic pets yet, though."

Noel said some of the symptoms pet owners should watch for if they've used the recalled food are increased thirst, increased urination, vomiting, lethargy and a decreased appetite.

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On the Web:

A complete list of recalled products, along with product codes, descriptions and production dates, is available from the Menu Foods Web site, www.menufoods.com/recall. The company also designated two phone numbers that pet owners could call for information: (866) 463-6738 and (866) 895-2708. For FDA information, visit www.fda.gov.

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