Virbac (Australia) Pty. Ltd. has recalled Veggie Dent™ Chews For Dogs after the dental chews were tentatively linked to cases of Fanconi-like syndrome (a kidney disease) in an undisclosed number of pet dogs. No kidney illnesses have been reported in other countries among dogs who were fed Veggie Dent™ chews.
Last December, we reported on a similar situation – a recall of KraMar chicken jerky dog treats. Then, too, the treats were associated with Fanconi-like syndrome. Then, too, only dogs in Australia appeared to be affected.
In November 2008, Orijen cat food was recalled in Australia when at least 40 Orijen-fed cats became paralyzed in a nine-month period. Again, no Orijen-related problems were reported in other countries where the cat food was available.
What is the common element that links these three episodes?
- It's not the animal species. Cats were affected in the first episode and dogs in the other two.
- It's not the country of origin. The Orijen was made in Canada, the KraMar chicken jerky came from China, and the Virbac dog chews were manufactured in Vietnam.
- It's not the symptoms. Cats were paralyzed, whereas the dogs experienced kidney problems.
The common element is Australia's import requirement that these pet foods and pet treats be treated with high levels of irradiation in order to be allowed into the country.
In 1985, Czech researchers reported that treating dog food with radiation levels similar to those specified by Australia resulted in:
- 35% degradation of essential amino acids;
- destructive changes in the lipid component;
- partial decomposition of the saccharide part; and
- decomposition of fats with a release of free fatty acids.
In addition to its effect on amino acids and fats, irradiation reduces vitamin A levels and increases peroxides. And cats fed an exclusive diet of irradiated food developed the same paralysis syndrome suffered by the Orijen-fed cats in Australia.
The evidence is piling up. Australia's insistence on irradiating imported pet foods and pet treats is sickening some of the very pets that the policy is meant to protect. The government already has backed away from requiring irradiation of cat food. Why are dogs not receiving equal treatment?
The Australian experience also raises a fundamental question about the safety of irradiating food for human consumption. Irradiated food doesn't glow in the dark, but neither should we be left in the dark about the downside of an irradiated diet.