About 1,500 animals raised for their fur have died after eating feed contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine, the Associated Press reported this week.
Zhang Wenkui, a veterinary professor at Shenyang Agriculture University, told the AP that he performed necropsies on about a dozen raccoon dogs and concluded that they died of kidney failure.
"First, we found melamine in the dogs' feed, and second, I found that 25 percent of the stones in the dogs' kidneys were made up of melamine," he said.
The deaths reportedly happened over the past two months.
China has been contending with a spreading melamine scandal since the news broke in early September that the contaminant was found in milk powder. More than 50,000 infants who ingested the powder in their formula have gotten sick, and at least four died. Melamine since has been found in a variety of milk products, including coffee and tea mixes, cake, chocolate and other candies.
The milk crisis happened less than two years after melamine turned up in wheat gluten imported from China for use in wet pet foods manufactured in North America. The contamination caused kidney disease -- in some cases fatal -- in thousands of cats and dogs and triggered a recall of some 150 pet food brands. Manufacturers and retailers received court approval this month to establish a $24 million fund to compensate pet owners and consumers for economic damages.
Melamine is a nitrogen-rich chemical used in the manufacture of plastics and fertilizers, among other products. Unscrupulous business people are suspected of adding it to the wheat gluten and watered-down milk to make the foods appear richer in protein than was actually the case.
According to the AP, the Chinese raccoon dogs that died were from farms in the village of Xishan in Laoning province. Native to Asia, raccoon dogs look very much like raccoons, with masked eyes and thick pelts.