February 12, 2009
Salmonella poisoning in dog linked to peanut-butter recall
Officials tie first pet case to nationwide outbreak
By: Edie Lau
For The VIN News Service
A 3-year-old shepherd mix hospitalized with bloody diarrhea and
vomiting in Oregon last month tested positive for Salmonella
Typhimurium, and state health authorities connect the illness to
tainted peanut butter in dog biscuits.
The dog’s illness is the
first confirmed animal case of Salmonella linked to contaminated peanut
butter or peanut paste that originated from a Peanut Corporation of
America plant in Blakely, Ga.
The problem is more widespread
among humans. On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention reported 600 cases in 44 states. Nine people have died.
contamination was the subject of a congressional hearing Wednesday,
where victims’ family members vented anger concerning the possibility
that the peanut company knowingly put tainted product into the
marketplace. Peanut Corporation of America President Stewart Parnell
and Blakely plant manager Sammy Lightsey were called to testify, but
refused to speak, citing their Fifth-Amendment rights against
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Steven Sundlof, DVM,
director of the
Center for Food Safety, also answered questions before lawmakers,
defending his agency's response to the outbreak. He stated that the
outbreak has prompted FDA to tighten its food safety policies.
Inspectors now will routinely
collect samples for bacterial testing whenever they visit a facility.
Such analysis previously was conducted only when a problem was
2,000 peanut-butter products recalled are a handful of pet treats,
including Happy Tails Multi-Flavored Dog Biscuits, the source of the
Oregon dog’s infection. The biscuits were recalled on Jan. 23, but the
dog ate the contaminated treats before then.
Patterson told the VIN News Service Wednesday that his dog had been healthy
and active. But on Jan. 22, he took it to see Dr. Paul Gore at Oakland
Veterinary Hospital for loss of appetite and fatigue.
Gore prescribed antibiotics, but the dog’s condition worsened. On Jan. 26, the dog was hospitalized and put on IV fluids.
first, Gore didn’t consider peanut butter to be a culprit. “Initially,
(the owners) thought the dog had gotten into salmon in the trash,” he
said. “So we kind of went with that.”
Then Gore received an
e-mail from the Oregon state veterinarian's office with an updated
product recall list. That got him thinking about Salmonella.
He found out that the sick dog, along with four other dogs in the same household, regularly consumed Happy Tails treats.
other dogs were not ill, but that didn’t surprise Gore. Dogs, he said,
“are used to eating contaminated, dirty things,” and some can handle
that without getting sick. “Even with people, Salmonella tends to
strike the young ones or those sick with diseases,” he added. “An
adult, healthy dog tends to get less of a problem."
Why the dog
was susceptible to infection is unclear. Patterson said it’s possible
that it was given peanut-butter biscuits from the "multi-flavored" pack
while the other dogs ate other flavors.
Although Gore knew the
dog had eaten suspect biscuits, confirming the source of the illness
took some sleuthing. When he sent in the first stool sample for
culturing, the dog had been on antibiotics for a few days, and the
results came back negative. Moreover, Gore noted, Salmonella can be
tough to culture because infected animals don’t shed the bacteria daily.
State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Emilio DeBess recommended that the owners test for
Salmonella in all of their dogs. The owner managed to collect a sample
from one dog, which came back positive.
The state also tested
the dog biscuits, which Patterson said he bought at a local Albertson’s
grocery on Jan. 12. Those, too, were positive.
nights in the hospital, Patterson took his dog home to convalesce.
Wednesday, he said that three-and-a-half weeks of illness have taken a
toll. “She is down to a bag of bones,” he said, estimating that the dog,
once 55 pounds, is down to about 40 pounds.
With the dog's appetite returning, Patterson is considering abandoning manufactured pet food for homemade.
we’ve learned nothing else, we’ve learned the manufacturers aren’t as
careful as they should be,” Patterson said. “Like everything else, we
have to take personal responsibility for the safety of our kids and our
Meanwhile, Gore said he’s seen a few other dogs recently
with intestinal problems but because the patients responded well to
treatment, the owners declined to have lab work done to try to identify
the source of the problem.
He credited State Public Health Veterinarian DeBess
for keeping Oregon practitioners up-to-date on the peanut-butter
recall, and recommended that his colleagues follow the recall list and
sign up to receive e-mail updates.
The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association maintains a list of recalled pet products at http://www.oregonvma.org/news/recalls.asp.
FDA’s list of recalled products and other
information about the peanut-butter contamination is available at http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/salmonellatyph.html.
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email email@example.com.
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