Virbac recalls VeggieDent chews in Australia

Action spurred by link to kidney disorders in dogs

Published: June 04, 2009
By Edie Lau

VeggieDent chews for dogs are off the market in Australia following the discovery by veterinary researchers of an association between consumption of the chews and development of acquired proximal renal tubulopathy.

Virbac Animal Health recalled the chews this week after having introduced them to Australia only three months ago.

VeggieDents have not been proven to cause the renal disorder, also known as Fanconi-like syndrome. The company took action as “a precautionary measure in the interests of animal welfare and the veterinary profession,” according to a prepared statement by Bruce Bell, general manager of Virbac (Australia) Pty. Ltd.

The chew strips, composed of corn, starch, glycerin, soy, rice, yeast, sorbitol, corn derivatives and water, are designed to promote canine dental health.

A potential problem with VeggieDents was recognized in May by veterinary researchers who have been trying to determine the cause of acquired proximal renal tubulopathy in dogs. The Fanconi-like disorder first surfaced in dogs several years ago in the United States and Australia in association with consumption of chicken jerky snacks made in China.

Symptoms mimic those of Fanconi, a disease in which kidneys do not properly resorb electrolytes and nutrients, but lose them in urine. The disorder is characterized by excessive drinking and urination (polydipsia and polyuria, or PUPD) and glucose in urine (glucosuria).

Dr. Linda Fleeman, a senior lecturer in small animal medicine at the University of Sydney, and colleagues were working on the Fanconi-like puzzle when they came across about a half-dozen cases of dogs that developed the kidney problem but had not had access to Chinese-made dried chicken treats.

In all the cases, the pets had been given VeggieDents, which are designed to be consumed daily.

Virbac opted on Monday to recall the product after discussions with the researchers.

The company instructed veterinarians in Australia to pull all stock from their shelves and return it to their wholesalers for credit. Virbac also advised veterinarians to dispose of marketing material, and to contact at their discretion the owners of dogs that use VeggieDents.

The chews are still available in Europe, Asia and the United States, where the company has received no reports of problems associated with the product. Michael Walsh, marketing manager for dental products at Virbac Animal Health in Fort Worth, Texas, told the VIN News Service last week that VeggieDents have been sold in Europe and Japan for about two years, and in the United States since September.

He said the chews are manufactured by Virbac in Vietnam, and that the ingredients also originate from Vietnam.

Dr. Gerard Lim of Virbac Australia told a reporter by e-mail that the company has sold about 7,000 bags of VeggieDents since the chews were introduced in his country in March.

Lim noted that “There are no hypotheses regarding any potential source of toxicity because no causative association has been established... .”

However, Virbac’s recall notice points out that VeggieDents sold in Australia differ from those sold elsewhere in that the product is irradiated as required by the Australia Quarantine and Inspection Service.

The Australian government last week banned irradiation of cat food because of scientific evidence that the sterilization process was somehow to blame for neurological problems, including ataxia and tetraplegia, seen in some cats that ate Orijen brand irradiated dry food made by Champion PetFoods Ltd., which is based in Canada.

However, dogs fed similarly irradiated food were not known to be affected.

Champion PetFoods has since pulled cat and dog foods from the Australian market.

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