This has not been a good weekend. Between crises at work, finding out one of my cats has FIP (my wife euthanized him yesterday, poor guy), and responding to the pet food recall (not to mention waiting for my wife to give birth to our first child), I just want to get away.

Here’s what I’m telling my clients:

      1. Temporarily stop feeding your cats nonprescription canned or pouch cat food. We believe this step is necessary because we do not yet know the exact contaminant that led to the recall and because the number of recalled foods has continued to increase since the recall was first announced on 16 March. As more information is revealed, more pet foods might be affected. Therefore, we believe the safest course at this time is to feed your cat only dry cat food unless your veterinarian has confirmed that you should do otherwise. (Because no prescription diets have been implicated in the food recall, we believe at this time that it is safe to continue feeding your pets their canned and pouch prescription diets.)
      2. If your cat is showing any signs of illness, particularly signs of kidney failure, please immediately call us or your regular veterinarian to make an appointment. Symptoms of kidney failure include increased thirst and urination, decreased appetite, lethargy, and vomiting.
      3. Check the pet food you have at home to determine whether any of it is affected by the recall. (Links to the complete lists of recalled foods are included at the end of this note.) [Sorry about that. I obviously neglected to add the links.] If you have any of the affected food do not throw it away! Save all unopened cans or pouches. Find any empty cans or pouches that may still be in your garbage and save them in plastic bags in your freezer so that they can be submitted for analysis if necessary.
      4a. If you have been feeding your cat some of the affected batches of food, stop. Call us or your regular veterinarian immediately to schedule an appointment to have your cat examined and kidney function evaluated via laboratory testing.
      4b. If you have been feeding your cat an affected brand but not one of the affected batches, stop. Save these foods in case they are added to the recall. Watch your cat closely for any signs of illness, and call us or your regular veterinarian immediately if you notice any. If you are at all worried, we recommend that you schedule an appointment to have laboratory evaluation of your cat’s kidney function performed.
      4c. If you cannot determine whether your cat has been eating one of the types or batches of recalled foods, please watch your cat closely for any signs of illness, and call us or your regular veterinarian immediately if you notice any. If you are at all worried, we recommend that you schedule an appointment to have laboratory evaluation of your cat’s kidney function performed.
      4d. If you are uncertain whether you have any of the affected cans or pouches, please e-mail or fax us or your regular veterinarian a list of the cans and pouches you do have. Please try to include the following information: brand name (e.g., Iams, Science Diet), style of food (e.g., Savory Cuts Chicken, Savory Cuts Beef), and lot/serial number and/or UPC. We will get back to you as soon as possible. However, due to the magnitude of this problem, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to respond quickly to every e-mail and fax.
      5. If your cat has any symptoms of renal failure or gastrointestinal upset, make an appointment to bring your cat in immediately. In cases where the toxicity is caught early and treated aggressively, cats have recovered.

I also created a set of instructions for my employees to help them respond when the phones start ringing tomorrow. Things that other veterinary clinics might want to think about:

  • a triage list to help receptionists prioritize appointment requests
  • public realtions: what recommendations do you want staff to make? Will you formulate a written response? If so, how will you communicate it to clients (e-mail, Web site, posted at your clinic, etc.)?
  • press release: if you’re formulating a response to post on your Web site or for staff to use when asked questions, why not also send it to your local paper or TV or radio station as a press release
  • food stocks: do you have any of the affected batches (we’ve decided to stop selling canned food until we feel comfortable recommending to our clients that it’s again safe to feed wet cat food)
  • boarders: I’ve seen several reports on VIN of animal hospitals finding recalled food in their boarding kennels (food the client sent along with the cat or dog)
  • diagnostic and medical supplies: will you run out of blood chemistry rotors/discs and urinalysis test strips if demand for appointments spikes? Do you have a healthy supply of materials used in treating kidney failure (e.g., IV fluids, lines and catheters, famotidine, sucralfate, furosemide)?

      More thoughts to come later.

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