Or at least don’t make that your major point of emphasis! Uber Rants-R-Us makes an excellent point about the media’s painting aminopterin as a “rat poison”:

the misnomer of “rat poison” is causing a whole new set of fears that this is even a terrorist plot to get to us through our pets. As of this time, there is no evidence to suggest that this has been a terrorist plot of any kind. In China (where the wheat gluten is manufactured) this drug is approved for usage both as a cancer treatment and occasionally as a rodenticide, and the entire thing could be a very, very bad accident.

Catmanager has seen other evidence that calling the toxin “rat poison” could be leading some veterinarians to conclude that another toxin must be involved (which might be the case). From the ABC story cited earlier by Pet Connection:

Some veterinary experts say they are still skeptical as to whether the chemical is responsible for the kidney damage the pets endured.

“With the information that we have, none of us feel that this product fits the lesions we are seeing, but there may be information we don’t know yet,” said Lawrence McGill, a veterinary pathologist in Salt Lake City. “The feeling is that there are more questions than answers with this product.”

“Renal failure is not the expected response to these drugs,” said Susan Weinstein, executive director of the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association.

The key passage here is “with the information that we have.” Persumably Drs. McGill and Weinstein didn’t have the full story when they gave these interviews. Yet, they are also absolutely correct to point out that the rodenticides licensed for use in the United States are not associated with renal failure. Catmanager hopes any veterinarians who come across these comments dig further. As I noted before, VIN now has a fact sheet about aminopterin and the implications for treatment (basically, same as before but be on the lookout for signs of myelosuppression).

Unfortunately, “rat poison” sounds far more alarming than “cancer drug” or “folic acid antagonist,” so that’s what we’ll keep seeing on TV and reading in the papers. Also unfortunate, the media can’t really be criticized for calling aminopterin a rat poison, because it is in fact used as one in some parts of the world.

But for the veterinarians who form the vanguard trying to protect and treat cats and dogs, the “rat poison” label has understandably caused some confusion. Catmanager sees it as yet another reason for getting information to the veteirnary community before it is released to the broader public. Even an hour’s advance warning from the New York State lab would have helped veterinarians prepare. Instead of alerting the AVMA (which posted the news at 12:30 pm CST), VIN, or other major veterinary groups, the story was (presumably) leaked to the media several hours before the press conference at which the finding was formally announced. This left veterinarians scrambling and in some cases looking inept in front of clients who called after hearing the news expecting their vet would know about it, what the substance was, and what it all meant for their cat or dog.