WAFF 48 investigates pet food problems - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

WAFF 48 investigates pet food problems

(WAFF) - Meet Hudson, Michelle Cleveland's one-year-old airedale terrier. He's as healthy as can be. He eats regular dog food. He's never had a problem. A while back, though, one of her friend's dogs had a big problem. 

"The dog went into kidney failure," said Cleveland. "The dog lived, but she still has health issues."

That dog contracted salmonella from a popular national brand of pet food, and the FDA issued a recall because of the risk.

"But I've never had any other friends talk about their dogs being contaminated with any other food or anything like that," said Cleveland.

Which is why she was a little surprised when we mentioned a report in Food Safety News on a test that found 11 of 12 pet food varieties were contaminated. It caught our eye, so we took that report to Dr. Josh Herring, a food science specialist at Alabama A&M. 

His take?

"It's scary," said Herring. "It automatically goes and brings it out to the forefront of 'Hey, you might be feeding your pet something they should not get.'" But is that really the case?

The Association for Truth In Pet Food organized the project, paid for by 240 pet owners who put up the money through a fundraising website.
On their website, they show their 52-page report, highlighting mycotoxins. And in their summary, they point out serious risks to pets and people, even bacteria linked to human illness and death. But Doctor Herring isn't buying it.

"I would believe this is sensationalism," said Herring. "This is building on hype."

Did they find bacteria? Yes, but Herring says you have to put that bacteria into perspective, something the results don't.

"If these pet food companies had found the E. coli strains, if they had found salmonella, if they had found listeria, if they had found levels of mercury, then it would be a concern for me because those are the big players," said Herring.

They didn't, but what about all those mycotoxins? They sound serious.

"The truth is if you've ever eaten a peanut, opened the shell, you've probably eaten some aflatoxin or mycotoxins," said Dr. Jan Strother, a veterinarian in Hartselle. 

We had her review the findings. She had the same reservations Dr. Herring had.

"Mycotoxins are only dangerous when they're very high, and that can be a problem," said Strother. "But her testing shows that all of the myctoxin levels were within acceptance from FDA."

WAFF contacted Susan Thixton, co-director of the Association For Truth In Pet Food. She refused to do an interview, but she did e-mail us to defend her findings, saying "Scientists want information to be presented as a study where all testing methods are provided. But our results were not for scientists, they were for pet owners. And for us pet owners, we just want to know results."

For Dr. Strother, though, results is the keyword. What she says you need to keep in mind is what's the cause of your pet's problems. It's probably not the pet food. More likely, it's obesity. It's one of the top two on her list. The other? Gum disease

"All of this disease around the gums also have bacteria, up underneath the gum," Strother said, lifting up the gum of a senior dog. "And because your gum is vascular, all of this bacteria underneath the gum also goes through your heart and your lungs, your kidney, your liver, everything."

Strother says that's what leads to more dogs and cats getting sick or suddenly dying.

"If you don't talk to your veterinarian and you don't get blood work, and you don't get checkup, you may be thinking that something is impacting your pet when it's something else," said Strother.

Click here for information on the issue from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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