Sick dogs, deaths correlated to raw pet food in Australia

Australian authorities are investigating a cluster of dogs affected with severe liver disease. The dogs all ate fresh or frozen meat from a specific source.

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Adapted from a press release:

Agriculture Victoria warned Australian dog owners about potential illness related to fresh or frozen raw pet food bought between May 31 and July 3. Agriculture Victoria and PrimeSafe, the country’s statutory agency for pet food and other products, are investigating a cluster of dogs affected with severe liver disease. The dogs all ate fresh or frozen meat from a specific source.

Agriculture Victoria has been made aware of 45 cases of dogs, of which 10 have died as of July 16, suffering from severe liver disease. The dogs lived in the Bairnsdale, Traralgon and Frankston areas. All affected dogs were young, healthy and vaccinated. The department is aware of a further seven anecdotal cases. Fresh and frozen raw meat sourced from Gippsland and sold between 31 May and 3 July is one common factor and potential connections are being investigated. The meat product is distributed state-wide.

The Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) reported that the meat came from Maffra Knackery, based in Gippsland, which also trades as Backman's Meats and Backman's Greyhound Supplies. ABC also reported that the death toll had climbed to 12 by July 19.
Agriculture Victoria has ruled out infections, canine leptospirosis, ehrlichiosis and aflatoxins. The agency is continuing to coordinate testing of pet food and samples obtained from affected dogs to identify the potential cause including testing at AgriBio and relevant external laboratories. Examination of liver tissue has confirmed the clinical diagnosis of severe liver disease but has not pinpointed the cause. Investigations are also focusing on food types, food additives, treats and other consumed items, water sources, environmental contacts, human and veterinary medicines and poisoning.

There are no indications of any risk to human health or any human food safety issues to date.

Signs of liver disease in dogs

Victoria’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Graeme Cooke said dog owners should look out for a sudden loss of appetite, lethargy and jaundice in a dog that was previously healthy.

“We advise on a precautionary basis that if your dog has consumed fresh or frozen raw pet meat and your dog is unwell, please contact your veterinarian immediately,” Dr Cooke said. “If you have questions about what you should feed your pet, talk to your vet about nutritional requirements.”

PrimeSafe continues to investigate compliance with the Meat Industry Act and the Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production of Pet Meat at licensed facilities. Cooke said Victorian veterinarians should report suspected cases to Agriculture Victoria as the more information that is gathered, the more likely an answer will be found.
“Agriculture Victoria is supporting veterinarians with advice for those who have been treating the dogs. “Veterinarians should be particularly on the lookout if previously healthy dogs fall ill to clinically severe hepatic disease over a short period of time and without clear cause.”

Veterinarians seeking to report cases or for further advice should speak with their local Agriculture Victoria Animal Health or District Veterinary Officers or call the Customer Contact Centre.

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