A recall of potentially deadly pet food has dog and cat owners studying their animals for even the slightest hint of illness and swamping veterinarians across the U.S. with calls about symptoms both real and imagined.
"It's like we're on pins and needles," said Brian Paone, a 27-year-old loan auditor in Knoxville, Tennessee, who scheduled a blood test with his vet after realizing both of his cats had eaten brands on the recall list.
"You kind of sit there and wonder - it's terrible to say this - you wonder if this is going to be your last moments with your pet. It's not pleasant."
Some of the 60 million cans and pouches of food have been blamed for kidney failure in scores of animals and killed at least 16 pets. Neither the manufacturer, Menu Foods of Canada, nor authorities have been able to determine why the pets died.
The recall has led to at least three lawsuits against Menu Foods from pet owners who allege their animals got sick or died after eating recalled food.
"It's a loss that goes beyond belief," said Frederick Bobb, of Merrick, New York, whose 2-year-old bull mastiff, Princess, died of kidney failure on March 10. Bobb said his dog had eaten Nutro, one of the recalled dog food brands, all her life.
Bobb's attorney, Kenneth Mollins, said he had filed a lawsuit against Nutro and Menu Foods in state Supreme Court in Nassau County seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Atlanta veterinarian Will Draper received so many calls and e-mails about the recall that he drafted a newsletter on it and e-mailed his customers.
"That helped tremendously," Draper said. "It has calmed clients."
Since Friday, nearly 100 brands of the "cuts and gravy" style food have been recalled by Menu Foods, including popular labels sold at Wal-Mart, Kroger and other large retailers, reports AP.
Veterinarians are directing most questions to the Food and Drug Administration's recall Web site. Some have agreed to run blood tests on pets, even though many of the animals have not consumed any of the recalled brands.
Pet owners with animals showing symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy and extreme thirst are being told to bring them in for immediate examination.