AGRICULTURE Victoria is warning that more cases of pet-food poisoning – which killed two dogs at a Mornington Peninsula pet hospital in the past month – may reappear in coming weeks.
The two dogs were among six taken by distressed owners to the Peninsula Vet Emergency Hospital with lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting and jaundice consistent with liver disease.
The cases occurred from mid-July to mid-August.
Testing found the toxin indospicine in the blood and liver of the sick dogs and in pet meat samples. The naturally occurring contaminant is found in the indigofera plant from the Northern Territory.
Dogs are especially sensitive to its toxic effects in meat from livestock that grazed the plant. Horses grazing where the plant grows are considered the most likely source.
While there have been no more recent cases reported to the vet hospital, Agriculture Victoria and PrimeSafe – the authority responsible for regulating meat, poultry, seafood and pet food in Victoria – warn that more cases of indospicine poisoning may appear “in coming weeks”.
Dr Wey Yen Loh, who heads the pet hospital’s emergency and critical care department, in Mornington-Tyabb Road, said of the six dogs treated “two progressed to develop severe liver failure and had to be euthanised. Four other dogs recovered after developing mild disease”.
Agriculture Victoria said about 60 dogs had been affected across Victoria, with 21 dying. Cases were rife on the Mornington Peninsula, Bairnsdale, Traralgon, and in the eastern suburbs.
Dr Loh said the authorities had confirmed pet meat from the Maffra District Knackery was contaminated with indospicine between 31 May-3 July.
It has been found to affect dogs “more significantly, whereas livestock that have grazed on these plants will end up storing the toxin within the muscles. Indospicine is not known to be toxic to humans.”
Affected products sold at Backmans Greyhound Supplies, Seaford, had been recalled. The outlet was contacted for comment but referred The News back to the Maffra knackery.
Dr Loh said contaminants may be present in pet supply products across Victoria. “We recommend anyone with raw pet meat sourced in the above dates dispose of it immediately to reduce the risk of exposure.”
PrimeSafe and Agriculture Victoria have closed their investigation but warn the toxin may still be in products in pet owners’ freezers and that neither cooking nor freezing will destroy it.
All pet meat, including beef and kangaroo, should be considered at risk of contamination due to the blending of pet meats during processing, the department said in a statement.
“Indospicine can build up slowly when affected meat is consumed regularly by dogs. It can then reach levels sufficient to cause toxicity, so, if your dog has been fed pet meat matching the description, and they have not become unwell, do not assume your pet meat is safe.
“Contact your supplier to confirm the source of your pet meat.”