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Problems With Blue Buffalo Dog Food - 1st Hypercalcemia, Then Vitamin D Issues Now A Recall?

Blue Buffalo dog food has been hitting the "unpublicized" news for awhile. Now it appears as though there is a recall on their website but it has no dates and is also not on the FDA recall list. I always say you, as the consumer, need to stay informed and make good decisions (not only about your pets but also as you their caregiver) so you be the judge when making a decision about what to feed your beloved pet.....

Here is all the information we have -

From - http://news.vin.com/VINNews.aspx?articleId=16468

Veterinarians report mysterious link between dog food and hypercalcemia  


August 31, 2010
By: Jennifer Fiala
For The VIN News Service


Veterinarians are trying to discern whether roughly a dozen dogs testing positive for hypercalcemia and consuming the same high-end diet is merely coincidence or a problem with the pet food in question.

The reports have cropped up on the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), an online community for the profession and parent of the VIN News Service. In message board discussions, veterinarians have revealed cases of hypercalcemia secondary to vitamin D toxicosis occurring in dogs that eat a single brand of dry pet food: Blue Buffalo Wilderness Diet, chicken flavor. In each of the cases, veterinarians report that dogs’ conditions have improved after switching brands.

So far, nothing concrete has identified a causal relationship between the food and illnesses in dogs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while reportedly alerted to adverse events tied to the food, has not prompted a recall, though the VIN News Service has been unable to reach officials with the regulatory agency directly.

Officials with Wilton, Conn.-based Blue Buffalo report that “tens of thousands of dollars” and hundreds of hours have been spent analyzing various batches of dog food, including samples from bags directly linked to specific cases of dogs testing positive for hypercalcemia and vitamin D toxicity.

Richard MacLean, vice president of business affairs, says one thing is certain: Test results thus far have shown nothing unusual about the product’s formulation; amounts of calcium and vitamin D, in particular, are within the company’s specifications and well below levels that might be considered toxic. The company’s focus has been on Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe, manufactured in April 2010 with a best-used-by date of July 2011. Vitamin D toxicity, or hypervitaminosis D, induces bone loss and abnormally high serum calcium levels, which could result in kidney stones and the calcification of organs like the heart and kidneys if left untreated.

“We really do take very seriously our commitment to providing health nutrition to pets,” MacLean says. “From the moment this issue came up, we are looking to find out if this is something we can do something about.”

Dr. Joy Mueller, a veterinarian in Santa Rosa, Calif., says the condition isn’t one that an owner will likely miss.

Recently, her two-year-old Australian shepherd became lethargic, releasing copious amounts of extremely dilute urine throughout her house and drinking large amounts of water. Heeding the red flags, she tested the dog’s blood and noted elevated calcium levels and a low platelet count. Hypercalcemia is often associated with kidney cancer and lymphoma.

Yet after ruling out possible problems with kidney function, Mueller turned to the Blue Buffalo Wilderness chicken and turkey flavored dry food that the dog had been eating for two weeks and changed brands.

The result was dramatic; the dog's condition improved within 24 hours.

Mueller came to the association between the food and her dog’s condition independently of the VIN discussions on the topic, though she did not test her dog for elevated levels of vitamin D and cannot be certain that toxic levels of it prompted the animal's illness. Still, she e-mailed the VIN News Service last Friday to spread the word about her findings to other veterinarians.

Reflecting on the turn of events, she says: “Vitamin D toxicosis was not my first thought. Various types of cancer including kidney cancer were the big rule outs. I wasn’t thinking food until I switched him.”

While Mueller believes that the food is tied to her dog’s condition, she suspects the reaction was idiosyncratic.

“It’s such a dramatic response that if a large number of dogs that ate this food had it, you would hear about more cases,” she says. “You can’t miss it peeing all the time and going through gallons of water.

“I suspect this has more to do with the dogs than the food,” Mueller adds. “I'm thinking beyond vitamin D. There may be dogs that have a genetic predisposition to the developing this condition after eating this food. It’s quite a mystery.”

Dr. Kathryn Cochran, a practitioner in Michigan, agrees. She reports that dogs of two different clients were examined in the practices where she works on June 30 and July 16. Both presented with hypercalcemia and test results showed high levels of vitamin D.

Another common thread: Both ate Blue Buffalo Wilderness Diet, chicken flavor, purchased at a PetSmart in Traverse City, Mich.

Cochran’s employer, Dr. Charles Morrison, posted the cases on VIN, and called the company. As a result, Blue Buffulo’s MacLean reports that seven bags were pulled from the Traverse City PetSmart, and tests were conducted on two. He reiterates that nothing unusual has come back on any of the samples analyzed by the company’s labs.

Cochran reports that the dogs have since recovered after being switched to a different brand of pet food. She notes that Blue Buffalo has been proactive about paying for tests, sending out claim forms and preparing to make restitution to owners if the product is found to have caused illness.

She’s concerned that other cases might not be identified.

“I’ve been tearing my hair out trying to get people to talk to me on this,” she says. “Maybe there are more cases out there like this.”

Experts in the field of diagnostics think so, too. Dr. Kent Refsal, an endocrinologist with the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health at Michigan State University, works at one of the only veterinary labs in America running tests for vitamin D toxicity.

“So if a veterinarian has an animal with an abnormality of calcium, they go through a list of differential diagnoses,” Refsal explains. “Our tests can help sort through that. In terms of the kind of test outcomes we get, we do not see many instances that raise concern for vitamin D toxicosis.”

Considering the rarity of such events, Refsal took notice when the sample from Cochran tested positive for elevated levels of vitamin D.

Three weeks later, when Refsal received two samples in the same assay run from dogs in Texas showing evidence of vitamin D excess, he contacted the clinics in question and was informed that the dogs were eating food from Blue Buffalo.

Since then, Refsal reports that similar tests results from two dogs in Colorado have Blue Buffalo-produced food as the common factor. The lab, he says, has contacted the Michigan Department of Agriculture with the findings, though the VIN News Service could not immediately reach agency officials concerning the cases.

“If someone is presented with a question of vitamin D toxicosis, you first wonder whether the animal has been put on some kind of unusual dietary supplement. Our assay is just an indicator of vitamin D intake. It does not specify the source of it,” Refsal says.

Apart from diet, there are other possible explanations for hypervitaminosis D in animals, including exposure to vitamin D analogs like calcipotriene-based psoriasis creams or pest control products made of cholecalciferol.

Veterinarians like Mueller say those explanations are highly unlikely, and even MacLean, of Blue Buffalo, believes that it's possible that there is a relationship between the food and the handful of sick dogs eating the product.

Yet, he cautions, no one has scientifically proven the link. He also notes that reports of at least three other dogs exhibiting signs of hypercalcemia and elevated vitamin D levels without a connection to Blue Buffalo products have surfaced on VIN.

MacLean reiterates that the company’s tests of its dog food have come back as low to mid-level for vitamin D content.

“Everything that we have suggests that it’s not our food,” he says. “We have 30,000 bags of this stuff out there and literally a dozen animals that have a common symptom. On an incident rate, that doesn’t invite the conclusion that there’s something defective about the product.”

Next there is this -

Michigan State University is reporting "a group of illnesses reported in dogs across the country linked to a specific brand of dog food from the Blue Buffalo Co.  Excess Vitamin D seems to be the dangerous concern.

From Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health - The Press Release: http://www.cvm.msu.edu/about-the-college/news-events/news/msu-researchers-link-pet-food-dog-illnesses-nationwide

MSU researchers link pet food, dog illnesses nationwide

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A team of researchers at Michigan State University has discovered a group of illnesses reported in dogs across the country is linked to a specific brand of dog food from the Blue Buffalo Co.

Veterinarians from across the country recently began sending samples from dogs with elevated levels of calcium in their blood to MSU’s Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, director Carole Bolin said. The sick dogs had increased thirst and urination, and some of them also suffered weight loss, loss of appetite and signs of kidney damage.

Endocrinologists with the Diagnostic Center, a service unit of the College of Veterinary Medicine, soon noticed the pattern and found a common factor: All 16 dogs whose samples were tested had very high levels of vitamin D in their blood and were fed a diet of Blue Buffalo’s Wilderness Chicken Recipe.

The diagnostic center is cooperating with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration on an investigation into the brand, Bolin said.

“The only reason we were able to identify the pattern is because of the vast national resource our center has become,” said Bolin, who added her lab performs more than 1.3 million tests a year. “Because of our nationwide reach and expertise, we were able to discover this and notify the proper authorities.”

It is routine for veterinarians across the country to contact the center for specialized testing to explore the causes of clinical conditions. In this specific case, all the dogs were found to have very high levels of vitamin D in their serum, a quite unusual finding. Endocrinologist Kent Refsal picked up on the pattern of cases and began to investigate.

The affected dogs ranged in age from 8 months to 8 years. There were three mixed-breed dogs and 13 purebred dogs. The samples originated from eight states: Michigan, Texas, Colorado, Wisconsin, California, Illinois, North Dakota and Utah. In addition to the testing, there was either a brief written history and/or communication with the referring veterinarian to discuss the possible sources of excess vitamin D. 

Dogs seem to recover when the diet is changed, Bolin said, and there have not been any reported deaths related to the diet.

For more detailed scientific information, go to http://www.animalhealth.msu.edu/Misc/WEBCD.GEN.REF.026.pdf

Lastly, there is the hard to find recall information on the Blue Buffalo Dog Food website -

From - http://bluebuffalo.com/news/vitamin-d-voluntary-recall.shtml

Octber 8, 2010

Dear Fellow Pet Parent,

At Blue Buffalo, nothing is more important than the health and well being of our dogs and cats, so it’s consistent with this guiding principle that we are voluntarily recalling specific production runs of our Wilderness Chicken-Dog, Basics Salmon-Dog and Large Breed Adult Dog products, as we have reason to believe that the products from these runs may contain a higher level of Vitamin D than is called for in our product specifications.

We came to this conclusion after discovering that our ingredient supplier had made a scheduling error and produced a Vitamin D supplement immediately prior to preparing the ingredients for the BLUE products that are in question. We believe that some of the Vitamin D supplement may have been carried over into our products, resulting in more Vitamin D than is called for in our formulas.

While the potential of increased Vitamin D presents no serious health risk, and any negative reaction to these products has been confined to a very small segment of the canine population who appear to be sensitive to higher levels of Vitamin D, we have a zero tolerance for any product that does not meet our specifications. I think you’ll agree that our decision to withdraw these specific products is simply the right thing to do.

From a next steps standpoint, all products with the specific manufacturing dates in question will be removed from retailer’s shelves. If you have any products with the codes shown below you should stop feeding them immediately.You may call Blue Buffalo at
1-877-523-9114 to arrange for return of the product and reimbursement.

These are the ONLY code dates being recalled:

Product Bag Size Best Used By Dates
BLUE Wilderness Chicken (Dog) 4.5 lb., 11 lb., 24lb. JUL1211B, JUL1311B, JUL2611Z, JUL2711Z, JUL2811Z
BLUE Basics Salmon (Dog) 11 lb., 24 lb. AUG2111B, AUG2211B
BLUE Large Breed Adult Chicken 30 lb. SEP 22 11 P, SEP 23 11 P, OCT 26 11 P

This Vitamin D issue does not effect any other code dates of these products or any other Blue Buffalo dog or cat foods. In addition, new bags of Wilderness Chicken, Basics Salmon and Large Breed Adult Chicken will be available on the shelves so you can continue to feed BLUE with complete confidence.

If your dog has shown any adverse reaction to the recalled products, have him checked by your veterinarian. Typical symptoms might include excessive water intake and/or excessive urination, and in some cases vomiting. Blue Buffalo will reimburse any veterinary or testing expenses related to illness caused by these products.

As Blue Buffalo is a family founded and run company, I am personally very upset about this and apologize for any discomfort or inconvenience that this situation has caused you or your pet family members. Product quality and safety have been, and always will be our top priority, and we’ve taken some serious corrective action to insure that this type of human error will never happen again.

Sincerely, Bill Bishop

Here is my personal response to that letter - From a next steps standpoint, all products with the specific manufacturing dates in question will be removed from retailer’s shelves. If you have any products with the codes shown below you should stop feeding them immediately. How about we are doing everything possible to get this off the shelves immediately and will be working day and night to make sure they are removed, stores put up signs to let the consumer know not to feed these foods? Again, most consumers do not know until it's too late - if you bought dog food, you don't go back the following few days to see if it's been recalls. The media is too lax on recalls and it's up to protective pet parents to spread the word when they see or hear anything about foods being recalled (this goes for human products too).

Here is another statement - In addition, new bags of Wilderness Chicken, Basics Salmon and Large Breed Adult Chicken will be available on the shelves so you can continue to feed BLUE with complete confidence. Ok, WHEN will they be available? Will there be big signs telling people about the recalls or will it be brushed under the table? Pet food companies need to step up and start taking responsibility for their actions and when there is a problem use every venue possible to get the word out - we are talking about dog and cats lives here! I get Blue Buffalo's newsletter and I have not seen this information come through yet :(

One last note, Life's Abundance, which is shipped direct to consumers within 4-6 weeks of being made, keeps track of every customers orders. Some may say - why does this matter? As you can see it would be HUGE in case of any problem where a company can pull a lot number, have the names, addresses, phone number and email of the people that purchased that food and get in touch with them immediately. Life's Abundance has been in business since 1999 and has never been on a recall list - how many other pet food companies can say that? It's all about strict manufacturing guidelines and caring about what ingredients are being added.

Want to check if your dog or cat food has ever been recalled? Stay on top of it at http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/newpetfoodrecalls/

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