Victoria’s chief vet calls for stricter pet food regulations amid investigation into dog deaths

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Victoria’s chief veterinarian calls for binding animal feed standards and calls back after the death of 12 dogs.

Important points:

  • Meat Processing Authority PrimeSafe and Agriculture Victoria are investigating a spate of dog deaths in the state
  • The exact cause of death has not yet been determined
  • Victoria’s chief vet says the entire supply chain is being investigated

On Friday, Agriculture Victoria published a pet food outbreak alert instructing people not to feed their animals fresh meat from east Victoria while the investigations were in progress.

The ABC estimates that 12 dogs have died and more than 50 have been treated for liver toxicity, identifying links to raw meat.

The sick dogs all ate meat from the Gippsland-based Maffra Knackery, also known as Backman’s Meats and Backman’s Greyhound Supplies.

The companies were contacted but not commented on.

PrimeSafe and Agriculture Victoria are investigating after an East Gippsland veterinarian informed them of the deaths in late June.

An exact cause has not been identified.

Graeme Cooke says the investigation is “very complex”.



“Complex investigation”

Victoria’s chief vet Graeme Cook said veterinarians, animal welfare officers and specialist animal health epidemiologists were working to find out what caused the deaths.

“We are currently running several tests in different laboratories in Australia,” he said.

“This is a very complex investigation with many, many different lines of investigation.”

Dr. Cooke said a number of dead dogs had been examined.

He said the focus is on food, food additives, treats, water sources, environmental exposure, drugs and poisoning.

Cooke said the examiners had “ruled out infections, canine leptospirosis, ehrlichiosis and aflatoxins”.

He also said farmers and the “multitude of species” in the pet food supply chain are also part of the investigation.

“The entire chain has been studied, from potential sources on the farm to ingestion in the dog owner’s household,” said Dr. Cooke.

“Unfortunately, so far there is no clear connection as to what could be the cause – but we know that there is a Gippsland factor.”

A dog in a meadow approaches a bowl of food. Victorian authorities are warning pet owners not to feed animals raw meat from Gippsland between May and July 2021.

ABC Gippsland: Emma Field


Push for stricter regulations

Dr. Cooke said the outbreak alert was issued nationwide because of dogs in the Melbourne suburbs as well as other areas.

“Whether you are a dog owner in Melbourne or further afield in the west of the state … people (should) stop feeding pets with fresh or raw meat from the Gippsland area between May 31st and July 3rd,” he said.

Dr. Cooke is behind a push by the Australian Veterinary Association and the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia to lift standards and regulations in the pet food industry, including mandatory recalls when animals get sick from their food.

This was recommended by a 2018 study by the Federal Senate, but has little support from the coalition government.

“There are steps to raise standards in the pet food industry and, as animal welfare supporters, we would all stand behind it,” said Dr. Cooke.

Pet owners with dead or sick pets are also annoyed by the lack of regulation.

A black and brown dog lying down on a pillow. Rottweiler Brandy is back home in East Gippsland after weeks of treatment.



Emotional and financial tribute

Bairnsdale pet owner Sam, who didn’t want her last name used, took her four-year-old Rottweiler to the vet on June 24th.

Brandy started throwing up after eating meat from the Doggie Den pet store, which issued a voluntary recall of their meat on July 2 after discovering animals were getting sick.

Brandy was diagnosed with acute liver failure and was transferred to a veterinary clinic in Melbourne.

She later developed stomach ulcers, fluid in her stomach, and difficulty breathing.

Sam said the bills hit $ 20,000.

“My husband and I don’t have children, so Brandy is our baby,” she said.

Brandy is home now and the couple are “very relieved” – but the dog has to take 28 tablets a day for the next 10 days.

Sam said she and her husband are unsure of the long-term effects of liver failure.

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