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[RC] Dog/Cat Food Recall--Urea? - Linda Mirams

Evidently Menu Foods has yet to identify the toxic substance
in the food.  They speculate that it might have something to
do with changing their supplier of wheat gluten.

I wonder if it could have anything to do with urea or ammonium salts
added to the grain mix somewhere along the supply chain?

My understanding is that ruminants like cows can digest and make
use of limited amounts of urea as a supplement in their diet.
(Urea is a cheap source of protein.)  Thus, commercial
cow grain mixtures frequently contain urea as an additive.
(Although excess urea can also kill a cow, google "urea poisoning".)

For other animals, like horses, urea can be toxic in two ways: 1. If
excessive amounts are ingested at one time, or 2.  If small amounts
are ingested continuously over time.  If 1., the symptoms are acute
and similar to that seen in cattle.  If 2., the accummulation over
time can produce all kinds of weird and inconsistent symptoms from
lethargy to swollen sheaths, organ damage, and death as the horse's liver
and kidneys struggle to remove the excess ammonia from the blood.

The thing is, vets are used to looking for urea poisoning in ruminants.
Most of the literature on urea poisoning is about it happening to
cows and sheep.  Vets are much less used to seeing it in dogs/cats/horses,
and then almost always in the acute 1. form, usually as a result
of eating farm or household anti-ice preparations that contain urea.

There was an "outbreak" of weird symptoms at horse farms in
Michigan almost two decades ago.  It baffled local vets until
the problem was traced to a local grain elevator that produced
bulk feed mixtures for the area farms.  They were mixing urea
into their horse feeds as well as their cow feeds, evidently
on the general principle that both forms of livestock eat
grass and so it couldn't do any harm.

Just musing...

Linda Mirams


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