Doctors Caution Thousands More Pet Deaths Expected

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 10:46 AM

March 22, 2007 — -- As investigators look for a cause behind the 15 confirmed pet food deaths, doctors at New York's Animal Medical Center suspect there will be a much larger rash of cases after learning of an additional 200 cases of kidney failure in animals.

Doctors at the hospital, which is considered the Mayo Clinic of veterinary medicine, say they noticed the kidney failure while studying sick animals from last Friday to Monday, and traced the cases back to the 60 million cans and pouches of recalled food from Menu Food.

"I was shocked and surprised, acute kidney failure is not a common problem," veterinarian Cathy Langston told ABC's David Kerley. "I've already heard about 200 cases, and so I bet that there are probably going to be thousands."

The Food and Drug Administration will review the latest details in the tainted pet food recall Friday, March 30, at 10 a.m. ET. Watch the news conference live on ABC News Now.

So far, the government and the pet food maker, which sells food under 91 brand names, have confirmed 15 deaths. But the investigation to locate the toxic contaminant that caused the kidney failure in animals has yet to point to a cause.

The usual suspects, mold or a heavy metal, have already been eliminated.

"This is very much like finding a needle in a haystack," said Don Smith of the Cornell Veterinary School. "We're going to keep working at this until we find the cause."

Investigators now look at the possibility that a pesticide or chemical may have been on the wheat used in Menu Foods dog and cat food.

The Food and Drug Administration, which was notified of the tainted food one day before the recall, said it's frustrated and realizes the growing crisis is an emotional one.

"This is tragic," said Stephen Sundolf of the FDA's Veterinary Medicine group. "It is certainly uncommon. We expect pet food to be safe."

And it's a crisis, if the New York hospital is right, that will not end for weeks.

"I'm worried that there are more deaths to come from chronic renal failure over the next several months," Langston said. "It's not over."