By LIAM DURKIN
SUPPORT groups have been established for dog owners affected by the recent spate of liver toxicity in the region.
The disease led to the deaths of more than 20 dogs and 40 who became seriously ill, many of whom were based in Gippsland.
An investigation by Primesafe and Agriculture Victoria into the deaths concluded recently, and found the natural toxin indospicine in pet meat originating from Maffra District Knackery as the cause.
No charges were laid over the sale and manufacture because no pet food manufacturing laws were broken and there was no fault in the supply chain.
The dogs ate meat from the knackery, which received some horses from the Northern Territory where the indigofera plant producing the toxin is known to grow.
Indospicine is a naturally occurring hepatotoxin (toxin that causes liver damage) and is tasty to livestock because it is high in protein.
Dogs however are especially sensitive to the toxic effect of indospicine in meat from livestock that have grazed the indigofera plant.
Voluntary withdrawals and consumer level recalls are considered to have removed indospicine-contaminated pet meat from the supply chain, however, the affected products may still be in storage in pet owners’ freezers. Neither cooking nor freezing will destroy the toxin.
Because of this, pet owners have still been urged to seek total caution and not feed their pet any fresh or frozen raw pet meat sourced from Maffra District Knackery between what has been described as the ‘risk window’ of May 31 and July 3
All kinds of pet meat fitting that description, including products described as beef and kangaroo pet meat, should be considered at risk of indospicine contamination, due to the blending of pet meats during processing.
While the case appears closed on the surface, the saga has renewed calls to increase pet food standards – starting with a nationwide government regulation – as well as expediting findings of a working group established by the Commonwealth in 2018 tasked with reviewing pet food regulation.
A number of bodies have written to federal agricultural minister David Littleproud, including state agricultural minister Mary-Anne Thomas, the Australian Veterinary Association and the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia.
Australian Veterinary Association representative Dr Sue Foster said current stipulations were not adequate.
“Currently, the only standard that exists is a voluntary standard and that standard is not audited,” she said.
Signs of liver disease include sudden loss of appetite, lethargy or eyes turning yellow in a previously healthy animal.
Pet owners should get in touch with their private veterinarian immediately for assessment and treatment if their dog is sick.
Indospicine testing is available in Queensland and veterinarians can reach their regular laboratory service to arrange sample submission and confirm fee-for-service arrangements.
Information and results from the investigation can be found via agriculture.vic.gov.au/biosecurity/animal-diseases/general-livestock-diseases/indospicine-toxicity-in-dogs.
Those with information about the illegal processing or sale of pet meat should provide this information to PrimeSafe at www.primesafe.vic.gov.au/contact-us/complaints.
A Facebook support group has been established to provide a place for people to share their concerns or talk to others who have been affected.
By LIAM DURKIN