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Clinicopathologic, histologic, and toxicologic findings in 70 cats inadvertently exposed to pet food contaminated with melamine and cyanuric acid

Rachel E. Cianciolo VMD1, Karyn Bischoff DVM, DABVT, MS2, Joseph G. Ebel BS3, Thomas J. Van Winkle VMD, DACVP4, Richard E. Goldstein DVM, DACVIM5, and Laurie M. Serfilippi VMD, DACLAM6
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  • 1 Department of Pathology and Toxicology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
  • | 2 Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.
  • | 3 Animal Health Diagnostic Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.
  • | 4 Department of Pathology and Toxicology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
  • | 5 Hospital for Animals, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.
  • | 6 Aspen Hollow Veterinary Services, RR1 Box 105, Thompson, PA 18465.

Abstract

Objective—To document clinicopathologic, histologic, and toxicologic findings in cats inadvertently exposed to pet food contaminated with melamine and cyanuric acid.

Design—Case series.

Animals—70 cats from a single cattery inadvertently fed contaminated food that was the subject of a March 2007 recall.

Procedures—Clinical signs, clinicopathologic and histopathologic findings, and results of toxicologic analyses were recorded

Results—Clinical signs were identified in 43 cats and included inappetence, vomiting, polyuria, polydipsia, and lethargy. Azotemia was documented in 38 of the 68 cats for which serum biochemical analyses were performed 7 to 11 days after consumption of the contaminated food. One cat died, and 13 were euthanized. Histologic examination of kidney specimens from 13 cats revealed intratubular crystalluria, tubular necrosis with regeneration, and subcapsular perivascular inflammation characterized by perivascular fibroplasia or fibrosis and inflammation with intravascular fibrin thrombi. Toxicologic analyses revealed melamine and cyanuric acid in samples of cat food, vomitus, urine, and kidneys.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—In cats unintentionally fed pet food contaminated with melamine and cyanuric acid, the most consistent clinical and pathologic abnormalities were associated with the urinary tract, specifically tubular necrosis and crystalluria.

Abstract

Objective—To document clinicopathologic, histologic, and toxicologic findings in cats inadvertently exposed to pet food contaminated with melamine and cyanuric acid.

Design—Case series.

Animals—70 cats from a single cattery inadvertently fed contaminated food that was the subject of a March 2007 recall.

Procedures—Clinical signs, clinicopathologic and histopathologic findings, and results of toxicologic analyses were recorded

Results—Clinical signs were identified in 43 cats and included inappetence, vomiting, polyuria, polydipsia, and lethargy. Azotemia was documented in 38 of the 68 cats for which serum biochemical analyses were performed 7 to 11 days after consumption of the contaminated food. One cat died, and 13 were euthanized. Histologic examination of kidney specimens from 13 cats revealed intratubular crystalluria, tubular necrosis with regeneration, and subcapsular perivascular inflammation characterized by perivascular fibroplasia or fibrosis and inflammation with intravascular fibrin thrombi. Toxicologic analyses revealed melamine and cyanuric acid in samples of cat food, vomitus, urine, and kidneys.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—In cats unintentionally fed pet food contaminated with melamine and cyanuric acid, the most consistent clinical and pathologic abnormalities were associated with the urinary tract, specifically tubular necrosis and crystalluria.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Cianciolo's present address is the Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.

The authors thank Joseph Hillebrandt and Kerry Manzell for technical assistance, Randall Lovell and Scott Moroff for expertise and guidance, and Hollis Erb for assistance with statistical analysis.

Address correspondence to Dr. Bischoff.