Owners warned, as investigations continue into cause of death of dogs

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DOG owners have been urged to take their pets to the vet immediately if they have eaten fresh or frozen raw pet meat and show signs of illness, following a spate of dog deaths across Gippsland and the Mornington Peninsula.
Agriculture Victoria and PrimeSafe, the state’s authority responsible for regulating pet food, are investigating the deaths of eight dogs and the hospitalisation of 44, to identify the potential causes of a “liver disease cluster”.
The department is aware of an additional six cases, including one death anecdotally, and says the cases were detected in three clinics in east Gippsland and in south-east Melbourne.
A causative link to locally-produced raw dog food and the disease has not been confirmed, but has been established by Agriculture Victoria as “a possible common factor”.
On June 29, Agriculture Victoria was advised of dogs that presented to a Bairnsdale veterinary clinic with clinical signs of severe liver disease and-or sudden death.
Examination of liver tissue by the department confirmed severe liver disease, but has not pinpointed the source.
The department is concerned about a possible toxicity in food, as infection and other common possibilities have been ruled out.
As of yesterday morning, testing had ruled out canine leptospirosis, acute Ehrlichia canis infection and aflatoxin.
Fresh and frozen raw meat sourced from Gippsland and sold between May 31 and July 3 is
a possible common factor, and Agriculture Victoria says it is investigating a potential connection.
One link between the cases is that affected dogs have eaten meat from the Maffra Knackery, which also trades as Backmans Meats and Backmans Greyhound Supplies.
However there is no suggestion they are at fault, with investigators focusing on all aspects of the supply chain and other possible causes.
They are looking at food, food components additives, treats and other consumed items, water sources, environmental contacts, human and veterinary medicines and poisoning.
Agriculture Victoria urged dog owners who fed their dog fresh or frozen raw pet meat bought during this time to contact a veterinarian immediately if their pet showed any signs of illness.
The meat product is distributed statewide, so Victorian dog owners have been warned to keep an eye out, as there could still be cases in areas of the state so far unassociated with the cluster.
PrimeSafe is continuing to investigate compliance with the Meat Industry Act and the Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production of Pet Meat at licenced facilities.
Agriculture Victoria is also sharing information with the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia.
Via its Facebook page, Main Street Veterinary Clinic in Bairnsdale said during the past month, it had seen more than 30 cases presenting with illness, with five deaths.
“Post mortem results have diagnosed acute toxic hepatitis and specialists are working on identifying the toxin involved,” the post reads.
“If your dog has been fed this meat, the majority of dogs don’t get sick, however, the signs to look for include excessive thirst, not eating, vomiting, lethargy, and yellowing around the eyes and gums.”
Under the direction of PrimeSafe, Bairnsdale pet supply store Doggie Den issued an urgent voluntary product recall on all “10kg bulk coarse (chopped) beef”, urging people to “stop feeding [the product] to your pets and return what is left to us”.
Sale-based pet supplier Doggy Stuff does not sell the meat associated with the disease cluster.