Dog liver disease cluster investigation closes

Dogs are especially sensitive to the toxic effect of indospicine in meat from livestock that have grazed the Indigofera plant.

THE investigation into a cluster of dog liver disease and deaths in Victorian dogs has now closed, pointing to the natural toxin indospicine found in pet meat originating from Maffra District Knackery as the cause.
PrimeSafe and Agriculture Victoria confirmed its test results substantiated pet meat processed at the Maffra District Knackery between May 31 and July 3 contained indospicine.
As of Tuesday, Agriculture Victoria was aware of 68 dogs across Gippsland and around Melbourne, with severe liver disease.
Twenty-four of these dogs have died.
Dogs are especially sensitive to the toxic effect of indospicine in meat from livestock that have grazed the Indigofera plant.
Horse meat was detected in these pet meat samples tested during the investigation, and have been traced to a consignment of horses which had come from the Northern Territory, where the Indigofera plant is known to grow.
The horses are considered the most likely source of the contaminated meat.
The exact location of the Northern Territory property has not been released, but it has been linked to about 26 semi-feral horses sold and loaded onto a truck in late May 2021 for Queensland.
Knackery co-owner Karen Backman has previously told the Gippsland Times said the business had bought the horses from Shepparton, not the NT.
Agriculture Victoria found that indospicine toxicity is consistent with the illness seen in the dogs and other possible causes of the illness have been ruled out.
Testing found indospicine in the blood and liver of affected dogs and in pet meat samples eaten by the dogs.
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.
The investigation was described as complex, requiring the co-operation of multiple agencies and laboratories across Australia.
PrimeSafe says it is currently working with industry and the businesses involved to develop guidance to minimise the risk of future indospicine contamination incidents.
Dog owners are reminded that they should not feed their pet any fresh or frozen raw pet meat sourced from Maffra District Knackery between 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.
Neither cooking nor freezing will destroy the toxin.
Those concerned should contact their supplier to confirm the source of their pet meat.
Indospicine can build up slowly when affected meat is consumed regularly by dogs.
It can then reach levels sufficient to cause toxicity, so while dogs have been fed pet meat matching the description above and they have not become unwell, people should not assume their pet meat is safe.
Unfortunately, there may continue to be some cases of illness and death caused by Indoscpicine associated liver disease in coming weeks.
Signs of liver disease include sudden loss of appetite, lethargy or jaundice in a previously health animal.
Pet owners should contact their private veterinarian immediately for assessment and treatment if their dog is sick.
Indospicine testing is available in Queensland and veterinarians can contact their regular laboratory service to arrange sample submission and confirm fee-for-service arrangements.
If vets need more advice, they can contact Agriculture Victoria district veterinary officers or phone the customer contact centre on 136 186.
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.