Orijen cat food

Veterinary neurological specialists reported a series of cats showing serious neurological signs in November 2008 - pelvic limb ataxia progressing over weeks to paraplegia or tetraplegia.

All affected cats had been fed Orijen dry pet food imported from Canada from February 2008 with the first known cases occurring in September. Tests on the food revealed no nutritional abnormalities or known toxins.

Manufacturer Champion Pet Foods issued a voluntary withdrawal notice on 20 November. The notice suggested that irradiation of the food on its importation to Australia may be the cause of any abnormal responses to the product by Australian cats.

After media coverage of the product withdrawal, the AVA requested members to discuss any suspect cases with the specialists who first identified the problem. A month later, a member wrote to all members reporting that new cases continued to emerge, and highlighted mainstream television coverage of the story.

While irradiation of the food was one of the options offered to the product manufacturer as a condition of importation, further investigation by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) found evidence in the scientific literature that the high levels of irradiation required for cat food (substantially more that required for imported human food) may be detrimental to cats. AQIS announced that irradiation was no longer an option for imported cat food.

On 20 December, Champion Pet Foods offered to help pay for the medical treatment of affected cats and announced that it had ceased importing all pet food to Australia.

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