Did My Dog Die From Melamine?

Moses.jpg

I try to keep all posts here strictly on topic, after all this is Deep-Sea News. So if you are not interested in my personal life and only in the deep sea then stop reading now.

Last year on July 4, I faced the decision that no one with a dog should ever face. The vet looked at me and said, “We can take Moses into surgery and try to find and correct the problem or…” It is the next words that scared me the most, “or put him to sleep.” I never hurt so much except for the day I left him behind at an interstate exit when I asked for directions, not realizing he was missing until 10 miles down the road.

When I graduated from college, my girlfriend (now my wife) and I decided to get a puppy together. We eventually settled on a retriever mutt and I named him Moses. Moses tried all my patience with potty training, running away, and eating various furniture which mainly belonged to my roommate. At the end of the day, I would forget it all and Moses would curl up on the end of my bed. When I moved to New England to attend graduate school, Moses went with me, being my only friend in a new city. I gladly paid more rent and a larger deposit for a smaller place to have him with me. Of course, neither of us ever acclimated to the cold there. Eventually we traveled to the southwest for my first post doc and on to Monterey for my second.  I dreamed of the day I could afford an actual house with yard to let him run. That day never came for us.

Two years ago, Moses started having frequent diarrhea. I took him to the vet. We ran tests, forced medications into him, changed diets, and spent more money. When that didn’t work…more tests, more meds, more diet changes, and of course more money. When that didn’t work…new vets. We would get a good month here or there but ultimately Moses became lethargic and lost a substantial amount of weight and muscle mass. “Craig, what do you want to do?”, the vet asked.  The surgical option had low probabilities to find the problem, correct it, and for him to make it through.  Moses, my wife, and I fought hard but ultimately we all lost. Moses had stopped eating the weekend before maybe indicating that he was tired of the fight. I managed to utter through tears, “I think he has suffered enough.”

A year later it still bothers me. I still miss Moses and I tear up as I type this. I am still pissed because my job is to solve problems but ultimately I couldn’t solve his. I get paid to answer questions but despite all my research and endless hours reading paper after paper, I couldn’t do anything for Moses.  When the news first broke of melamine in pet food and the link to several deaths in dogs and cats, part of me hoped this is the missing answer. At least some of the symptoms are the same. Today, some treats and dry food that I fed Moses appeared on the list.  The latest is that melamine spiking of pet food may have occured over the last 15 years.

Ultimately, I don’t know if his death is related to melamine in pet food.  Too many tests were conducted for the very thorough vet to have missed it.  Yet I called the vet today and patiently await an definitive answer.  Heads will roll if it is the reason.  I should say that my last vet is by far the most competent doctor I have ever met.  She was available night and day, both professional and compassionate.  I only wish I had met her sooner.

The loss of pet is the loss of friend. The pain is immeasurable and ultimately some ass eventually says “He was just a dog.” We live in society where grief for pet can never compare to the loss of a human. Yet, many experience grief of equal intensity. What do you expect out of society that values wealth to the degree that food manufacturers are driven to add melamine to make it appear their products have more protein than they really do? But lets not just blame Chinese manufacturers, the FDA has managed to botch the entire investigation by dragging its feet and poorly informing the public.  The ironic part is that many of the products on the list are considered premium brands.  The brand that I fed Moses for 9 years was one of the best.  I specifically bought it for that reason…better ingredients, all natural, so on and so forth.  I expected not to buy a brand that contained waste from the plastic industry.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.


13 Replies to “Did My Dog Die From Melamine?”

  1. Do not be ashamed that you feel so strongly about your pet. We are not so different from them as all that, and to many of us they are family, just as any close human is.

    I’m sorry about Moses. I know my boys will go before they “should” and I dread those days. That knowledge simultaneously taints every happy moment with them but also makes me appreciate them every day.

    And after they go, I will eventually gain the strength to do it all over again.

    If you find that it was melamine, godspeed. Keep posting about it, I will contribute to your legal fund. But if not, don’t beat yourself up. Just from reading this post it’s clear to me that you’re clearly in the top tier of dog owners. Another dog deserves your care. :)

  2. This was so sad to read… I know how it feels to go through something like this — my partner and I lost two of our cats in the past year, both very unexpectedly, and with no clear idea why. With the first one at least it was fairly quick; with the second we fought harder and went through all kinds of tests and exploratory surgery and everything, only to have her die in my partner’s arms just as we thought she might be starting to get better.

    I don’t know if melamine was a factor or not — we didn’t regularly feed them any of the “cuts and gravy” type food, or others that I’ve seen on the list so far, but they keep adding more and more to the recall list, so who knows? I don’t even know if it would help to know for sure — it wouldn’t bring Bastian and Miko back, but it might at least help it all seem less senseless.

    And I very much agree that many people don’t take seriously the bonds that people can have with pets, or the grief we feel at losing them. They really are family.

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss. I and many others, I am sure, wonder whether the dear companions we have lost over the last few years also suffered from melamine/cyanuric acid poisoning. My sweet little schauzer, Polly, suffered symptoms very similar to those you describe. Her struggle ended three years ago.

    I hope that you are able to find out for sure and that it will bring you some peace, one way or another.

  4. The loss of a pet is always rough. We bond with them, they’re friends and protectors and while my late dog lived to a very very ripe 23, ( yes, 23) and it wasn’t an unexpected loss, I’d be crushed if anything happened to our two year old wingnut of a dog.

    My condolences, and i hope you do get some answers one way or the other.

  5. Sorry to hear about Moses. I hope I won’t ever face that kind of decision with my dogs. To those who use phrases like “just a dog”, here a quote from former German President Johannes Rau about his dog – “As a dog, he’s a catastophe. As a person, he’s irreplaceable”.

  6. My sincere condolences–I’ve been there too. My ‘grad school cat’, who we found when she was only about a week old, died when she was only 7 yrs old. She’d never been sick a day in her life before, and then one day I noticed her behavior change. I took her to the vet right away and had him check her out and do blood work. He assured me she was fine. In fact, she died less than 3 weeks later. But not before I’d taken her to another vet and spent several thousand dollars in emergency procedures. Turned out she had a bizarre type of tumor on her heart and there was nothing they could do. I’m sure the vet thought I was mental…one minute crying like an idiot and the next offering to let them make slides of the tumor to distribute to vets around the country for study (which they did) and asking that he let me know if he got a publication out it. It took me a year before I could consider getting another cat (we did, and she’s great)…but even though it’s been 4 years, I’M still tearing up writing this. Friends are friends, even the ones in little furry coats.

  7. The loss of pet is the loss of friend. The pain is immeasurable and ultimately some ass eventually says “He was just a dog.” We live in society where grief for pet can never compare to the loss of a human. Yet, many experience grief of equal intensity.

    This is so true.

    So many people don’t get it. I’ve overheard too many conversations between people wondering why somebody else is spending money on vet bills. “It’s just a cat!”

    They live with you. They’re friends, they’re family.

    My grandfather died recently, and while perhaps my mourning his loss was deeper than the loss of cats I’ve had, I can tell you that the loss of the cats was much more acute. Part of it is that my grandfather had a long and full (although somewhat tragedy filled) life, and there are always platitudes about how death is a natural part of life, etc. etc. But the other part is that my cats lived with me every day of my life.

    My wife and I call it “family time” when all three of the cats, she, and I happen to end up in the same room. We’re sort of joking, but sort of not.

    -Rob

  8. It’s a double-whammy for us guys. People are sympathetic when women cry for any reason. For guys, they turn their heads, embarrassed. And of course there are arbitrary time limits. We’re supposed to feel grief for a limited time, but love forever. How could the former follow the latter?

    In some ways, “pets” can be better friends than most humans. My cat Leica certainly was. The sense of isolation as others discount your grief is awful.

  9. Moses was a companion, protector,friend,and at times made you laugh, like the time he sit in the back seat of the car like a human being, and just looked out the window at the scenery. He gave his unconditional love 24/7 and he will always be missed! I sincerely hope you find the answer(s) and can find peace. You were a great dog owner, and always had MoMo, as he was sometimes called,in your best interest.I understand your pain and anguish,as I know you couldn’t have done more to find the answer to make him well again.

  10. In many ways, a pet is both an extension of an a reflection of oneself; the wagging tail or purring that we can count on, the trusting look, the poise waiting for the thrown stick, are affirmations of our own existence, acknowledgments given unconditionally (mostly) that when we push at the universe, it gives us an echo back, that we count – that the four legged or winged thing there is an animation of ourself, it moves and responds to our gestures and touches.

    When a pet dies, part of us goes, and our grief is as much for what we have lost of ourselves in our extension into the ocean of other beings as for it.

    When we have to put a pet down, we are killing part of us, willing and accepting and taking responsibility for the loss of some part of us that made us briefly more than contained strictly within the envelope of skin that walks in our shoes.

    Chronmote

  11. I have 3 dogs and I treat them, spoil them, as if they were my children. How do I get a recent updated list of recalled pet foods?

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