Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

April 27, 2007

Lab Services Uncovers Possible Answer to Pet Deaths

Scientists at the University of Guelph have made a chemical discovery that may explain how pets in the United States and Canada were affected by chemical contaminants discovered in recently recalled pet food products.

Perry Martos and colleagues in the Agriculture and Food Laboratory at Guelph’s Laboratory Services have found that melamine and cyanuric acid can react with one another to form crystals that may impair kidney function. Tests conducted at the University’s Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) and elsewhere have identified these crystal-like substances in the kidneys and urine of affected animals.

The experiments conducted at the Agriculture and Food Laboratory showed that the chemical composition of the crystals that are formed when these two compounds interact matches the composition of urinary crystals removed from affected animals. Tests conducted at the University’s Laboratory and in the United States have identified the compounds as contaminants in gluten used to make a variety of pet food and treat products.

Their findings provide evidence of the possible link of these compounds and the deaths of pets exposed to contaminated food.

“This is a significant finding,” said John Melichercik, director of Analytical Services in Lab Services. “We knew these two compounds had been implicated, but because neither seemed sufficiently toxic on its own, it was unclear how they might have been involved.”

Melamine is used in making plastics and in other industrial processes and cyanuric acid is commonly used in pool chlorination.

As a partner with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in the Ontario Animal Health Surveillance Network, the AHL contributes to maintaining healthy animals and safe food in Ontario.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Deirdre Healey, 519-824-4120, Ext. 56982, or Rebecca Kendall, Ext. 56039.

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