Vet on call: A case for strict control of animal feeds trade - Beaking Kenya News

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Monday, 8 June 2020

Vet on call: A case for strict control of animal feeds trade

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Last week, I highlighted the cry of man’s best friend coming from widespread fungal toxin poisoning that is ongoing in the country.
Many dogs have died, as reported by veterinary practitioners and many continue to suffer painful ill-health in the short and long-term.
This week alone, I have received from one family cases of six valuable pets and security dogs heavily poisoned. One has already died and the prospects for the others are bleak.
It pains me, as an animal scientist, to see this kind of preventable disaster causing havoc in my primary clients – the dogs and lots of psychological trauma to my secondary clients – the owners.
To many people in Kenya, dogs are just animals to be seen and to be fed on leftovers. This is despite the fact that they are actually part of the security arrangements in many households.
But to an increasing number of pet and animal lovers, dogs are members of the family as part of security, pets or valued companion animals.
Dogs have also become very important players in the war on drugs and terror. Some breeds are trained to sniff out contraband, explosives and tracking of terrorists and other criminals.
There are also dogs that are bred for sale, ably supporting the livelihoods of many people. Man’s best friend is useful as a family member, a valuable worker and a source of decent livelihood.
I revisit this story because of a new development that happened this week on a farm that rears about 1,000 pigs in Kiambu at any one time.
Joyce, the farm manager, had consulted me two weeks ago about two pigs that had lost appetite and appeared to have excess gas in the gut. Medically, this is called bloating.
She said she had given some Epsom salt and the pigs had recovered. Joyce is a paravet and, therefore, I trusted her diagnosis and treatment.
Epsom salt helps the gut to move and evacuate its contents. If the cause of bloating is non-infectious such as temporary indigestion, the gut environment may return to normal after evacuation and the animal recovers.
Persistence of bloating after one Epsom salt treatment requires the attention by a veterinary doctor.
Early this week, Joyce called me again and reported a pig had suddenly died at night. She shared photos of her post-mortem findings on the animal and they were surprising.
BLOATING PROBLEM
The problem was in the stomach and intestines, which were heavily inflamed and showed excessive blood supply consistent with exposure to an irritant chemical.
The stomach contained a lot of lime-like material. This led me to question her about the feed she was using.
She explained they had changed the feed from own production to ready-made commercial rations. The bloating problem had started with the current batch of feed.
Joyce further explained the feed appeared to have a lot of powdery content and stones. She shared photos showing the large size and quantity of pebbles they had isolated from one 70kg bag of the feed. These findings were disgusting because, evidently, the feed had a big problem.
The dogs and the pigs cases had several things in common. They appeared to be feed-related and they caused pain, discomfort and death to the animals.
Joyce confirmed she had already called the feed manufacturer. He visited the farm and confirmed the presence of the powdery content in the feed as well as the pebbles. He agreed to replace the feeds in stock and also compensate for the dead and two sick pigs.
Scientifically, the stones are unlikely to have had anything to do with the pigs’ illness and death. Form my observations, the powdery substance was the likely culprit.
You see, there are two sources of calcium that unknowledgeable feed manufacturers confuse. The main source of calcium in feeds is feed-grade lime, chemically called calcium carbonate.
This is safe to the animals and people who handle the feed. It tends to be in fine granules.
The mistakenly used calcium source is hydrated lime, scientifically called calcium hydroxide. It is a powdery material mainly used in the construction industry.
This chemical causes a burning effect on the skin. It irritates and burns the mouth and gut lining if consumed. It also burns the lining of the respiratory system, including the lungs, if inhaled. It irritates the eyes as well.
CHEMICAL IRRITATION
I recall one worker on a farm who told me his eyes would itch and tear every time he was scooping chicken feeds.
Once in the stomach, hydrated lime causes irritation of the stomach and intestinal lining. This interferes with intestinal movement and causes accumulation of gas.
The intestines, being very sensitive to chemical irritation, get increased supply of blood in an attempt to dilute the irritant.
This explains the heavy inflammation and redness I observed in the intestines of the dead pig.
Livestock farmers should know that the problem of substandard and even toxic feeds in Kenya is not confined to dog food and pig feed. It cuts across all animal feeds.
Some farmers tell me they cannot have consistent egg production because they see heavy fluctuations with changes in feeds. Dairy farmers often see huge milk reduction when they use dairy meal from some manufacturers.
The main problem with livestock feeds is not even the visible impacts such as disease in animals or reduced performance. It is the impact on people as we consume residues of toxins and chemicals in the feeds.
We also consume by-products of the chemicals when they are broken down in the animal body. They get to us when we eat our delicious meat, milk and eggs.
The problems occurring in feed manufacturing are not only fraudulent to the farmer. They are negatively impacting on the health of every consumer of livestock products.
It is time for the country to establish an effective regulatory system for animal feeds and pet foods.
Currently, the regulation is haphazardly carried out by the Kenya Bureau of Standards and the State Department of Livestock.
There is also an attempt by the Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers (Akefema) to do self-regulation.
This has failed miserably as demonstrated by the problems farmers are experiencing with feeds and the harmful chemicals consumers are being exposed to.
In the meantime, livestock farmers, dog and pet owners and animal health service providers should report any suspect feeds to the Director of Veterinary Services for investigation and action.

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