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Dog deaths linked to contaminated food from SC plant

Updated:
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ A Camden dog may be the first in South Carolina to have died after eating tainted food from a Gaston plant, and the state veterinarian says three animal deaths may be linked to the same toxic fungus.

Diamond Pet Foods issued a recall this week of 19 varieties of its dog and cat food products after several animals in New York died. The food may be contaminated with aflatoxin, which comes from a fungus found on corn and other grains, and can cause severe liver damage in pets.

Symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning include lethargy, loss of appetite, yellowish eyes and gums, and severe or bloody diarrhea.

Officials in South Carolina told Scott Brown that his yellow Labrador, Lacy, was the first presumed case in the state.

Veterinarian Eric Rundlett treated Lacy and warned that once symptoms appear, there's little time for treatment.

``Really, it's amazing how fast (Lacy) went from doing OK to crashing,'' said Rundlett, who works at Wateree Animal Hospital in Camden. ``They can be on it a couple of weeks or a month, and not show any signs. ... We're not really sure how long it takes to build up.''

Brown said his dog ate Diamond Premium Adult Dog Food for two to three weeks. He took her to the vet when she stopped eating one day last week. ``I thought it was going to be a regular drop-off,'' he said.

Instead, she was taken to Palmetto Regional Emergency Hospital for Animals in Elgin.

``She could barely lift her head up,'' Brown said. ``Her face was all swollen.''

Brown decided to euthanize her and asked vets to find out what killed her. Brown got the results Wednesday _ the same day he heard about the pet-food recall.

State Veterinarian Tony Caver said South Carolina has five presumed cases linked to aflatoxin _ three fatal.

The Missouri-based company said the batches sold under the brand names Diamond, Country Value and Professional were made at the company's Gaston plant and have date codes of March 1, 2007 through June 21, 2007.
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