Friday, 6 April 2012

Source found for 1 chemical in dead cat; others a mystery

JAMAICA — Vermilion County health officials have discovered the source of one of the toxic chemicals found in a dead cat in Jamaica.

But the mystery of how this cat got sick and how nine other animals died continues.

Vermilion County Health Department Environmental Health Director Douglas Toole said he learned Wednesday that a cat who had been found to have toxic chemicals in its system received some of those chemicals when it was put down by a veterinarian.

But lab technicians at Michigan State University still found a toxic amount of a household medication not used by the veterinarian in the cat's system.

Toole said that a locally owned cat was convulsing, salivating and suffering from diarrhea when it was found by Vermilion County animal control workers in Jamaica on Feb. 22.

Toole said the cat was taken to Stateline Hillcrest Small Animal Hospital in rural Danville, where a veterinarian decided to euthanize the cat to end its suffering.

The cat was then sent to Michigan State University for toxicology testing. It was found to have both pentobarbital and salicylic acid in its system.

Pentobarbital is a drug sometimes used by veterinarians to put down dogs or cats. Toole said it is typically only found in an injectable form.

According to a report from Michigan State University, salicylic acid is a medication used in the removal of warts, to ease aches and reduce fevers. The report said the substance can be toxic in large quantities.

This cat is among 10 animals, mostly pets, discovered ill or dead in this Vermilion County community since mid-February.

According to Toole, four dogs were found dead between Feb. 19 and 22.

When J.R. Mosay of the Vermilion County Animal Control Department investigated the area on Feb. 22, he also found this cat and a dead skunk.

Mosay took the cat to the veterinarian in rural Danville, where it was put down.

One week later, Mosay found a fifth dead dog on Jamaica's north side.

Then, on March 14, three starlings were found dead on the northwest side of Jamaica. Two of them were sent to the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois, which determined that neither had West Nile Virus or an infectious disease.

The birds were then forwarded to Michigan State University, where tests indicated they died from exposure to carbofuran, a pesticide sometimes used by farmers to control pests on a variety of crops.

Then the dead cat and one of the dead dogs, a female rat terrier, were taken to Michigan State University for toxicology testing.

According to Toole, the rat terrier was found to have the insecticide carbofuran in her system, as well as a trace of strychnine and a trace of pentobarbital.

According to the Michigan State University report, "Strychnine is extremely poisonous. It is chiefly used in poison baits for rodents."

Toole said on Wednesday that the rat tarrier either directly ate the carbofuran or ate a portion of a bird that had eaten carbofuran.

"The cat's stomach was empty, according to the toxicology results," Toole said. "We can't say for certain it ate a bird, but it seems possible."

Toole said that no toxicology tests were performed on four of the dogs, the skunk and one of the three birds.

"We may never know what caused the four dogs or the skunk to die," Toole said. "And we may never know for sure how the two birds and the dog and the cat came to ingest the various toxic chemicals they had in their system."

Toole said his office will continue to monitor the situation.

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