A preliminary report from the Veterinary School of the Federal University of Minas Gerais identified the presence of monoethylene glycol in the body of one of the dogs killed on suspicion of intoxication after consuming a Bassar-branded snack. At least nine dog deaths are investigated in Minas in São Paulo.
“We have done some tests and so far we have identified monoethylene glycol in one of the many products we are receiving, but there are still many others to be sent for analysis, which is still in progress. There is still a lot of work to be done to reach a more precise conclusion”, says the criminal expert of the Civil Police of Minas Gerais Renata Fontes.
Also known as ethylene glycol, the substance is commonly used for refrigeration and is found in batteries, car engines and freezers or refrigerators. “In the care of animals, we suspect this liquid when we have the history that the animal licked one of these machines”, explains Anne Pierre Helzel, technical advisor at the Regional Council of Veterinary Medicine of the State of São Paulo (CRMV-SP).
“As it tastes sweet, animals usually want to ingest it and don’t stop. It is different from other poisons that taste disgusting”, explains Anne. According to her, the ingestion of ethylene glycol leaves “some characteristic lesions” that can be observed by microscopic examination, which makes an autopsy work essential in intoxicated dogs.
The veterinary doctor also warns that, once ingested, the substance is quickly absorbed by the animals’ bodies. Thus, rapid identification is paramount for treatment. “If we manage to catch the case up to an hour later, we do gastric lavage to remove what was absorbed. Now, if the liquid passes from the stomach, it is absorbed and can cause nausea and diarrhea, for example.”
After intoxication, the main area affected is the animal’s nervous system, which starts to present symptoms similar to alcohol intoxication: it becomes “frustrated, sleepy and apathetic in a corner”, has motor incoordination, cannot walk in a straight line and staggers or falls, and loses balance reflex.
“After the liquid is processed, the animal may have acidosis and will try to reduce the amount of hydrogen in its own blood. Then it will hyperventilate. He is prostrate and panting. At the same time, the body will try to eliminate ethylene glycol and metabolic acids, but when this passes through the urine, it causes necrosis and then kidney failure,” points out Anne.
Ethylene glycol is the same liquid that caused the poisoning of 29 people who consumed Backer beer in 2019. At the time, ten patients died after ingesting the drink. In a statement, Bassar Pet Food, manufacturer of the snacks consumed by the animals this week, said that it collaborates with the investigations and provides guidance to consumers who contact the company.
Anne points out that, in order to maintain the safety of the animals, the main point of the investigation must now be to identify at which stage of production the alleged contamination may have been generated. “It’s not that someone maliciously bought and added ethylene glycol or used inferior products. But it could have happened that a machine leaked or had something with the raw material.”
On Friday afternoon, the Ministry of Agriculture reported that it had banned the Bassar factory in São Paulo and ordered the recall of the products. In a statement, the company said that it had stopped production at its factory “until the suspicions of contamination of pets involving batches of its products are fully clarified”. “The company is also hiring a specialized company to carry out a detailed inspection of all production processes and machinery at its factory in São Paulo.”