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Vet Pathol. 2008 May;45(3):417-26. doi: 10.1354/vp.45-3-417.

Characterization of melamine-containing and calcium oxalate crystals in three dogs with suspected pet food-induced nephrotoxicosis.

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  • 1Department of Veterinary Pathology, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, 6825 16th Street, Washington, DC 20306-6000, USA.


The histomorphologic characteristics and chemical composition of the crystals associated with suspected pet food-induced nephrotoxicosis in 3 dogs are described. Kidney specimens from 2 dogs, a 3-year-old Parson Russell Terrier and a 3-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, were examined. Both developed acute renal failure after eating canned pet food on the 2007 Menu Foods recall list. The third case was a kidney specimen from a 1-year-old mixed-breed dog from a similar 2004 outbreak of canine renal failure in Taiwan, which occurred after eating a commercial dog food. Hematoxylin and eosin (HE), 72-hour Oil Red O (ORO72h), Alizarin Red S (pH 4.1-4.3), and Von Kossa stains; infrared (IR) spectroscopy; and scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray analysis (SEM/EDXA) were performed to determine the histomorphologic characteristics and chemical composition of the crystals observed in each case. Histomorphologic findings in each case included acute, marked tubular degeneration and necrosis with many intratubular birefringent crystals, and lymphoplasmacytic interstitial nephritis. In each case, most of the crystals were rough, pale brown, and stained with ORO72h but did not stain with Alizarin Red S (pH 4.1-4.3) or Von Kossa stains; these features were consistent with a plastic or lipid. IR spectroscopy and SEM/EDXA results were consistent with melamine-containing crystals. A second crystal type identified in each case was smooth and platelike with staining characteristics and IR spectroscopy and SEM/EDXA results consistent with calcium oxalate crystals. Melamine-containing crystals have distinct light microscopic, histochemical, and SEM/EDXA characteristics that facilitate their identification in tissue.

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