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Photograph of Dr. Deirdre Adduci holding a framed picture of her and her dog Tornado Jude. Tornado Jude passed away on Jan. 13 after eating tainted dog food, Adduci said.

Photo by Christina Ramey
Tribune Chronicle

CORTLAND — A local pet owner who says her dog died after eating a tainted can of Hill’s Prescription Diet canine chicken and vegetable stew is asking for an apology from the company.

On Wednesday, pet owner Dr. Deirdre K. Adduci called the online store where she bought the food and the Hill’s Pet Nutrition company.

“They put me through to the customer service people and I was on hold for 56 minutes,” said Adduci. “Out of all that, no ‘I’m sorry.’”

Tornado Jude, a German shepherd/rottweiler mix, died Jan. 13 after he ate the dog food, said Adduci.

“He was 15-years-old, but he was perfectly fine,” Adduci said. “He made it through being run over, having ACL surgery, becoming a therapy dog for 14 years.”

Tornado Jude was a certified therapy dog and helped individuals with their depression, Adduci said. She would bring him to work with her every day at Restoration Counseling, LLC. There wasn’t a day he wasn’t at work with her, Adduci said.

“He wasn’t a dog, he was my son,” she said.

Tornado June received recognition as a therapy dog, as have her other dogs — Hurricane Deirdre and Blizzard Leigh.

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“(They) received senator citations and awards from the house of representatives for their service work and from the (Tribune Chronicle),” Adduci said. “They both got orchids.”

Adduci said Tornado June was a perfectly healthy dog, but within hours of hours of eating the tainted food, something seemed “off.”

“My husband and I are sitting there,” Adduci said. “I called his (Tornado’s) dad, my ex-husband, he came over. We don’t know what’s wrong with him. We’re in a panic.”

Adduci said it didn’t take long for Tornado June to start showing symptoms of bloat, the condition that she said caused his death.

According to the American Kennel Club website, bloat is a condition where the “stomach fills with air, pressure builds, stopping blood from the hind legs and abdomen from returning to the heart. Blood pools at the back end of the body, reducing the working blood volume and sending the dog into shock.”

Without treatment, it only takes a couple hours for the dog to go into shock, their heart rate rises and the pulse gets weaker and leads to death, according to the AKC.

“Vitamin D toxicity is rare,” the Hill’s company said in a statement emailed to the Tribune Chronicle. “In exceptional cases, continuous consumption of high levels can result in serious health issues, so we are assessing every pet parent inquiry thoroughly.”

By the time Tornado June was seen by a veterinarian, his stomach had twisted.

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“He ate the food and then had all the symptoms, with the vomiting, the drooling and all those things and his stomach twisted,” Adduci said. “So, this is a painful death.”

The food wasn’t recalled until Jan. 31, according to statement on Hill’s website, Hillspet.com.

According to a press release, the company voluntarily recalled “select canned dog food products due to potentially elevated levels of vitamin D.”

“We’re heartbroken about this situation, which involves a limited quantity of our canned dog foods, and we are taking it very seriously,” the Hill’s statement read. “Hill’s people are working with pet parents to listen to their concerns.”

“I have my can, I have the lot number, I have everything,” Adduci said. “We know that he ate this food and he died.

“Had they recalled it in time, it wouldn’t have been in my pantry. I don’t feed it to him everyday, it was a treat because he was really hungry that day.”

Adduci said she didn’t find out about the recall until she read an article on Tuesday. The food in her pantry matched the second canned dog food item on the list.

“I don’t want anything from them, I just want them to say that they’re sorry,” Adduci said. “Fifty-six minutes on the phone and I interacted with someone and never once did I get an ‘I’m sorry,’ and they never came, beside the receptionist, they never came to the phone. She knew he died. She knew it was a painful death. She knew he was a therapy dog for 15 years. She knew I called him my son. She never said, no one said, ‘I’m sorry.’”

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