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Why are there so many pet food recalls? 4 common reasons

What is a pet food recall?

A pet food recall or voluntary retrieval (to somehow lessen the blow) is an emergency recall of dog or cat foods due to it being unfit for consumption. This usually occurs when hundreds of dogs or cats become severely ill or die within a short amount of time that have been linked to consuming the same food.

In rare cases the pet foods have caused illness or deaths in people as well for example in the 2000’s people who came into contact with contaminated dry dog food contacted Salmonellosis. The FDA currently has a zero

What are common reasons for a pet food recall?

1. Contamination

By far the most common reason for pet food recalls is contamination. Contaminations by molds like Aflatoxins and bacteria like Salmonella lead the pack, even though the FDA has a zero-tolerance level for Salmonella in pet foods. There have also been cases of food being recalled for toxic materials like pentobarbitol or melamine, which is a white crystalline compound made by heating cyanamide and used in making plastics.

2. Nutritional Imbalances

There will be times when pet foods are recalled due to too much or too little of a nutrient. This occured when the Wet Noses Natural Dog Treat Company recalled approximately 51,000 packages of Simply Nourish dog food due to elevated levels of vitamin D. Excessive vitamin D can cause symptoms such as loss of appetite, drooling, increased thirst, weight loss, and death.

3. Foreign objects

This is usually due to plastic, but can include metals or other materials usually from failed or broken machinery.

4. Improper packaging

If your dog food isn’t packed properly this can lead to all types of issues like excess moisture which can lead to mold. It can also lead to air getting in dry bags of food which causes the food to expire before its time.

How do I find out about pet food recalls?

There are several avenues to find out about dog and cat food recalls

The AVMA keeps a running list of all cat and dog food recalls by brand

The Dog Food Advisor is also a good place to find out about pet food recalls

What should I do if there is recall on my pet’s food?

Find out why the food was recalled and know common symptoms of the cause so you know what to watch for in your pet. As mentioned previously the most common causes are contamination due to mold (mainly Aflatoxin) and bacteria (mainly Salmonella)

  • Symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning in dogs and cats may include sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice (yellow tint to the mucous membranes – eyes and gums), and/or diarrhea. It can be fatal in some cases.
  • Dogs and cats that become ill from Salmonella infection generally will have diarrhea that may or may not contain blood or excessive mucus, they may also experience inappetance (not wanting to eat), lethargy, vomiting, and fever.

If you suspect that your pet has eaten contaminated food contact your veterinarian immediately, he or she will most likely contact the FDA if there is an ongoing food recall at the time

Contact the manufacturer or take the bag or receipt back to the store. It is the legal duty of the food company to replace or refund any recalled products, you will most likely get a refund from the store.

Dispose of the food, if the store does not take the bag of food back, make sure to dispose of it in such a way that it can not cause harm to other animals. Dispose of any contaminated food by placing it in a heavy opaque or black garbage bag. Close and place the bag in a trash container or bury it in a landfill.  

How do I report a pet food complaint?

The FDA is the company that investigates pet food complaints. You can report a suspected illness to the FDA electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal or by calling your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators. The FDA advises working with your veterinarian to submit your pet’s medical records as part of your report.

If you are wondering what information will be needed you can read what will be helpful to include in your report here.

What happened with the massive dog food recall of grain-free foods?

Currently, there is no definitive answer about the link of grain free foods and DCM in dogs or Dilated Cardiomyopathy. To learn more read our article, the link between grain-free foods and DCM.