Feeding your dog is an important part of providing basic care. When you discover that your dog’s food or that another popular brand of dog food has been recalled, you may experience anxiety about feeding your furry friend.
In my career as a veterinarian I’ve seen numerous food recalls that impacted my own clients and patients. Virtually every food manufacturer has had their products recalled at one point or another, but let’s look at some currently “safe” options if you’re worried about the safety of your dog’s food.
What Brands of Dog Food Have Not Been Recalled?
Generally speaking, dog foods that are made in America with American sourced ingredients in small batches tend to be the least likely to have a recall. The larger the company’s production, the more likely there is to be an issue.
There are some brands of dog food which have not been recalled, such as:
- A Pup Above
- Canine Caviar
- Nom Nom Now
- Pet Plate
- The Farmer’s Dog
- Verus Pet Foods Inc
While a company never having a recall may sound impressive, it does not necessarily mean that there have never been problems with the dog food they produce. A company may advertise that they have never had a recall, however, their products may still have had problems that would have warranted a recall, but they may have been proactive to enough to avoid an official recall being on record.
Keep in mind that this could still be considered good news because they are vigilant and have good quality control measures in place, otherwise the issue would not have been discovered.
The Midwestern Pet Foods Aflatoxin Recall
In December 2020, Midwestern Pet Foods recalled particular formulas of their Sportmix foods. Sadly, this recall occurred as a result of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receiving reports of the death and sickness of many dogs who consumed these particular Sportmix foods.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture then tested Midwestern’s Sportmix foods and discovered the presence of Aflatoxins, which is a toxin that originates from a type of mold called Aspergillus flavus. This mold grows on grains such as corn, which is a frequently used ingredient in pet food. When high levels of aflatoxins are consumed, dogs may become sick or die.
According to the (FDA), pets effected by aflatoxin poisoning often display symptoms such as:
- Loss of appetite
Sadly, aflatoxin poisoning can be fatal. A scary potential effect of this poisoning is that some pets do not show symptoms, but suffer liver damage.
The Basics of Dog Food Recalls
Dog food recalls are discovered either by:
- Strong quality control procedures.
- Random Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testing.
- Complaints reported by pet parents or veterinarians.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are three types of recalls:
- A company may choose to initiate the recall on their food voluntarily.
- The FDA may request that a company recall their product.
- The FDA may order that a company recall their product.
Why Do Dog Foods Get Recalled?
Dog foods are most commonly recalled for the following reasons:
- Dog food may have a nutritional imbalance, which makes pets ill by consuming too much or too little of certain nutrients.
- Dog food may contain foreign materials as a result of broken or damaged equipment.
- Dog food may have a contamination of a chemical or other harmful substance, either in the food itself, or as a result of being produced with contaminated equipment.
- Dog food may may have packaging defects which negatively impacts food safety by allowing moisture, insects, or foreign particles into the food and causing mold or bacteria to grow.
What Dog Food Brands Have Had The Most Recalls?
According to Truth About Pet Food, the manufacturers with the most recalls are:
- JM Smucker, which produces Kibbles n’ Bits, Gravy Train, Skippy, and more.
- Hills Pet, which produces Science Diet in a variety of pet food formulas including special prescription foods.
- Nestle, which produces the variety of Purina pet foods.
- Mars which produces Pedigree, Iams, and more.
Keep in mind that these are also the largest manufacturers of dog foods out there. When they have a recall, they are millions of pounds of dog foods. Of course, large companies such as these will be at the top of any list that details food recalls in pounds of food.
Unfortunately, there are many false reports of dog food recalls on the internet. Always carefully consider the source of a recall before trusting the information and spreading it to others.
For the most accurate information about dog food recalls, use the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Pet Food Recall page. However, this page only shows recent recalls; for a true recall history of a dog food, use the FDA’s Recall Archive tool here.
The American Veterinary Medical Association maintains a recall list here that is useful to research the recall history of your dog’s food past recent recalls as well.
According to Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, a recall does not necessarily mean that a dog food should be completely written off. If a company acts quickly and puts measures in place to prevent the same issue from occurring again in the future, the recall actually has the potential to improve their production procedures.
What Are The Most Common Symptoms Of A Dog That Is Getting Sick From Its Food?
Dogs who exhibit the following symptoms may have eaten a recalled food:
- Lethargy or sluggishness
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice (yellowish tint to the eyes, gums or skin due)
- Unexplained bruising or bleeding
- Increased or decreased thirst
- Increased or decreased urination
- Diarrhea (may contain blood)
- Excessive drooling
If you are are trying to determine if your dog’s food is the cause of his or her illness, watch this video by Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN) to gain some insight into what may be going on.
If your dog’s food is not listed as recalled on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Recalls and Withdrawals page but you suspect that it caused your dog to become ill, seek veterinary care for your dog immediately and consider reporting it to the FDA. Learn more about reporting dog food to the FDA here.
What Do I Do If My Dog’s Food Has A Recall?
If your dog’s food is recalled, follow these steps:
- The first step that you should take is looking up the lot number of his or her food to verify if the food you purchased is included in the recall.
- If your dog’s food was part of a recall, stop feeding it to your dog immediately. If you are unsure or cannot verify if it was part of a recall, still stop feeding it to be safe.
- Dispose of any impacted food immediately. Be sure to enclose it in two trash bags and put it in a trash can secured inside until trash collection to protect wildlife or stray companion animals from being impacted by the recalled food.
- Monitor your dog for symptoms of illness and if your dog appears unwell, schedule a veterinary appointment promptly. Even if your dog seems fine, erring on the side of caution by scheduling a veterinary examination would be a reasonable precaution.
- Your veterinarian may recommend blood work if they are concerned that the tainted food may be causing issues with organs such as the liver or kidneys.
How Can I Protect My Dog From Recalled Food?
Follow these tips to help protect your dog from recalled foods:
- Follow the American Veterinary Medical Association and sign up for recall alerts with Petful to be aware of dog food recalls.
- Save the lot number from every item of food you purchase for your dog. The lot number helps you to identify if his or her food is part of a recall efficiently.
- Carefully research any food before feeding it to your dog. Before choosing to feed your dog a new food, search for it on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Recalls and Withdrawals page.
- Consider a carefully produced food, such as A Pup Above, which is cooked in a USDA inspected, human grade kitchen, and which allows you to see the origin and description of the ingredients in every individual bag of your dog’s food.
- Store your pet’s food according to the Food and Drug Administrations (FDA)’s pet food storage recommendations.
- Always carefully inspect the packaging of your dogs food when purchasing it. Never purchase dog food in a damaged or open container.
- Always carefully inspect your dogs food before feeding it. Never feed dog food that is moist, moldy, or smells repulsive.
Dog foods become subject to recalls resulting from contaminations which have the potential to make dogs who eat the food and the humans who handle the food ill or cause fatalities. By carefully researching a brand before feeding it to your dog and by carefully inspecting the packaging of your dog’s food, you can protect your best furry friend.