Pet food recalls: Is your pet’s food safe?

tuckered outWhat should I feed my dog or cat? This is the question every new pet owner wants to know.  There have been several pet food recalls in the news recently, making it more important than ever to be aware of what NOT to feed your pet.   At least 15 people have become sick from Salmonella and at least two dogs have confirmed illnesses of the same strain of Salmonella that infected the owners. According to an article by the Vin News Service, there have been six complaints to the FDA of death attributed to the recalled food in 5 dogs and 1 cat as well as 50 other claims from pet owners. It is unknown how many other cases may be unreported. The illnesses, caused by two different strains of Salmonella, have been linked to Diamond pet food facilities in South Carolina and Missouri.  They include pet foods that are manufactured under at least 10 different brands.

Salmonella can be transmitted from animals to people.  It can also be contracted from handling contaminated pet food.  The signs in dogs and cats, similar to in people, include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, decreased appetite and abdominal pain.  Some dogs and cats may become carriers and not show symptoms yet can infect humans and other animals. Young children, older adults and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website, washing hands is the single most important way to prevent this and other potential pet food related illness.  Children should not be allowed to handle pet food.  Pet food should be stored away from the kitchen.  Bowls and utensils should be properly washed avoiding cross contamination to food preparation areas and kitchen sinks.

The FDA is also warning consumers to be cautious about feeding chicken jerky treats made in China. About 900 complaints have been filed with the Food and Drug Administration regarding pets that may have become ill from feeding chicken jerky treats. According to a report by MSNBC, the most common brands named were Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brands produced by Nestle Purina PetCare Co., and Milo’s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats, produced by the Del Monte Corp. Both companies get their chicken products from Nanjing, China. The FDA has been unable to identify a specific cause for the reported illnesses and has not issued a recall.  None the less it is wise to read labels and avoid any products you are unsure about.

If you think your pet has become ill from a contaminated food contact your veterinarian.  If you think someone in your family may have become ill contact your medical provider.

Increasingly over the past several years it has become clear that as consumers we need to be more aware of what we and our pets are eating.  While researching this blog I found that the FDA and the CDC websites offer updates on these and other recalls as well as useful information on preventng Salmonella and other potentially dangerous diseases.

While I don’t want to contribute to fear and hysteria about feeding our pets it is important to be aware of the issues.  In my opinion some companies are more reputable than others in their manufacturing and marketing practices. My advice is to stick with high quality foods that have the research and science behind them. Watch for recalls and ask a veterinarian with knowledge of pet nutrition if you have questions about your pet’s food or for suggestions on what foods are safe and nutritious.

Dr. Ginger Garlie  -Dr. Ginger