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Is Your Dog's Food Safe? Concerns About Pet Food Recalls

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Dog food recalls

An ongoing series of pet food recalls has shocked owners into taking a second look at their pet's food.

You've probably heard about all the pet food recalls, where one manufacturer after another is forced to recall their kibble or canned food because it's contaminated with something dangerous.

Often it's bacteria (e.coli or salmonella), but sometimes it's for strange things that you wouldn't think could happen if these companies were really serious about quality control.

For example, in December, 2018, the FDA issued a warning to pet owners that numerous dog food brands, including Hill's Science Diet available from veterinarians, contained dangerously high levels of vitamin D, which can cause kidney failure and death.... which indeed it already had.

Hill's Science Diet... Abound... Evolve... Triumph.... Nutrisca.... Natural Life.... Sportsman's Pride.... ANF... Nature's Promise... all recalled for vitamin D toxicity.

In the same month, Columbia River Pet Food was recalled for listeria contamination.

Terrier dog wrapped in blanket

No one wants to be responsible for feeding their beloved pet something that will cause sickness or worse.

Over the past dozen years, millions of pet food products have been recalled, including "famous" names like Hill's Science Diet, Purina, Iams, Eukanuba, Solid Gold, Stella & Chewy's, Wellness, Wysong, Canidae, Innova, EVO, California Natural, Blue Buffalo, Royal Canin, Merrick, PetSmart, Nutro, Alpo, Mighty Dog, Breeder's Choice, Diamond, Bil-Jac, Natural Balance, Pedigree, and more.

Dog foods can be contaminated with bacteria (e-coli, salmonella, listeria), sharp shards of bone, or foreign material (like bits of plastic).

In one gigantic recall, an industrial chemical called melamine made its way into millions of dog food products via a cheap supplier from China.

Over 3000 dogs and cats died, and over 14,000 were sickened with life-threatening kidney disease.

question markGrieving owners demanded answers. How could so many different brands get contaminated with the same thing?

The answer turned out to be that those "different" dog food brands were not so different.

Many pet foods, it turns out, are assembled on the same central assembly lines – using the same ingredients from the same sources.

In fact, a huge number of canned dog foods are made by just one company, whose name you would never recognize. This one company makes the food for many familiar brand names.

So when one thing goes wrong at the central plant, hundreds of brands and millions of bags and cans of food can be affected.

And things do go wrong. Most dog food brands, you see, are owned by mega-corporations such as Proctor & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive. Giant corporations have the reputation of focusing relentlessly on their bottom line – squeezing every last cent of profit from every bag and can.

So they need cheap ingredients. And the cheapest ingredients come from foreign countries whose food safety practices are (at best) suspect and (at worst) nil. China is a major offender here.

This might shock you, but pet foods are not covered by the U.S. government's food safety laws. The FDA doesn't consider pet food to be food, you see – it's feed, just like livestock feed, which also isn't protected by safety laws.

Needless to say, the manufacturers of livestock feed and pet feed are very happy with this.

It means they can gather up any kind of (horrible) ingredients from all over the world, truck it into gigantic food processing warehouses, and shovel it together into huge steaming vats. Let me tell you, it's gross.

So if you feed your dog any brand that comes off these assembly lines, there's no way you can know if it's safe. And most brands come off those lines.

Of course, the argument can be made that if you feed homemade, your meat and veggies from the supermarket might also be contaminated. While that's true, there are FAR more inspections, regulations, and safety laws protecting human-grade food.

Farmers market

And if you feed homemade, you can increase safety even more by skipping the supermarket and buying your ingredients from local sources who are farming organically and raising grass-fed livestock and free-range poultry.

Using local sources means fewer chances for things to go wrong. And if something does, it's not going to be a deadly industrial chemical from China that's supposed to be in plastics and countertops, not in millions of cans of dog food.

When anyone else makes your dog's food, you have little or no control over its safety. This is especially true when the food is made with feed-grade ingredients (rather than human-grade) from livestock raised inhumanely (instead of pasture-raised, grass-fed, free-range).

See What Makes a Dog Food Good – or Awful

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.