Pet Food Recalls and Your Dog

Have your dog food or dog treats been recalled?  Wondering what that really means?  The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) governs the contents of dog food and dog treats.  When a dog food is recalled, it is either because a needed ingredient is not in the food, or something that is not supposed to be in there is present.

The first case, where a needed ingredient is supposed to be there but is not, is the rarer of the two cases.  It does happen occasionally, as dog food has to meet minimum standards for nutrition and if those are not met, the food must be recalled.  Cat owners may remember several recalls for a deficiency in the nutrient taurine, which cats cannot make themselves and must get from their food.

By far the most common causes for recalls are because something that is not supposed to be in the dog food is present.  Who can forget the horrible cases of melamine in dog food that caused liver and kidney failure in so many dogs and cats a few years ago?  A Chinese company had added the melamine to wheat gluten to increase the protein level of the powder so it would pass nutritional tests.  Now ingredients are tested more extensively for foreign substances such as melamine to prevent a re-occurrence of this disaster.

The most common reason for recalls these days is the presence of salmonella in dog food or dog treats.  Pig ears and similar treats are especially vulnerable to this problem.  While salmonella is not a big problem for the dog, it is serious for the owner.  Handling the dog food, or playing with the dog right after it has eaten, can expose the owner to the disease.  Salmonella makes healthy adults very ill, and can kill the young, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system.

What should you do to protect your dog from a recall?  Generally, the recall notice will give directions for handling the recalled dog food or treat.  Usually, you return it to the place you bought it for a refund.  Recalls are usually advertised in magazines and newspapers, but the FDA has a website for pet food recalls that also includes treats.  This website is

In summary, animal products are recalled because they fail to meet nutritional standards because of the absence of an ingredient, or too low a level of an ingredient, or the presence of something that should not be there, such as containment like salmonella.  The FDA lists such recalls on its website and pet food companies list them in newspapers and magazines.  In most cases, consumers return the food or treat to the store where they purchased it for a refund.

Dog food in the United States is safer than almost anywhere else in the world.  Occasional problems do creep in, however, so vigilance is necessary to protect your pet from them.