How Did a Euthanasia Drug End Up in Dog Food?
On New Year’s Eve, Nikki Mael of Washougal, Wash., fed her four pugs Evanger’s Hunk of Beef Au Jus canned dog food. Within 15 minutes the dogs began “acting drunk,” she said. They staggered around, having difficulty keeping their balance.
Mael rushed them to an emergency animal hospital. One pug, Talula, died. The other dogs survived, but one of them suffered from seizures.
A necroposy performed on Talula found large amounts of pentobarbital, a sedative used to euthanize animals and execute humans, in her stomach. Pentobarbital was also found in the dog food.
Earlier this month, Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Co. announced a voluntary recall of one lot of Hunk of Beef Au Jus out of what it called an abundance of caution. The company said it sources all of its raw materials from USDA-inspected facilities.
“We feel that we have been let down by our supplier, and in reference to the possible presence of pentobarbital, we have let down our customers,” it stated on its website. “Despite having a relationship for 40 years with the supplier of this specific beef, who also services many other pet food companies, we have terminated our relationship with them.”
A week later, another dog food company, Against the Grain, also announced a voluntary recall of one lot of its Pulled Beef with Gravy Dinner for Dogs, distributed two years ago, because it could also contain pentobarbital. According to Food Safety News, both Evanger’s and Against the Grain may be owned by members of the same family.
Trace Amounts of Pentobarbital Not Uncommon in Dry Dog Food
How did a euthanasia drug end up in dog food? Believe it or not, trace amounts are not exactly uncommon in pet food, based on a 2001 FDA report. Tests conducted at the time discovered pentobarbital in samples of dry dog food from familiar brands like Nutro, Gravy Train, Kibbles ‘n Bits and Ol’Roy (sold by Walmart).
“We were unaware of the problem of pentobarbital in the pet food industry because it is most pervasive in dry foods that source most of their ingredients from rendering plants, unlike Evanger’s, which mainly manufactures canned foods that would not have any rendered materials in its supply chain,” the company stated on its website.
In response to criticism of Evanger’s on social media, corporate secretary Brett Sher and his twin sister Chelsea appeared in a video posted on the company’s website. In it they say that pentobarbital can be found in dry pet foods made with meat from cows that have been euthanized, and there are currently no regulations that require veterinarians to tag the meat.
The Sher siblings said the death of Talula and the sickening of the other dogs has inspired them to advocate for more oversight and regulation of how slaughtered animals enter the animal-food stream. Evanger’s paid the veterinary bills for Mael’s five pugs and made a donation to a local shelter in Talula’s memory.
Watch What Your Dog Eats
According to TruthAboutPetFood.com, Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Co. manufactures food for other pet food companies. The company uses a unique semi-circle shape instead of a straight line for the lot code stamps on cans, which makes it easy for dog owners to determine if a particular brand was manufactured by Evanger’s.
When it’s ingested, pentobarbital can cause symptoms including drowsiness, dizziness, excitement and loss of balance. If your dog shows any of these signs after eating, rush your pet to your veterinarian or closest emergency animal hospital right away.
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