Euthanasia drugs found in pet foods pulled from shelves

Reporter: Lauren Sweeney
Published: Updated:
Talula, the pug that died from pentobarbital in the Evanger’s Hunk of Beef.

Pet food pulled from shelves because of a euthanasia drug are worrisome to owners. So how can you choose the right and safety food for your pet?

Pulled from Shelves

Pentobarbital is a drug that is used in animal euthanasia. It can cause drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, nausea and in larger doses it can cause coma and death.

Within the last year, certain pet foods were pulled from the shelves for containing the drug.

In early Feb, 2017, pet food maker Evangers announced it was voluntarily recalling some of its food for pentobarbital contamination. That recall was extended to more products in March of 2017.

A class-action lawsuit against Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Co. Inc. claims the ‘Hunk of Beef’ product containing pentobarbital poisoned a beloved pug named Talulah. After Talulah’s death, the FDA announced recalls of Evangers.

Evangers says in a statement on their website in part:

“It’s important to note that not one single can of any of the recalled pet foods have been donated to any shelter or any rescue. Every ounce of the recalled pet food products is currently being correctly disposed of per FDA’s instructions. Our cooperation with the FDA and our compliance to all instruction, rules and communications from the FDA remains a top priority.”

In April of 2017, the company Party Animal announced a voluntary recall of its product for a potential presence of pentobarbital.

Most recently, on Feb. 16, 2018, The FDA issued an alert for potential pentobarbital presence in food made by J.M. Smucker Company.

Read the full company responses at the bottom of the story.

Finding the right food

At Baywood Veterinary Hospital in Cape Coral, Dr. Elizabeth Smith says she fields questions about pet food all day, every day.

“This morning, 100 percent of my clients asked me about dog food,” she said. “I would say the majority of people do ask questions about nutrition and if they don’t, I usually bring it up with them.”

You can get the best for your pet without spending a fortune. She says some of the big national and warehouse store brands, for example, are not only affordable but more than acceptable for your pets.

She also warned about not getting caught up in commercial hype. “A lot of commercials warn you about by-products.

By-products are just the parts of the carcass that aren’t the primary reason why the animal was slaughtered,” she explained. By-products include internal organs, hides and hooves which “are safe and they’re healthy and they’re nutritious.”

So what should you look for when buying food? Dr. Smith suggests the following:

  • Check the company’s website
  • Look at the composition of the food, the quality of the ingredients.
  • Does the company follow AAFCO recommendations?
  • Where are they sourcing their ingredients?
  • How frequently do they do quality controls on their food?
  • Are they testing their food for digestibility?
  • How many veterinary nutritionists do they have on staff?
  • Check the FDA to see how many recalls have been issued
  • Check for physical contamination in food
  • Always check with your veterinarian about your choice

Also remember that nutritional needs of your pet changes as the pet ages.

Homemade pet food

Dog-owner Selena Davis says for her, making the switch to homemade dog food was easy.

“Prince is a pitbull and he’s a red nosed pit bull and red nosed pit bulls are prone to skin allergies.” She says no matter what brand of dog food she tried, “…he just itched and he itched and he itched more.”

After talking with her veterinarian, she decided to make his food her kitchen. “I pride myself on making a healthy lifestyle for him.”

Company responses regarding recalls

Evanger’s response to WINK News:
Thank you for your email, on behalf of family owned and operated Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company.

With the recent Smuckers (Gravy Train, etc.) pet food recall, the team has no idea why the Evanger’s company name was mentioned in recent articles, as there is no affiliation with Smuckers or any of the brands of dog foods they manufacturer.

The article(s) also reported NO new findings that have anything to do with Evanger’s, so I’m not sure for the reason of you reaching out.

There was a voluntary recall by Evanger’s in January of 2017 when a report came out of a dog getting sick, and the reason for the recall was identified as a single/sole beef supplier.  The relationship with that supplier was severed immediately upon discovery of their responsibility, and a lawsuit was filed by Evanger’s against the supplier for their responsibility.

There was never any direct / proven findings about the dog in WA state passing away from the Evanger’s foods 13+ months ago.  The Evanger’s family has been directly in touch with the family of the dog (that I believe you are referring to) as soon as they were initially contacted in January 2017, and was incredibly saddened to hear that the dog fell ill but this launched a full investigation which led to the discovery of the limited supply of product that they voluntarily recalled.

I am happy to discuss further by email (please send any direct questions) and I would encourage you to check the validity and accuracy of anything you are pulling from recent articles in regards to Evanger’s as there has not been one new bit of news released or any additional findings.

Smuckers’ response to WINK News:

The J.M. Smucker Company has identified the sole source of the extremely low levels of pentobarbital in specific shipments of Gravy Train®, Kibbles ‘N Bits®, Ol’ Roy®, and Skippy® canned wet dog food and has taken additional steps to further assure the quality and safety of its pet food brands, including testing for pentobarbital across all of its pet food products.

Testing done by scientists at an independent, third-party microbiology laboratory indicates a single, minor ingredient (beef fat), used only in the four wet dog food brands, was the source of the contamination. A voluntary withdrawal of the affected products has been completed and retailers were advised to remove these shipments from their supply.

“While veterinary experts have confirmed that extremely low levels of pentobarbital do not pose a threat to pet safety, this substance simply should not have been in our products.” said Barry Dunaway, President, Pet Food and Pet Snacks. “Its presence at any level is not acceptable and is not up to our quality standards. We stopped production at our manufacturing facility that makes these product lines until we could obtain the ingredient from a new supplier, and we are no longer sourcing the ingredient from the original supplier.”

Additionally, the independent, third-party laboratory tested the ingredient in which pentobarbital was found and confirms it was sourced from cattle and no other animal.

Smucker announced a new quality assurance protocol as an added assurance for pet families. The Company will test all pet products for the presence of pentobarbital. Although the Company has robust quality assurance procedures in place, it is committed to enhancing sourcing and supplier oversight procedures to help ensure this does not occur again.

“As a Company with a long history of, and a commitment to, providing safe and high-quality products, we felt this was an important extra step to take,” said Dunaway. “There is nothing more important than ensuring pet parents can continue to feel confident that they are making the best decision for their pets when they choose our brands. We are a company that loves pets and understands the responsibility we have in providing high-quality food for the pets we, and our consumers, love. We are deeply sorry for the concern this has caused.”

No other products of The J.M. Smucker Company were affected by this withdrawal.”

Party Animal’s response on the FDA website: The safety of pets is and always will be our first priority. We sincerely regret the reports of the discomfort experienced by the pet who consumed this food. As pet parents ourselves, we take this matter seriously. ….In order to ensure adherence to our commitment to the safety of pets, we are also actively re-examining our manufacturing processes. Read more.

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