Why Euthanasia Drugs are Being Found in Pet Food

You may have seen some stories in the news lately about small amounts of euthanasia drugs getting detected in some popular pet food brands.  How does this type of drug end up in dog and cat food?  The answer is obvious but may come as a surprise to many pet owners.

A recent article on the website Gizmodo explains why the sedative pentobarbital, which is commonly used in euthanasia, has been found in at least 27 brands of pet food.  No, pet food companies are not deliberately adding it to their food, but it is ending up in food via third-party suppliers of ingredients used in the food.

Veterinary experts explain that the pentobarbital is coming from euthanized animals, usually horses, that go from farms to animal rendering operations, and eventually, to pet food manufacturers.  The FDA has been aware of this issue since the 1990s, so pentobarbital in pet food is not new.

This recent spotlight on the issue has caused many pet owners to wonder where the meat used in their animals’ food is actually coming from.  The pet food industry says that most makers source meat from livestock slaughtered in the same facilities used for human food.

The problem occurs when some of their suppliers use cheap ingredients as a way to cut expenses, such as euthanized and rendered farm animals like horses, as evidenced by the pentobarbital.

The drug amounts in the food are very small, and although there is a new awareness of the issue, it is unlikely that it will ever completely disappear from all pet foods, given the economic realities of the pet food industry.

What can you do to ensure that your pet is eating quality food?  Talk to your vet about the best pet food options for your individual pets, educate yourself on how to read and understand pet food labels, and be sure to keep track of all pet food recalls and withdrawals via the FDA’s pet food recall webpage.



The Many Scientific Reasons that Explain Why Cats are Finicky Eaters

A recent article in The New York Times outlined the different biological and behavioral reasons that explain why many cats are such discriminating eaters.  Turns out your cat isn’t being difficult, she’s just being a cat!

Here are some underlying reasons why your cat may be turning his nose up at dinner:

  • As solitary hunters and eaters, cats tend to eat more slowly and carefully than dogs.  Dog are pack animals and group competition for food makes them eat quickly.
  • Even though a cat’s sense of smell is weaker than a dog’s, it is still very keen, and an unappealing smell can turn your cat off to his food.
  • A cat’s teeth are more well-suited to ripping and tearing meat, not grinding, so wet food is easier to eat than dry food.  Many cats swallow pieces of dry kibble whole, which can then be vomited back up.

  • Cats are true carnivores, so their taste receptors are not geared towards a wide variety of food types, like ours.  Cats naturally prefer protein and are indifferent to sweets and carbohydrates.
  • Cats do have very sensitive taste receptors for bitter foods, however, as anyone who’s ever eaten citrus around a cat can tell you!

Interested in learning more about proper feline feeding and nutrition?  Check out this article from Cornell’s Feline Health Center.


New Study Outlines Hazards of Raw Meat Diet for Dogs and Cats

Thinking about switching your pet to a raw meat based diet (RMBD)?  A new study of commercial RMBDs available in pet stores and supermarkets found a significant number of harmful bacteria and parasites in these pet foods.

The results, published this month in the journal Veterinary Record, found the following rates of bacterial contamination in 35 commercial RMBDs from 8 different brands tested:

  • Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7 : 23%
  • Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases-producing E coli : 80%
  • Listeria monocytogenes : 54%
  • Other Listeria species : 43%
  • Salmonella : 20%

Two parasites, Sarcocystis cruzi and Sarcocystis tenella were found 11% of the products. The parasite Toxoplasma gondii was found in 6% of the samples.

Researchers found that the large number of bacteria and parasites in these commercially prepared RMBDs pose a health threat to both pets that consume the food, and humans via handling and exposure to contaminated food.

They also note that dogs and cats on a RMBD are more likely to become infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria than those that consume cooked food.

If you choose to feed your pet a RMBD, it’s important to be aware of the health risks of a raw diet, and how to handle these foods safely.

To learn more about the possible dangers, you can read the American Veterinary Medical Association’s position paper on feeding pets a raw food diet HERE.


How to Safely Store Your Pet’s Medicine and Food

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has great food and drug safety tips for humans, but did you know they also have a whole section on pets?  It’s important to store your pet’s medications in a secure place to avoid the hazards of an accidental overdose.  Your pet’s food and treats should also be stored properly to avoid spoilage and contamination.

Here are a few practical tips on pet food and drug storage from the FDA:

Pet Medications

  • Keep pet medications in their original containers with their original labels. This is important for drug dosage and identification information, as well as pet ID in a multi-pet household.
  • Keep pet medications safely out of reach. Remember that cats can jump onto high places and dogs have a good nose for flavored meds.
  • Child-proof drug containers are not necessarily pet-proof, especially if your dog is a chewer.
  • Store pet meds in a completely different place than human meds to avoid an accidental mix-up.
  • Keep medications for other animals such as horses and pocket pets away from dogs and cats.
  • Dispose of expired or unused pet medications in the same way you dispose of human drugs. Mix them with an unappealing substance (used kitty litter or coffee grounds), and place in the trash in a sealed bag.

Pet Food and Treats

  • Store your pet food in the original container. You will need the information on the container in the event of a pet food recall.  Having the lot number is especially important in a recall.
  • If you use plastic containers to store kibble or treats, it’s a good idea to store it in the bag, or at least keep the bag around so that you have the important information on the label.
  • Storage containers for pet food should be clean and dry, with a tightly-fitting lid.
  • Wash and dry the container before you add another bag of food. Fat residue can become rancid.
  • Store all pet food in a cool, dry place. The temperature should be under 80 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid spoilage.
  • Refrigerate or throw out uneaten wet food.
  • Wash and dry pet food and water bowls (and utensils) daily.
  • Keep food and treats in a safe location so your pet won’t get into it and binge.


New Study Finds BPA in Canned Dog Food May Harm Pets


In recent years, we’ve become much more aware of the toxins in our everyday environment. One that has gotten a lot of attention is Bisphenol A, aka BPA, a chemical found in common items like plastic water bottles, thermal paper, and can linings. BPA is described as an endocrine disruptor and it also mimics estrogen. It’s been linked to a wide range of health issues, including various reproductive-related problems and cancer.


A recent study suggests that the canned food our pets eat may contain unsafe levels of BPA as well. Researchers conducted a study of 14 dogs who regularly ate bagged dog food. They were then fed canned food (even a so-called “BPA-free” brand) and their blood was tested. The results showed that, even after just 2 weeks on the canned food diet, their BPA levels almost tripled. The researchers were able to link the BPA to changes in the dogs’ metabolisms and in microbes in their digestive systems.


Besides the health issues that our pets themselves might be experiencing, the researchers note that animals are also very good indicators of the health risks humans face from the various environmental contaminants that we are exposed to on a daily basis.

Check out the full story, including a link to the study, on the Time magazine website.