What dog treats have been recalled?

Nutrition
April 22, 2021

A summary of the most notable dog treat recalls in the last 4 years according to the US FDA

Recalls are an inevitable part of any manufacturing industry and unfortunately, that does not exclude pet food. A product recall is a request from a manufacturer to return certain products because of safety issues or defects. With regards to recalls in the pet food industry, it could be a very serious problem like chemical, particle or microbial contamination. Pet food recalls should be taken quite seriously, as defective pet food could have the potential to cause serious health detriments or even death. 

In recent years, there have been fewer recalls as health and safety measures are continuing to tighten. Chemical recalls are not usually a direct result of companies being careless or malicious but instead the result of a simple accident or problems with a second party supplier or manufacturer. As a result, if a product is contaminated by a second party it usually means that multiple brands are affected and need to issue a recall. It is also important to note that any type of pet food can be subject to a recall, even natural and organic products.

Here are the most notable dog treat recalls in the last 4 years according to the US FDA:

For the sake of sharing unbiased information, we have chosen not to include brand names.

Doctor holding a card with text Food Safety

2021

As of April 22, 2021, there have not been any dog treat recalls. Yay!

2020

Date: 03/23/2020

Treat type: Dehydrated Whole Capelin Fish Dog Treats

Reason for recall: Potential for Clostridium botulinum

Why is Clostridium botulinum bad? Clostridium botulinum is a bacterial contaminant which produces a very dangerous toxin called botulinum under low oxygen conditions. A highly toxic compound, botulinum affects the nerves resulting in respiratory and muscle paralysis. 

Clostridium botulinum are heat resistant but can be destroyed by boiling. “The growth of the bacteria and the formation of toxin occur in products with low oxygen content and certain combinations of storage temperature and preservative parameters. This happens most often in lightly preserved foods and in inadequately processed, canned or bottled foods.”, says the World Health Organization. 

Symptoms of botulism toxicity range from flaccid paralysis to weakness and vertigo, followed by blurred vision, dry mouth and difficulty in swallowing. These symptoms usually occur between 12-36 hours after exposure and are fatal in 5 to 10% of cases.

Dried pollock on white dried fish dog treats

Date: 04/08/2020

Treat type: “Grilled steak” beef treats

Reason for Recall: Elevated Levels of Thyroid Hormone

Why are elevated levels of thyroid hormone bad? Thyroid hormone is a hormone produced in the thyroid gland and is responsible for playing a major role in the regulation, metabolism, growth and development. Elevated thyroid hormone levels in a pet food usually results from the use of esophagus meat from which removal of the thyroid glands is incomplete. 

According to the FDA, “with prolonged consumption severe symptoms may occur and include vomiting, diarrhea, and rapid or labored breathing. Should these symptoms occur, it is recommended pet owners contact their veterinarian immediately.” Less severe symptoms include increased thirst and urination, weight loss, increased heart rate and restlessness.

Date: 03/27/2020

Treat type: Beef treats (multiple varieties by the same brand)

Reason for Recall: Elevated Levels of Thyroid Hormone

Why are elevated levels of thyroid hormone bad? Thyroid hormone is a hormone produced in the thyroid gland and is responsible for playing a major role in the regulation, metabolism, growth and development. Elevated thyroid hormone levels in a pet food usually results from the use of esophagus meat from which removal of the thyroid glands is incomplete. 

According to the FDA, “with prolonged consumption severe symptoms may occur and include vomiting, diarrhea, and rapid or labored breathing. Should these symptoms occur, it is recommended pet owners contact their veterinarian immediately.” Less severe symptoms include increased thirst and urination, weight loss, increased heart rate and restlessness.

Beef jerky cut in slices spread on wooden board

2019

Date: 09/26/2019, 07/03/2019, 07/26/2019, 07/30/2019, 08/16/2019, 08/16/2019, 09/03/2019, 09/24/2019

Treat type: Pig ear treat (multiple brands)

It seems there was a theme for 2019 and that was pig ear recalls for salmonella. Interestingly, the salmonella recalls were not an isolated incident as multiple brands issued recalls on their pig ears.

Reason for Recall: Salmonella contamination

Why is Salmonella contamination bad? Salmonellosis is less common in dogs than it is in humans. Canines are more likely to pass the bacteria without infection. However there is still a risk of dogs getting sick from salmonella and most often occurs when food is improperly cooked or stored. Symptoms of salmonellosis in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea (possibly bloody), fever, loss of appetite and lethargy. 

Salmonella contamination in pet food is actually more of a risk to humans than dogs. This is because dogs can become carriers of the bacteria, spreading it around their environment through their stool and saliva. Humans are also at risk when handling their dogs food or cleaning up after their dog’s stool.

2018

Date: 02/06/2018

Treat type: Rawhide Chew

Reason for Recall: Chemical contamination

Why is chemical contamination bad? This seems like kind of a silly question but the main thing to consider when something is listed under “chemical contamination” is what type of chemical is the contaminant? In the case of this specific recall, the rawhide chews were being produced in Central and South America. The suppliers were using an antimicrobial agent on the equipment used to make the rawhides to sterilize them of any harmful bacteria. The antimicrobial agent was approved in the countries the rawhides were manufactured in but it has not been approved for use in the US. While the production practice was technically not illegal the manufacturer issued a voluntary recall after some customers complained of a weird smell, vomiting and diarrhea. 

According to the FDA, “Exposure to quaternary ammonium compounds, such as the antimicrobial agent, through direct ingestion may cause the following symptoms in dogs: reduced appetite and gastric irritation, including diarrhea and vomiting. These symptoms may require treatment by a veterinarian depending on severity.”

Rawhide dog chews in plastic box

Date: 02/08/2018

Treat type: Pig ear treat

Reason for Recall: Salmonella contamination

Why is Salmonella contamination bad? Salmonellosis is less common in dogs than it is in humans. Canines are more likely to pass the bacteria without infection. However there is still a risk of dogs getting sick from salmonella and most often occurs when food is improperly cooked or stored. Symptoms of salmonellosis in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea (possibly bloody), fever, loss of appetite and lethargy. 

Salmonella contamination in pet food is actually more of a risk to humans than dogs. This is because dogs can become carriers of the bacteria, spreading it around their environment through their stool and saliva. Humans are also at risk when handling their dogs food or cleaning up after their dog’s stool.

Adult pigs in a fenced off area

Date: 02/08/2018

Treat type: Air-puffed dog treats

Reason for Recall: Salmonella contamination

Why is Salmonella contamination bad? Salmonellosis is less common in dogs than it is in humans. Canines are more likely to pass the bacteria without infection. However there is still a risk of dogs getting sick from salmonella and most often occurs when food is improperly cooked or stored. Symptoms of salmonellosis in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea (possibly bloody), fever, loss of appetite and lethargy. 

Salmonella contamination in pet food is actually more of a risk to humans than dogs. This is because dogs can become carriers of the bacteria, spreading it around their environment through their stool and saliva. Humans are also at risk when handling their dogs food or cleaning up after their dog’s stool.

Date: 02/16/2018

Treat type: Slow roasted beef dog treats

Reason for Recall: Salmonella contamination

Why is Salmonella contamination bad? Salmonellosis is less common in dogs than it is in humans. Canines are more likely to pass the bacteria without infection. However there is still a risk of dogs getting sick from salmonella and most often occurs when food is improperly cooked or stored. Symptoms of salmonellosis in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea (possibly bloody), fever, loss of appetite and lethargy. 

Salmonella contamination in pet food is actually more of a risk to humans than dogs. This is because dogs can become carriers of the bacteria, spreading it around their environment through their stool and saliva. Humans are also at risk when handling their dogs food or cleaning up after their dog’s stool.

Date: 03/07/2018

Treat type: Bully stick dog chews

Reason for Recall: Salmonella contamination

Why is Salmonella contamination bad? Salmonellosis is less common in dogs than it is in humans. Canines are more likely to pass the bacteria without infection. However there is still a risk of dogs getting sick from salmonella and most often occurs when food is improperly cooked or stored. Symptoms of salmonellosis in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea (possibly bloody), fever, loss of appetite and lethargy. 

Salmonella contamination in pet food is actually more of a risk to humans than dogs. This is because dogs can become carriers of the bacteria, spreading it around their environment through their stool and saliva. Humans are also at risk when handling their dogs food or cleaning up after their dog’s stool.

Take home message

Product recalls can be serious business. Before selecting a pet food, do your research and look into a company’s recall history. Furthermore keep up to date on current recalls in order to keep your dog as healthy as possible! All current pet food recall updates can be found on the FDA website.


References

FDA. “Recalls and Withdrawls” (2021). https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/safety-health/recalls-withdrawals

World Health Organization (WHO). “Botulism” (2018). https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/botulism#:~:text=The%20botulinum%20toxin%20has%20been,such%20as%20ham%20and%20sausage

FDA. “Limited Production of Two Varieties of Milo’s Kitchen® Dog Treats Voluntarily Recalled Due to Potentially Elevated Levels of Thyroid Hormone” (2020). https://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls-market-withdrawals-safety-alerts/limited-production-two-varieties-milos-kitchenr-dog-treats-voluntarily-recalled-due-potentially#:~:text=The%20J.M.%20Smucker%20Company%20today,levels%20of%20beef%20thyroid%20hormone

Food Safety News (FSN). “Canned dog food recalled for elevated beef thyroid hormone” (2018). https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/06/canned-dog-food-recalled-for-elevated-beef-thyroid-hormone/#:~:text=Dave's%20Pet%20Food%20has%20recalled,a%20UPC%20of%2085038%2D11167

FDA. “Get the Facts about Salmonella”. (2020). https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/get-facts-about-salmonella 

FDA. “United Pet Group Expands Voluntary Recall of Multiple Brands of Rawhide Chew Products for Dogs to Also Include Private Label Brands Due to Possible Chemical Contamination” (2018). https://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls-market-withdrawals-safety-alerts/united-pet-group-expands-voluntary-recall-multiple-brands-rawhide-chew-products-dogs-also-include 


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