In 2007, thousands of American pets were affected by tainted pet food. The manufacturers had added cheap wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate imported from China to increase the amount of nitrogen in the concentrate. Unbeknownst to them, the imported concentrates had melamine and cyanuric acid added to them. These two chemicals are not a problem in small amounts but are dangerous if eaten in large amounts, and even more so if they are combined. Many dogs suffered from kidney damage caused by the imported ingredients, and many of them died.

There have also been several pet food recalls because of possible Salmonella contamination. Salmonella is a bacterium that may make dogs very sick but can also be a risk to their owners. Bully sticks, dry kibble and even treats such as dog peanut butter have all been subject to recalls due to Salmonella.

It’s not just foods that you need to be concerned about. Cheap and poorly made toys have resulted in choking and intestinal obstructions, and they may also be coated in toxic chemicals or heavy metals such as lead.

You trust that the foods and toys that are sold on the shelves of your supermarket or pet store are safe and won’t make your dog sick, and when yet another recall is issued, it’s scary. You may not learn about these risky products until it is too late. With almost 30 food recalls issued in 2012 to date, how can you protect your canine best friend from harmful pet products?

1. Monitor the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) websites. The FDA publishes a list of recalled pet foods on their site and also shares information via their twitter feed at @FDAanimalhealth. The AVMA has a twitter account at @AVMARecallWatch that also releases up to date information on any recalls.

2. Keep in mind that you usually get what you pay for. While there are many inexpensive dog foods and toys that are safe and don’t contain harmful ingredients, you’re more likely to run into problems with those products that are manufactured and sold cheaply.

3. Check the label of any treat or food you would like to buy for your dog, and look at the country of origin. Only buy American made treats for him. This in itself is no guarantee because the foods containing the Chinese concentrates were made in the US, but it’s a start.

Interestingly, affluent pet owners in China are importing dog foods and treats that have been produced in the US to avoid potentially harmful products that were manufactured in their own country.

As a dog owner, there are limits to what you can do avoid unsafe pet products. Keep an eye on the recall lists and when you are choosing a food for your dog, turn to the professionals for advice and recommendations.


by Ken Alston