What Every Dog Owner Should Know About Pet Food Recalls

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If you really care about your dog and his wellbeing, you’ll take the time to select a healthy, high-quality dog food for him to eat. Even if you are diligent about doing your research, weeding out the bad from the good, you could still run into problems. Most pet food manufacturers produce their dog foods in large batches and, as much as they may try to control the quality and safety of their products and processes, accidents happen. When a problem arises with a specific pet food product, the FDA or the manufacturer might issue something known as a recall. Keep reading to learn what a pet food recall is and what you should do if it happens.

What Exactly is a Pet Food Recall?

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for ensuring the safety and quality of food, drugs, and other products. It is the FDA’s job to set standards for everything from sourcing ingredients in the food you eat to regulating manufacturing processes. When you pick up a package of food, all of the information on the label is subject to regulation by the FDA. There are certain requirements for what kind of nutritional information needs to be included, how the ingredients are listed, and what kind of dietary or health claims the manufacturer is allowed to use. Though regulations are a little looser and standards are less clearly defined, the FDA does the same thing for pet food.

In addition to setting standards and creating regulations, the FDA is also responsible for monitoring and enforcing those regulations. In order to do this, they regularly test commercial products to ensure that they are upholding all of the necessary standards. If a product is deemed defective or harmful, it may be removed from the market until the necessary corrections are made. In some cases, a manufacturer might discover the problem before the FDA and withdraw the product of their own volition. Regardless who initiates the withdrawal, this is called a recall. When it comes to product recalls, there are a number of ways the FDA might be alerted to a problem – here is a quick overview:

  • The manufacturer discovers a problem and then contacts the FDA to initiate a recall.
  • The FDA discovers a problem when inspecting a manufacturing facility.
  • The FDA receives reports of a problem from customers or manufacturers.

When the FDA discovers a problem that warrants a recall, the severity of the problem will determine the next steps. For severe or widespread problems, the FDA might seek publicity to quickly spread the word to consumers. For more minor problems, it may simply be a matter of the manufacturer withdrawing the product from the market and posting a notice on their website. Here are the three classifications for FDA recalls according to the level of hazard:

  • Class 1 – The product is dangerous or defective to the degree that it could cause serious health problems or death (ex: mislabeling of allergens or food containing botulinum toxin).
  • Class 2 – The product may cause a temporary health problem or that poses a slight threat of a serious nature (ex: low levels of a certain nutrient).
  • Class 3 – The product may not cause any adverse reaction but may violate FDA standards for labeling or manufacturing.

Remember, pet food products are more loosely regulated than human food products, but they are still subject to recall and any recall should be taken seriously. Keep reading to learn what you should do if your dog’s pet food is recalled by the FDA or the manufacturer.

What Should You Do If Your Dog’s Food is Recalled?

If you find out that a recall has been issued for the type of food you are feeding your dog, you need to take immediate action to determine whether you need to stop using the product. The recall itself will tell you exactly why the product has been recalled and which batches or recipes were affected. Using the information in the recall itself, follow these steps:

  1. Check the product against the information in the recall. Many pet food recalls are issued for specific runs of a particular formula although, on occasion, they will be issued for an entire line of products or for all of the products made at a particular facility. Using the information in the recall, check your bag of dog food to see whether it is the same brand, formula, package size, and lot number as the product being recalled. If the information doesn’t match up, you don’t need to go any further – you can keep feeding it to your dog.
  2. Stop feeding the recalled product immediately. If the package of dog food you have been feeding your dog matches the information in the recall, stop using it immediately. There is no guarantee that your dog will be negatively affected by the product in question, but it is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your dog’s health and wellness.
  3. Switch your dog to a new food. It is generally a good idea to slowly transition your dog onto the new food if you plan to make a switch but, in the event of a recall, you should make the switch immediately. Depending on the severity of the recall, you might simply be able to buy a new bag of the same product (if only a certain run or lot number has been affected – you might also be able to switch to a different recipe from the same manufacturer. If you need to change to another product entirely, mixing a little bit of canned pumpkin into the new food may help to ease any digestive upset that can come from a sudden change in diet.
  4. Watch your dog for changes in behavior and other symptoms. Even if your dog seems to be fine after eating a recalled product, you should still keep an eye on him for any changes in behavior or other developing symptoms. Refer to the recall to determine what symptoms you need to be looking out for – the recall will generally state the reason for the recall as well as potential harmful effects. If your dog starts to display symptoms listed on the recall, or if he exhibits a change in behavior, take him to the vet for a checkup. Even if your dog doesn’t seem sick, it can’t hurt to schedule an exam. If your dog gets sick, you’ll also need to contact the FDA and the manufacturer.
  5. Dispose of the recalled product safely. When your dog’s food is recalled you should not only stop feeding it to him, but you should dispose of it as well. You need to be careful, however, to dispose of it in a way that other dogs or animals can’t get into it. You may also want to keep a small portion of the food in a plastic bag in your freezer just in case your dog does develop symptoms and you need to send it back to the manufacturer for analysis.

Dog food recalls are not something that should be taken lightly because they could have a serious impact on your dog’s health and wellness. As a dog owner, it is your job to ensure that the food you are offering your dog is both safe and nutritious – this means that you need to stay up to date with the manufacturer so you will be aware of any product recalls or formula changes. You may also want to sign up to receive FDA recall alerts.

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