Millions of pets consume commercial pet food (and treats) daily. Pet food may become contaminated with bacteria, molds, storage mites, and/or chemicals. The foods may also contain inappropriate amounts of nutrients such as too much zinc or low levels of niacin. If you think your pet may have become ill from eating pet food or pet treats seek veterinary assistance for your pet immediately.
In order for the FDA CVM (Center for Veterinary Medicine) to investigate your pet’s illness, have your veterinarian report the problem to them. You should report the problem to the FDA as well. You or your veterinarian can electronically report cases of animal illness associated with pet foods/treats through the Safety Reporting Portal, or by calling the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators in your state.
Please have the following information available for the report. Investigations will only take place by the FDA if they have all of the information.
- What kind of pet do you have? Is it a dog, cat, rabbit, fish, bird, or other species?
- What is the age, weight, and breed of your pet? Is she pregnant or spayed? Is he neutered?
- How much of the suspected pet food does your pet normally eat at each feeding — and how much has already been eaten from that package?
- How long has your pet been eating the suspected pet food? Did the signs of illness appear following feeding a new or partially used container of the food?
- How much of the product do you still have?
- Also, did any other pets in your household eat the same product? Did they become ill too, or were they unaffected?
- What other foods or treats does your pet eat?
- Did your ill pet spend time outside unsupervised and why do you suspect the pet food caused the illness?
- Does your pet have any current or previous health problems, and do you give your pet any other food, treats, dietary supplements, or drugs?
The information provided on the pet food package is important in determining when and why your pet was made sick. If you transfer dry pet food into other containers for easier handling, please save the original packaging until the pet food has been consumed. FDA will want to know the exact name and the description of the product as it is stated on the label. The type of container such as box, bag, can, or pouch can be useful information as well.
FDA’s investigators will be looking for the lot number, which identifies in which plant your pet’s food was manufactured, and when. Is there a best by, best before, or an expiration date on the package? This, along with the UPC code, or bar code, and the net weight are facts useful to FDA’s investigators. It may also help for you to let them know when and where you purchased the pet food, and how the food was stored, prepared, and handled.
When a pet food is suspected of causing illness in animals, samples of the food might be sent to FDA laboratories and perhaps FDA’s Forensic Chemistry Center where scientists perform original research to identify any possible contaminants or other hazardous materials in the product.
In addition, CVM has established a veterinary response laboratory network (Vet-LRN), which assists in the investigation by examining samples from pets that have become ill. Vet-LRN works with your veterinarian and the collaborating network laboratories whenever clinical or tissue samples are needed to help diagnose the problem with the pet food.