By Christie Long
For a long time now, I have wanted to write a column about recalled pet foods. After all, it seems like every week or so there is news of another pet food or treat being recalled by the manufacturer due to a quality concern.
When I write a column, my goal is to leave readers with information that they can use to keep their own pets healthier, or at least to be better informed pet owners. With respect to pet food recalls, I haven’t been sure what to tell anyone. I’m not sure how to advise people when they ask how they can tell the food they’re buying for their pets is safe, because lots of foods have been recalled, and discerning the good from the bad is not obvious.
One day last week, a recall for food made by a company called The Honest Kitchen crossed my desk. I had never heard of The Honest Kitchen, but I was immediately struck by how unfortunate it was that many pet owners probably chose these products solely because of that trustworthy name. If you check its website, you’ll read that it is a small family-run company, that the ingredients it uses are considered human-grade and that its foods are minimally processed. The recall was prompted because parsley used in the products was potentially contaminated with salmonella. In my opinion, the recall was well-handled, and the company detailed in its news release exactly how it planned to change its manufacturing process to keep something like this from happening again.
I’m not trying to single out The Honest Kitchen because I think they are a bad company; I’m merely using this particular recall experience as an example. Since the beginning of this year, there have been more than 100 pet food recalls issued, and about 80 percent of those have been due to possible salmonella contamination.
As far as anyone knows, none of these foods has made any pets sick, but the potential is there. As if this isn’t concerning enough, human health experts are worried that simply handling these foods with bare skin is enough to make people sick with salmonella.
Even more concerning than the recent salmonella news is the ongoing story surrounding jerky-type treats. Since 2007, there has been an investigation into animals that became sick after eating treats of this type. Affected animals tended to have vomiting, lethargy and a reduced appetite. Most recovered with supportive care but many became quite sick and a few died.
Despite extensive testing of these treats by the FDA, the offending ingredient has not been identified. This incident led the American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA, to issue a caution to pet owners who feed jerky-type treats. In short, they are best avoided.
So what’s the best advice for a concerned pet owner? Stay informed. The AVMA has an excellent website with all of the latest recall information; visit to avma.org and follow the links.
Christie Long is a veterinarian at the VCA Animal Hospital in Fort Collins, CO. Long left her job in software sales in 2000 to travel for 13 months. Along the way, she was touched by the plight of the animals she saw and somewhere in the Nepalese Himalayas she vowed to return to school to become a veterinarian. While she often finds end-of-life situations heart-wrenching, she considers herself blessed to be called upon as a trusted adviser to families during difficult times. Dr. Long’s family includes her husband and travel partner, Wiley, their 5-year-old son, Wiley IV, their dogs Pancake and Gizmo and cats Sneaky and Sidh.