Nikki Mael had just fed her dogs when their bizarre behavior had her frantically driving to the vet.
As WJLA News reports, on New Year’s Eve 2016, Mael opened a can of Evanger’s dog food and fed her five dogs. It didn’t take long for her to realize something was very wrong. She told WJLA:
“They were falling over. They were running into the walls. They were convulsing.”
Though she took her pets to the emergency vet, the vet wasn’t sure what was affecting the dogs. Hours later, Mael got bad news:
“They said Talula wasn’t going to make it.”
Determined to find out what had happened to her pup, Mael had a pathologist and lab examine her pet and the dog food she fed them.Screenshot/WJLA
That’s when she received troubling news: her dogs had been poisoned by their dog food. And the dose had been too much for Talula.
What’s more, it wasn’t just any poison. It was pentobarbital, a drug used to euthanize pets, including dogs, cats, and occasionally horses. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) forbids the use of pentobarbital for animal products that will be consumed. Yet, advocates say that not enough is done to enforce this law.
Mael’s discovery prompted WJLA News to launch their own investigation of popular canned dog foods. After testing 62 samples of two dozen brands, they found pentobarbital in 60 percent of the cans of Gravy Train, a dog food manufactured by Big Heart Pet Foods, which is owned by Smuckers. The amount found wasn’t lethal, but federal law bars any trace of pentobarbital in food.
At the time of the WJLA investigation, both Smuckers and the FDA declined to comment, only promising to follow up with an investigation. However, only days after the FDA announced their investigation into pentobarbital in pet foods, Smuckers announced a recall of 31 dog food brands.
According to People, the recall includes canned/wet dog foods in the Gravy Train, Kibbles ‘N Bits, Skippy, and Ol’ Roy lines. (A full list can be found below.)
Susan Thixton, a consumer advocate, told WJLA she wasn’t surprised to hear a euthanasia drug had made its way into pet food, as labeling standards make it impossible to know what’s in a can of dog food:
“They have no information. A consumer has to become a private detective to learn what’s really in their food.”
How did the pentobarbital get into the food? While Smuckers and the FDA wouldn’t say, canine behavior scientist Dr. Nicholas Dodman told WJLA that the answer is obvious:
“It comes from euthanasia of animals using that euthanasia drug. So, these animals could be dogs, they could be cats, they could be horses — but how is it getting into the pet food? If they say it doesn’t come from dogs, cats and horses where does it come from? It doesn’t come from outer space.”
In other words, Dr. Dodman claims the drug is getting into the dog food when animals euthanized with pentobarbital are processed into wet or canned dog food.
Retailers have removed the recalled items from their shelves, and pet owners should check their existing supplies against the recall list, then return recalled food to the store for a refund.
Ever since losing Talula, Mael is taking no chances. She makes her dogs’ food at home, so she can be sure that it’s safe. She told WJLA that she doesn’t trust the dog food companies and only wants to be sure no one else loses a pet like she has:
“Nobody should have to go through what we went through. Nobody. Not fair. I mean, I would give anything to see Talula again.”
- Gravy Train 13.2 oz. with T-Bone Flavor Chunks (UPC: 7910052541)
- Gravy Train 13.2 oz. with Beef Strips (UPC: 7910052542)
- Gravy Train 13.2 oz. with Lamb and Rice Chunks (UPC: 7910052543)
- Gravy Train 13.2 oz. with Beef Chunks (UPC: 7910034417)
- Gravy Train 13.2 oz. with Chicken Chunks (UPC: 7910034418)
- Gravy Train 13.2 oz. Chunks in Gravy Stew (UPC: 7910051933)
- Gravy Train 13.2 oz. Chicken, Beef & Liver Medley (UPC: 7910051934)
- Gravy Train 13.2 oz. Chunks in Gravy with Beef Chunks (UPC: 7910034417)
- Gravy Train 22 oz. with Chicken Chunks (UPC: 7910051645)
- Gravy Train 22 oz. with Beef Chunks (UPC: 7910051647)
- Kibbles ‘N Bits 13.2 oz. Burger Bacon Cheese and Turkey Bacon Vegetable Variety 12-Pack (UPC: 7910010377; 7910010378)
- Kibbles ‘N Bits 13.2 oz. Beef, Chicken, Vegetable, Meatball Pasta and Turkey Bacon Vegetable Variety Pack (UPC: 7910010382; 7910048367; 7910010378)
- Kibbles ‘N Bits 13.2 oz. Beef, Chicken, Vegetable, Burger Bacon Cheese and Beef Vegetable Variety Pack (UPC: 7910010380; 7910010377; 7910010375)
- Kibbles ‘N Bits 13.2 oz. Wet Variety Pack (UPC: 791001037; 7910048367)
- Kibbles ‘N Bits 13.2 oz. Chef’s Choice Bistro Tender Cuts with Real Beef & Vegetable in Gravy (UPC: 7910010375)
- Kibbles ‘N Bits 13.2 oz. Chef’s Choice Bistro Tender Cuts with Real Turkey, Bacon & Vegetable in Gravy (UPC: 7910010378)
- Kibbles ‘N Bits 13.2 oz. Chef’s Choice Homestyle Tender Slices with Real Beef, Chicken & Vegetables in Gravy (UPC: 7910010380)
- Skippy 13.2 oz. Premium Select Cuts in Gravy with Beef & Bone Marrow (UPC: 7910071860)
- Skippy 13.2 oz. Premium Select Cuts with Burgers & Cheese Bits (UPC: 7910050243)
- Skippy 13.2 oz. Premium Chunks in Gravy with Smoky Turkey & Bacon (UPC: 7910050246)
- Skippy 13.2 oz. Premium Chunks in Gravy with Beef & Chicken (UPC: 7910050247)
- Skippy 13.2 oz. Premium Chunks in Gravy 3 in 1 Chicken, Beef & Liver (UPC: 7910050248)
- Skippy 13.2 oz. Premium Chunks in Gravy Chunky Stew (UPC: 7910050249)
- Skippy 13.2 oz. Premium Strips in Gravy with Chicken (UPC: 7910050244)
- Skippy 13.2 oz. Premium Chunks in Gravy with Beef (UPC: 7910050250)
- Skippy 13.2 oz. Premium Strips in Gravy with Beef (UPC: 7910050245)
- Ol’ Roy 13.2 oz. Turkey Bacon Strips (UPC: 8113117570)