Like many pet owners, you probably do your best to ensure your dog or cat is well taken care of. You schedule regular vet visits, you keep their vaccinations up to date, you make sure they get plenty of play and exercise, and you feed them the best food possible. But when it turns out the food you’ve so carefully chosen for your pet is somehow tainted, and then becomes the target of a nationwide recall, it can be a very upsetting experience.
Nature’s Variety recently issued, and then expanded a nationwide recall of some of their raw food product lines, specifically their Chicken Formula Raw Frozen Diets for dogs and cats, because they may be contaminated with Salmonella.
Just as raw meat can be dangerous to humans, it can hold the same risks for pets. Uncooked meat can be contaminated by any number of bacteria, including two of the same ones that make humans ill — E. coli and Salmonella.
Despite these risks, raw food diets are gaining popularity among dog and cat owners. Many people feel it’s best to feed their pets a diet similar to what they would eat in the wild rather than processed grain-based foods. A sure sign of an inferior pet food is that it contains corn as the main ingredient. Dogs and cats are carnivores, but even if you decide to feed them kibble, there are many varieties that are healthier than what you find in a grocery store. But some people take it a step further, and choose to feed their dogs and cats raw meats and vegetables. Pet food manufacturers have taken note, and some of them, like Nature’s Variety, now sell prepackaged raw pet foods.
This recall isn’t as bad as the worldwide pet food recall of 2007. That recall affected the United States, Europe, and South America, and pertained to approximately 5,300 different varieties of food sold under many brands. Those foods were found to contain dangerous levels of melamine, a type of plastic, and the contamination was traced back to at least two Chinese sources of wheat and rice protein.
The melamine caused kidney failure, which, in many cases, was fatal. It is still not known exactly how many pets died as a result of eating these tainted foods because there is no central government database that tracks animal illness as there is for human illness, but it seemed to number in the thousands. Several thousand more were sickened, but received treatment in time to save them. Understandably, several lawsuits were filed after the recall, and are still being pursued.
The current pet food recall is restricted to the Nature’s Variety brand, and only its raw food product lines. The CEO issued a statement on the company’s Web site, listing exactly which foods are being recalled, how to return or dispose of them, and how to be reimbursed for purchases of contaminated foods.
If you have fed any of these foods to your pets, their health is the first concern. Symptoms of illness caused by Salmonella bacteria include lethargy, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets may experience less severe symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain, or decreased appetite. If your pet is displaying any of these symptoms after eating contaminated food, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.