“A house is not a home without a pet.”
If your pet’s food has been recalled because of a Salmonella threat, you may wonder what this means for your pet. Is your pet in danger? What should you do now? These are logical questions and I’d like to address them today. I do need to tell you up front that this post is, in part, sponsored by Iams and I do receive compensation from them as part of that sponsorship. However, in the case of this post, I am not speaking for either Iams or Eukanuba and you should not interpret my words as a reflection of either company’s policies, procedures, or viewpoints. Instead, I am sharing my professional knowledge and personal opinions about Salmonella and salmonellosis from my own perspective as a veterinarian.
Naturally, any recall sparks a lot of fear in pet owners. Anything that endangers the health of our pets is concerning. Here is, in a nutshell, what you need to know about salmonella contamination in pet food:
The Dangers of Salmonella Contamination in Pet Food
- Salmonella is a form of bacteria that is common throughout the world.
- Humans and animals can become infected through the ingestion of contaminated food or water or even through close contact with an infected host. In the case of the recalled food, this is the primary concern.
- Salmonella is a zoonotic disease (a disease that can be passed from pets to people). However, it can also pass from humans to pets (reverse zoonotic disease).
- All species of domestic animals are susceptible to Salmonella, although dogs and cats infrequently develop disease. Salmonella can be isolated from healthy cats (up to 18% of healthy cats) and is found in dogs even more frequently.
- Symptoms in dogs and cats, when they do occur, might include acute diarrhea, dehydration, and vomiting. Many pets will show no signs of illness at all and some pets can harbor the Salmonella organism for months without ill effects. In rare cases, Salmonella can cause conjunctivitis in cats.
- As with any disease, severely ill pets should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible for supportive care. Severe disease is most common in young animals.
- The best way to prevent exposure to salmonellosis for yourself is to wash your
hands after handling your pet, your pet’s food, or your pet’s feces. It’s also important to thoroughly clean any food preparation areas, utensils, and feeding dishes used to feed your pet or prepare your pet’s food. Salmonella is susceptible to many disinfectants, including dilute bleach and many household cleaning agents.
- Most humans will recover from Salmonella without treatment after a short 4-7 day illness characterized by diarrhea. In some rare cases, the diarrhea becomes so severe that patients need to be hospitalized.
- Elderly persons, infants, and those people with impaired immune systems are more likely to have severe illness associated with Salmonella.
In a situation like this, there is always a tendency to panic and to blame any disease signs on the recalled food, even when the food may not be the cause. I’ve experienced this myself. I’ve seen several animals in my office recently whose owners were, quite understandably, worried that their pet’s food had caused illness. In one case, the unfortunate dog ended up with a diagnosis of lymphoma, which is a serious diagnosis but not at all related to Salmonella contamination or recalled pet food.
In another instance, one of the dog’s under my care presented with bloody diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and lack of appetite. There was question about what diet this particular dog was eating but, long story short, it’s possible it was the recalled food and no way to check because the food bag was long gone, disposed of in the trash. We definitely included salmonellosis on our differential list of potential causes for this dog but, in the end, the dog’s diagnosis turned out to be hookworm infection. The food was in no way responsible for this dog’s symptoms. We treated for hookworms and, fortunately, this dog, who was ill enough that we were afraid of losing him for a time, is now improving and is expected to make a full recovery, thankfully.
There was also this story from Cincinnati that originally reported a “possible link between the deaths of three Cincinnati area pets and a massive, voluntary pet food recall.” The reporter later recanted the story, revealing that no link has been found and the cause of these deaths remains a mystery. This situation is, undoubtedly, an unfortunate one. My heart goes out to these pets and their grieving families. However, in my opinion, this was a case of spreading unnecessary panic before obtaining all the facts. No doubt, the reporter’s intentions were good. Still, I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t a better way to handle this story.
The fact is, to the best of my knowledge, no animals have died or even become ill as a result of this particular recall. That doesn’t mean that you should not take the necessary precautions. Check your food bags if you’re feeding Eukanuba and Iams. If your food is one of the recalled lots, stop feeding it immediately. Be aware also that, in some cases, these recalls widen in the days immediately following the original recall. I don’t have any information to indicate that this will happen in this case but keeping yourself aware of all recalls (not just pet food recalls but recalls of all types) is good practice for your safety as well as your pet’s.
Am I concerned about this recall? I feed my cats Iams food. I did check the codes and the food my cats have been eating is not a recalled lot. Still, I’m keeping an eye on them, making sure they remain healthy. What I am not doing is panicking. I don’t believe there is cause for widespread panic here. Have I changed foods for my cats? I have not. Our food has not been recalled and my cats are doing well on it so I see no need to change foods. If the food had been one of the recalled lots, obviously I would have stopped feeding the recalled product but I probably would still have continued to feed a fresh supply of the same food.
I don’t blame pet owners for being concerned or even upset about this recall. I totally understand those feelings. I also know, however, that recalls happen to the best of companies. They are unfortunate and I can say with relative certainty that no company wishes to experience such a recall of their products. Still, recalls are issued for the safety of our families and our pets. If there is a potential problem with my pet’s food or with my food, I would rather know about it so that I can take the appropriate precautions rather than remaining in the dark, with no suspicion that there could be a problem.
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