Dog Food Recall: FDA Finds Deadly Pet Euthanasia in Several Common Brands

A healthy puppy lays in the grass during a walk. The FDA has recalled several brands of dog food that may contain a deadly euthanasia drug. Kristin Hugo

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found a euthanasia drug in several brands of dog food, leading some brands to issue a voluntary recall and causing concern among pet owners.

The FDA says that such a low level of this drug in pet food is unlikely to seriously harm pets. However, no amount of sodium pentobarbital, a common lethal drug used to put animals to sleep, is acceptable in pet food, the agency warns.

The J.M. Smucker Company, famous for Smuckers Jam, has responded to this report by issuing a voluntary recall of the tainted pet foods they sell. Pet food with the labels Gravy Train, Ol'Roy, Kibbles N' Bits, or Skippy Premium, can be returned to the store for a full refund. The FDA asked pet stores to stop selling these brands immediately. The same goes for the dog food brand Against the Grain, which also issued a recall last week for the same concern.

The FDA is currently investigating where exactly in the supply chain the drug comes from and how it made it into food. Veterinarians usually injects animals that are too sick to save with sodium pentobarbital at a high enough dose that the animal goes into cardiac arrest and dies. There are other ways to euthanize animals, and guns and tools similar to guns are more practical for large animals.

Some pet food companies buy raw goods from rendering facilities that process animals euthanized at animal shelters. That means that some pet food is made from a variety of meats that humans wouldn't eat, including diseased livestock and cats and dogs containing lethal doses of sodium pentobarbital. In other words, the body of a stray dog killed in a shelter may be ground up into dog food. Whether any of the recalls are related to this practice is unknown.

Pentobarbital poisoning can result in "drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, nausea, nystagmus (eyes moving back and forth in a jerky manner) and inability to stand," the FDA says. The agency recommends that if your dog exhibits symptoms of pentobarbital poisoning, you should take it to the vet immediately.