As a pet parent, there's probably not much that's scarier than a food recall: you feel guilty because you fed your dog something that could have made him sick, and yet what could you have done to possibly prevent it? It leaves you feeling pretty helpless (and paranoid about your pup's health!). With the seeming rise in recalls, we talked to Tonya Wilhelm, founder of Raising Your Pets Naturally and author of Proactive Puppy Care, who travels throughout the United States to talk about how to do just that. She filled me in on how to prevent dog food disasters before they actually happen.
How to avoid them the first place
To start, "I always look for United States-sourced ingredients," Wilhelm says. It's important to read the ingredients on the label, too. Look for whole foods such as fresh meats and vegetables versus byproducts such as "chicken meal" and chemical preservatives like BHA: the less processing, the less chances of there being an issue which could lead to a recall. Also be on the lookout for pet food made in meat-rendering plants, which process animal byproduct materials that can include euthanized pets. In terms of the pet food brands, smaller companies (like Ollie) tend to have a close relationship with their suppliers and there are fewer people involved in the process, Wilhelm says. "Most actually will talk about the process on their websites, because they are proud of their sourcing," Wilhelm says.
How to stay aware of recalls
The easiest way to make sure you find out about a recall is to sign up for the Food and Drug Administration's email alert option at FDA.gov. Most pet food companies also have their own email alerts, so be sure to go onto your individual pet food company's website to see if that's an option. Since recalls typically only involve limited batches of a product, always save the original packaging which contains the specific batch information, says Mike Sagman, founder and managing editor of Dogfoodadvisor.com, an independent review site that helps dog owners make informed decisions about purchasing dog food.
What to do if your dog food is recalled
Stop giving your dog the food immediately! Contact your vet if your dog has eaten the food and look out for any symptoms of sickness. Ask your vet about how to safely switch your dog over to a different brand of food, and then follow the instructions included in the recall notice, which may include going to an emergency veterinarian, Sagman says. Typically, the manufacturer will have you return your food for a refund, but make sure you save a little of it in case the vet needs to examine it. Since it is a contaminated food or treat, make sure you are careful when handling it (use a glove and wash your hands thoroughly).