The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising pet owners and caretakers, veterinarians, and the pet food industry to be aware that pet food and treats made with livestock gullets (meat from the throat region) have the potential to contain thyroid tissue and thyroid hormones. Pets that eat food or treats containing thyroid hormones may develop hyperthyroidism, a disease that is rare in dogs and usually triggered by thyroid cancer.
After two recent pet food recalls (Blue Buffalo and Wellness), FDA is issuing a warning/alert to consumers, vets, and the pet food industry regarding the risk to pets of food and treats made with “livestock gullets”. The FDA alert continues…
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include excessive thirst and urination, weight loss, increased appetite, restlessness, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, rapid and/or labored breathing, vomiting, and diarrhea. Continued exposure to excess thyroid hormones can cause damage to the heart and in some cases, death.
The FDA is issuing this alert now after a recent Center for Veterinary Medicine investigation into reports of three dogs in different households that showed signs of hyperthyroidism. In these cases, extensive testing on all three dogs conducted at a reference laboratory showed elevated thyroid hormone in the blood, but ruled out thyroid cancer. Reference lab interviews with the dogs’ owners revealed that all three dogs had been fed BLUE Wilderness® Rocky Mountain Recipe TM Red Meat Dinner Wet Food for Adult Dogs and/or Wellness 95% Beef Topper for Dogs.
Based on the recommendation of the reference lab’s consulting veterinarian, the feeding of these dog foods was discontinued. After the dogs stopped eating these products for a few weeks, their clinical signs disappeared and thyroid hormone levels returned to normal. An FDA lab tested unopened cans of BLUE Wilderness® Rocky Mountain Recipe TM Red Meat Dinner Wet Food for Adult Dogs and Wellness 95% Beef Topper for Dogs and confirmed that they contained active thyroid hormone. The source of thyroid hormones is likely from the use of gullets from which the thyroid glands were not completely removed before adding to pet food or treats.
The FDA provided significant information to veterinarians including clinical information of the dogs previously diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. This is a needed step from FDA helping veterinarians to diagnose a pet food related illness (something we don’t see very often from FDA).
The FDA also provided some information to the pet food industry, but stopped short of prohibiting the material in pet food. Interestingly, FDA noted in their pet food alert – “USDA prohibits the use of thyroid glands and laryngeal muscle tissue for human food.” USDA takes such a strong stance against the use of thyroid glands in human food (example ground beef) because of the known risk of human hyperthyroidism from consuming this material. But again – FDA does not prohibit this material in pet food, they only advise pet food manufacturers to “carefully assess their suppliers’ practices and take steps to ensure that they are receiving raw materials and ingredients that do not contain thyroid hormone secreting tissue.”
Will pet food manufacturers actually ‘carefully assess their suppliers’? We don’t know. The best a pet food consumer can do is question their manufacturer if they will guarantee (in writing) no livestock gullets are used in the pet food. And consumers should be well aware of the symptoms: “Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include excessive thirst and urination, weight loss, increased appetite, restlessness, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, rapid and/or labored breathing, vomiting, and diarrhea.” Should you see any of these symptoms in your pet, consult with your veterinarian immediately. And report the issue to FDA (Click Here).
To read the full FDA alert, Click Here.
To read the notice to veterinarians, Click Here.
To read the notice to industry, Click Here.
We thank the FDA for the consumer alert and the alert/information to veterinarians…but…FDA, it is more than apparent livestock gullets should be prohibited for use in pet food (just like in human food). Stop this. Consider prevention instead of alerts after death and illness occurs.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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