If you are convinced that your cat or dog died because of the commercial food he ate then there is a good argument that you should do three things in the interests of cats and dogs generally and for your own good.
- Ask your veterinarian to do an autopsy (a post-mortem examination). Although this sounds objectionable and, no doubt, emotionally it is difficult to instruct a vet to do this, it would very much help to confirm whether it was the food or something else which caused the death and
- In the USA, make a complaint to the FDA (“Food and Drug Administration”) and
- Keep a sample of the food that you think caused his death.
The recommendations by two veterinarians1 have come out of the Purina story about their Beneful dog food which is spreading virally throughout the Internet. The Internet is very useful but can also be a little bit dangerous. Veterinarians are not necessarily saying that the dog food is not causing illness and sometimes death in dogs but what they are saying is that pet owners should be cautious about blaming the food and the better course of action is to be more scientific about it and take the steps as mentioned above.
Veterinarians writing on the dvm.360.com website say that when a person’s pet becomes sick they often initially look at the pet’s food as a cause. But, according to vets, it is rare for commercially produced food to cause serious illness in pets. However, there is a lot of distrust by concerned pet owners about the quality of commercially manufactured pet food. This is the fault of the manufacturers.
Also, they make the point that when a person’s pet unexpectedly dies or becomes seriously ill the pet owner needs answers and grieving takes place. In order to assuage the pain of the passing of their pet people look for answers and sometimes they can be misled into looking in the wrong place.
What the veterinarians are stating is that pet owners should be more reliant upon “evidence-based medicine”. Veterinarians should be the main source of information about the causes of death.
“Any concerns with a particular product should immediately be brought to the attention of the manufacturer so that information can be collected and products appropriately monitored.”
In addition, a spokesperson for Purina said that they welcome telephone calls from consumers who are concerned about their products. Both making an application to the FDA and calling Purina to make a complaint may be offputting and difficult to do especially for a pet owner who is going through the grieving process. However, at a certain time it would be useful to take these steps both for peace of mind and to find closure and also for the wider good of pets generally in the country.
The veterinarians state that under certain circumstances it is appropriate to advise a client that an autopsy would be a good idea but the way the matter should be approached is important. They suggest that the veterinarian should ask, “You have the opportunity to put your mind at ease and know what happened.” This is better than simply asking a client whether he or she wants an autopsy.
The FDA have seen a large increase in the number of complaints about Purina Beneful dog food since the matter has gone viral Internet. This is unsurprising but there is an argument that the power of the Internet can sometimes spread false information or information which leads people to form beliefs and ideas which may not necessarily be true.
This is not to say that the Internet is not useful. It is extremely useful because it helps create networks between people who have suffered the same distress in losing their pet and therefore helps to find the cause of mysterious health problems. The Internet also opens a conduit of information from pet owner to pet food manufacturer providing mass feedback to the manufacturer which, at the end of the day, must be a good thing although initially, as is apparent in this case, the manufacturers will vigorously defend their position.
Veterinarians should also file reports to the FDA when appropriate.
Note 1: Buffington, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVN, professor at The Ohio State University Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and Stephen Ettinger, DVM, DACVIM, a well-known small animal internist and cardiologist.