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What We Know About Social Media Reports that Purina Dog Food Caused Pets' Deaths

Unverified reports suggest that dozens of dogs became ill and at least 10 had died as of Jan. 30, 2024.

Published Jan 31, 2024

 (Pixabay/Public Domain)
Image Via Pixabay/Public Domain

Since December 2023, online posts (archived) have claimed that dozens of dogs became sick after consuming Purina dog foods, with at least 10 (archived post) dying as a result. Iterations of the claim appear to have originated in the Facebook group Saving Pets One Pet @ a Time (archived).

Below is a sample of some of the comments seen in the group as of Jan. 30, 2024. Snopes removed the names and photos of the original posters:

(Snopes compilation)

One website claimed that "in at least one instance, Purina has offered to cover the pet owner’s veterinary bills." Snopes is awaiting clarification from Purina as to whether the claim was true.

In response to our general inquiry, Purina spokesperson Lorie Westhoff told Snopes that, as of this publication, “Purina does not have any current or pending recalls.”

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees pet food regulation, recalls may be conducted "on a firm's own initiative, by FDA request, or by FDA order under statutory authority.”

When Snopes searched the FDA database (archived) for Purina recalls, three turned up — two from 2023 and one from 2022, which we have listed below:

  • March 10, 2023: Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EL Elemental (PPVD EL) prescription dry dog food for “potential elevated ingredient level.”
  • Feb. 8, 2023: Veterinary Diets EL Elemental dry dog food for “potentially elevated Vitamin D.” [Note: This was a voluntary recall following two complaints of dog illness, according to Purina.]
  • Dec. 2, 2022: Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Low Fat (PPVD EN Low Fat) prescription wet dog food for “mislabeling.”

Purina confirmed that those recalls were completed and terminated by the FDA.

Westhoff referred Snopes to a Purina news release (archived) that addressed concerns related to the safety of Purina dog food, which was last updated on Jan. 15, 2024. In it, the company said it was investigating the claims made online despite believing that they weren't credible:

In light of this rumor, our Quality Assurance team has reviewed all incoming consumer contacts, manufacturing, and quality assurance data (this includes ingredient testing, analytical data throughout the production process, and quality assurance post-production testing) for the past year.

Additionally, our Office of Consumer Affairs, which takes calls and messages from pet parents and works closely with our quality assurance experts, veterinarians, nutritionists, a veterinary toxicologist and many others, to investigate product complaints, has reviewed its data from the past year. Thorough investigations by both teams have found no data or trend that would indicate a product issue that has not been previously addressed.

“Just to reiterate, the group behind the rumor has not provided any evidence or facts to support this narrative. It currently is based on anecdotal stories from pet owners,” Westhoff said. “Nearly all calls we have received about this have been from scared pet owners who read about this false rumor online and are trying to understand if there is a problem with our food, which there is not. These rumors cause unnecessary stress and create a sense of understandable panic that they may be doing something wrong.”

According to Purina's news release, several of the people perpetuating the claim are believed to market or sell products that “compete with Purina, and some have served as paid social media influencers to promote products and brands that are not being actively targeted by this rumor.”

Snopes posted in the Facebook group to solicit comments from members willing to provide a verified, confirmed report (i.e., necropsy from a veterinarian) that linked Purina dog food directly to their dog's illness or death. As of this publication, we have not received a response.

The FDA did not respond to specific questions about whether it was investigating claims related to the supposed illnesses and deaths associated with Purina dog food. Instead, the agency wrote in an email:

The FDA takes seriously its responsibility to help ensure that pet food ingredients are safe and nutritious. While the agency cannot comment on specifics of these particular illness reports at this time, generally speaking when the FDA becomes aware of pet illnesses, we will evaluate them and determine what — if any — FDA action may be warranted. The agency encourages pet owners or their veterinarians to submit reports of illness or other adverse events associated with pet food directly to the FDA by following the instructions on this page: How to Report a Pet Food Complaint.

The agency also referred Snopes to an X post that it shared on Jan. 12, 2024, encouraging pet owners to report food-related medical issues to the FDA:

Snopes will continue to monitor the situation and update this article should new information arise.

Sources

Center for Veterinary Medicine. “How to Report a Pet Food Complaint.” FDA, Apr. 2023. www.fda.gov, https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/report-problem/how-report-pet-food-complaint.

---. “Recalls & Withdrawals.” FDA, 26 May 2020, https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/safety-health/recalls-withdrawals.

“Dogs Getting Sick from Purina Pet Food.” Havanese Forum, 14 Jan. 2024, https://www.havaneseforum.com/threads/dogs-getting-sick-from-purina-pet-food.142750/.

Entis, Phyllis. “Consumers Allege Purina Products behind Pet Illnesses/Deaths.” eFoodAlert, 4 Jan. 2024, https://efoodalert.com/2024/01/04/consumers-allege-purina-products-behind-pet-illnesses-deaths/.

Fact Check: Purina Response to Online Rumor. https://newscenter.purina.com/Purina-Response-to-Online-Rumors. Accessed 30 Jan. 2024.

Thixton, Susan. Consumer Reports of Sick/Dying Pets Linked to Purina. 4 Jan. 2024, https://truthaboutpetfood.com/consumer-reports-of-sick-dying-pets-linked-to-purina/.

Madison Dapcevich is a freelance contributor for Snopes.