The Truth About Poison Dog Food

Unfortunately, dog food, a well-trusted product, can actually poison a dog due to the improper use of some ingredients. Some brands of dog food include ingredients that are meant to provide filler or to act as a preservative. These ingredients can be harmful, inflicting permanent damage or even death.

Dog food poisoning has been underreported because many of the symptoms mimic or actually cause diseases that were not thought to be connected to the ingestion of food. By the time there's a connection made to certain dog foods resulting in a pet food recall, many dogs have already been permanently injured or have died.

There have been two major recent recalled dog food incidents. One involved Diamond Pet Foods in 2009, due to the ingredient aflatoxin, which resulted in permanent liver damage. The other happened in 2007 with Menu Foods, due to the ingredient melamine, which resulted in renal failure.


Aflatoxin is a fungus found on corn and other crops, which can cause severe liver damage in pets. Exhibition of any of the following symptoms should merit an immediate trip to the vet:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the whites of the eyes, belly or gums
  • Sluggishness
  • Persistent, severe vomiting
  • Bloody diarrhea


Melamine is an industrial chemical utilized in manufacture of plastics, but was also used in wheat gluten in order to thicken the gravy in "cuts and gravy" style wet pet foods. Melamine also contaminated pet food products containing rice proteins and corn gluten. Ingestion of melamine can lead to kidney stones, reproductive damage and cancer. Chinese pet food manufacturers were using melamine and cyanuric acid to give the appearance of a higher protein level in their products.

Seek immediate veterinarian attention if any of these symptoms appear after ingestion of any pet food. These are signs of possible kidney failure.

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in water consumption
  • Changes in urination frequency and/or amount

Read Labels

Dogs need a diet high in protein in varying degrees, depending upon their age and level of activity for proper nutrition. More active and younger dogs need more protein. This can be accomplished using either dry or wet dog food, or a combination of both. Since dogs are meat-eaters, they need the protein found in foods made of meat and dairy products, such as chicken, beef, eggs, lamb, fish and meat by-products.

Some dog food manufacturers include corn as a filler with some meat, bone meal and other ingredients, in order to satisfy the requirement for labelling their product as balanced and complete. Dogs need proteins, vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates and calories for a well-balanced diet in order to maintain health.

More information can be found regarding pet food recalls at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).