Why Do Dog Foods Get Recalled and What Does It Mean?

Modern pet parents are very vigilant when it comes to the cuisine of their canines; in recent years dog nutrition has become an increasingly discussed topic. As a result, the market has become saturated with unique options to feed your four-legged friends. With more companies trying to produce the food they think pet parents want, quality control and recalls are also discussed more frequently.

While it can sound very scary to hear that your dog’s food has been recalled, it is not necessarily entirely negative depending upon the circumstances. This article will help you understand what you need to know about dog food recalls to keep your pup protected and to be a smart shopper.

Table of Contents

Why Do Dog Foods Get Recalled?

According to Cummings Veterinary Center at Tufts University, the most common reasons that dog foods get recalled are:


This involves toxic substances being present in the food, such as J.M. Smucker’s pentobarbital recall in 2018.

Presence Of Foreign Objects

This may occur during manufacturing, such as the voluntary choking hazard recall by Mars Pet in 2012, issued as a result of pieces of plastic being in Pedigree canned dog food.

Inadequate Nutrients

This can mean a nutrient is not present enough or is excessively present, such as Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s voluntary recall for elevated levels of Vitamin D in 2019.

Presence Of Bacteria

An example was the voluntary salmonella recall made by Midwestern Pet Foods in 2021. Note that this type of recall is most common in raw foods. This type is also the most concerning, as it may affect the human members of a dog’s family as well.

What Does It Mean To Have A Dog Food Recalled?

If you hear about a dog food being recalled, it means that the food was found to be unsafe for consumption and as a result steps are being taken to prevent pets from being fed the affected food.

When a dog food is recalled, it will be removed from the shelves to avoid consumers purchasing it for their pets. Brick and mortar stores usually post a paper notice where the dog food was sold, or place phone calls to pet parents they have records of purchasing the food, to inform pet parents that the recall occurred. Online retailers may send an e-mail or other notification to pet parents who ordered a recalled food.

Sign up here to be alerted about dog food recalls by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Who Oversees Dog Food Safety?

The United States Food and Drug Administration (also known as the FDA) oversees human, dog and pet food safety.

The FDA’s requirements for the pet food industry are:

  • They require that pet foods be safe to eat.
  • They require that pet foods contain no toxic ingredients.
  • They require that pet foods be manufactured in clean conditions.
  • They regulate pet food labels and require that the labels contain truthful information about the food.

It is important to note that the FDA does NOT provide pre-market approval for pet foods.

To access the FDA’s frequently asked questions about pet food recalls, click here.

What Causes Dog Food To Be Recalled?

According to the Cummings Veterinary Center at Tufts University, dog food can be recalled voluntarily by a manufacturer, at the request of the FDA, or by the command of the FDA.

When initially learning that a dog food was been recalled, most pet parents tend to panic and worry. However, the circumstances of a recall can be good or bad:

Good Recalls

A good recall occurs when a manufacturer voluntarily recalls a product. Generally speaking, companies who perform voluntary recalls have better quality controls in place. Taking this action shows integrity; it means that the manufacturer cares about their consumers enough to catch an issue and take steps to rectify it.

For these reasons, searching for a manufacturer that has never issued a voluntary recall does not mean that their product and practices are better; it can actually mean that they are worse. If there are no quality control procedures in place, a recalled product can easily fly under the radar.

Bad Recalls

A bad recall occurs by the command of the FDA. This means that the recalled product has caused severe enough damage for the FDA to become actively involved and force the manufacturer to issue a recall. Sadly, sometimes pets have died as a result of the recalled product for a recall to rise to this level.

If you discover that your dog has eaten a food that was recalled by the FDA command and was associated with serious consequences to other pets such as severe illness or death, seek veterinary care immediately even if your dog appears to be healthy.

What Happens If My Dog Is Eating A Recalled Food?

If you discover that your dog has eaten a food that has been recalled, follow these steps:

  • Stop feeding your dog the recalled food immediately.
  • Begin by searching for the recall on the United States Food and Drug Administration’s website here to get all the information you need to know about the specific recall from a reliable source.
  • Next and most importantly, arrange for a veterinary examination to ensure that your dog is not suffering from side effects of the recall. Even if your dog appears healthy, he or she could be carrying germs that could get you sick if the food was contaminated with a disease like salmonella.
  • Take the food back to the store you purchased it from if it was purchased from a brick and mortar store. If you ordered it online, contact customer service before attempting to ship it back. The retailer should issue you a refund or store credit.
  • Consider contacting the food manufacturer to submit a complaint.
  • If you are not interested in pursuing a refund, disposing of the food in a way that will prevent any animal from eating it is important to protect stray domestic animals or wild life from suffering from potential effects of the recalled food. Two good options are double bagging it in a trash bag and storing it in a secure location until trash day, or putting it down your garbage disposal.
  • Clean all of your dog’s dishes, feeding area, food containers, and any surfaces that came into contact with the recalled food thoroughly with a disinfectant.
  • Submit a complaint to the United States Food and Drug Administration by following this link.

Keep in mind that to confirm that the dog food in your possession is affected by a recall, and to submit a complaint, you will need information from the packaging of your dog’s food. For this reason it is always recommended that you keep the packaging of your dog’s food until he or she has eaten all of it.

For example, if your dog eats dry food and you store it in a container, putting the entire bag in the storage container offers two benefits:

  • One, you will be able to identify if the bag was a part of a recall.
  • Two, it keeps the container clean and prevents you from having to clean out the container each time a new bag is purchased. If you do not clean out the container each time new food is purchased, old crumbs accumulate at the bottom and can become moldy, ruining any new food stored in the container.

Recent Dog Food Recalls

While dog food recalls do not often make front page news in main stream media, they do happen more often than you may think. For example:

  • According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), in 2019, Natural Life Pet Products and Nutrisca issued recalls as a result of excessive levels of Vitamin D in their pet foods. This recall was issued after the companies received complaints from pet parents that their pets became sick after eating the foods.
  • According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in 2020 Sunshine Mills, Inc. issued a voluntary recall of some of their dog foods after an excessive amount of Aflatoxin was found to be present.
  • According to Pets Web MD, in 2021, Midwestern Pet Foods issued a voluntary recall of some of their dog and cat foods due to a salmonella contamination.

Some additional examples of recent recalls can be found on the American Veterinary Medical Association website here. This link also offers you the ability to be notified of dog food recalls.


Hearing that your dog’s food has been recalled can be alarming news to receive, but by researching the facts of the recall, you may find peace of mind if you learn that the recall was caught as a result of stringent quality control procedures. If you have any concerns about your dog’s health relating to a dog food recall, be sure to schedule an appointment with his or her veterinarian promptly.

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