As pet owners, we cherish our pets and we strive to provide them with the very best care possible.
That’s why it can be so devastating to find out we may have inadvertently placed our pet in danger.
Sadly in recent years, there have been several instances of pets falling ill, that have been linked to the food or treats they’ve eaten.
In some cases, it has been suggested foods may have become contaminated or toxic; at other times, the pet’s response is due to consuming too much, or not enough, of some ingredients or nutrients.
Whatever the cause, when an incident occurs, it understandably causes immense worry and fear for pet owners.
Here’s what you can do.
Contact the manufacturer immediately
Like human food, pet food can be recalled if a problem is identified, to minimise the risk of other pets being affected.
Unlike human food though, pet food recalls are only mandatory for those brands that have chosen to comply with the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food (Standard AS5812:2017) - which includes all members of the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia.
If you suspect there’s an issue with your food or treats, stop using them immediately and contact the brand via the details found on the pack (or online) as quickly as possible, to report your concerns.
You can also make a complaint to the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA).
Talk to your vet
It’s vitally important you talk to your vet as soon as possible. Whatever the cause, if something is wrong then early treatment can prevent many issues from becoming much worse.
If there’s a known pet food problem, your vet may even already be aware of it; or your case may alert them to an emerging issue. Your vet can then log the issue through a system called PetFAST, established in 2011 to help record issues and share information with other vets and authorities.
Looks outside your pet food bowl as well
Being concerned about your pet's food or treats is a natural response if your pet is showing signs of gastric upset that seem to coincide with a recent meal or snack.
But it’s a good idea to keep an open mind, and consider all possible sources of the illness outside your pet’s regular diet as well.
For example, earlier this year, we saw multiple outbreaks of leptospirosis in parts of Sydney, which is a rare bacterial disease that can be picked up by dogs drinking infected water from puddles or ponds.
Accidental poisoning among pets is all too common as well. Has your pet had any access to places where toxic materials could be found? (such as chemicals in the household or risky plants in the backyard).
Use a good quality commercial pet food
Here at the RSPCA, we feed and recommend Hill's Pet Nutrition.
Many pet owners love the idea of preparing their own pet food and treats from fresh ingredients, and this can feel like a safe way to control what your pet is eating.
Be careful though – just like humans, animals need a complete and balanced diet that meets all their nutritional needs. It can take a lot of work and research to make sure you’re providing this, and giving your pet too much or not enough of some nutrients, vitamins or minerals can cause serious health problems.
There can also be problems with raw meat products such as harmful preservatives used in ‘pet meat’ (so any raw meat or raw meaty bones offered should be human grade only).
Our pets’ tummies also don’t tend to respond very well to frequent changes or variation in their diet either. You might like having something different for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, but that’s not the case for your pet! They like routine and consistency in their meals, with some appropriate extras included to – for example – help with dental health, address your pet’s particular needs, provide enrichment or entertainment, or provide a well-earned treat.
To learn more about pet food safety, visit the RSPCA’s Knowledgebase at kb.rspca.org.au.