Animals & Money: Pet owners worry about Nutro after dog deaths

Dog owners are facing yet another pet food scare. This one seems so far to be smaller in scale, but six dogs are dead and others sick after eating Nutro, according to this investigation by Consumer Affairs. There isn't a recall. Nutro says there isn't even a problem in this special web page it set up to address the issue.

If you're a dog owner you may not have even heard about the latest scare. It hasn't really been in the news. I only found out when a friend at the dog run starting worrying about her dog after seeing the story in an online newsgroup.

Two Italian Greyhounds from Indiana became dizzy, vomited, urinated incessantly and had a peculiar smell, said their owner, identified only as Theresa C. from Indianapolis in the Consumer Affairs story. Both were euthanized after kidney failure. The vet suspected antifreeze poisoning.

Last year, investigators eventually found that dogs were poisoned because Chinese manufacturers had added melamine, a component of antifreeze, to boost protein readings. The Food and Drug Administration analyzed their Nutro food, looking for melamine and similar chemicals as well as other common food poisoning agents like salmonella. The FDA found nothing wrong with the Nutro food.

"I wonder if there's something in the food they're not testing for," Theresa C. told Consumer Affairs -- echoing the concern of dog owners everywhere.

Pet owners are still pretty disgruntled and shocked about what can be found in their dog's food. Last month a judge approved $24 million settlement for pet owners to pay for economic loss--in other words, not for the emotional distress. That includes vet bills, even to test what turned out to be healthy dogs, food bills. You can go to if you want to file a claim. Most dog owners think that's a pretty low ball settlement.

I was worried for weeks about my dog Jolly after two of his favorite brands, Nutro and Natural Balance, showed up on the list. Some dogs don't show symptoms right away. At first I mocked those overly-anxious dog owners who prepare their dog's food on their own. Then, reluctantly, I became one of them--at least as much as I can.

We were all disgusted at what was going into our dog's food. The recall started out with some store brands then spread to big national brands like Iams, Hill's, Nutro, Natural Balance, Purina, Alpo, Castor & Pollux, Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul, Drs. Fosters and Smith and Eukanuba. Eventually so many brands were involved that set up so concerned dog parents could check. What shocked many dog owners was that many brands they trusted had gotten involved in this international quest for cheap ingredients. Even though some brands didn't have to recall their food it turned out they were using Menu Foods, the manufacturer implicated with the tainted ingredients.

A different lawsuit is wending its way through the courts in Florida, according to This one addresses false advertising, the constant claims from pet food makers that they are serving wholesome, safe, top quality food. Instead, the lawyers who hope to turn this into a class action suit against major manufacturers and retailers claim pet food may contain "restaurant grease, road kill, hair, blood, pus, esophagi, chicken heads, feet and intestines, cow brains, excrement, fetal tissue, moldy grains, hulls, Styrofoam packaging from discarded supermarket meat, euthanized animals -- including dogs and cats -- and/or diseased dying, disabled and dead animals."

A few months ago the San Francisco Gate investigated the question The Pet Food Recall: One Year Later, Has Anything Changed? The answer, scarily, is no.
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