Signs Your Pet Ate Contaminated Food

As the contaminated pet food recall expands, it’s important to know what signs to watch out for in case your pet gets sick.

Here are the tell-tell signs of kidney failure:

• Stops eating
• Drinks lots of water
• Listlessness
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea

If you see at least 2-3 of the above signs, especially listlessness, call your local animal hospital.

Even if you’re not buying any of the recalled products, its important to know what to look out for. Who knows what other products the recall might grow to? — BEN POPKEN

(Photo: Maulleigh)


Edit Your Comment

  1. bluegus32 says:

    other possible signs:

    your animal is dead

  2. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    And to add even more fun to this story, apparently the tainted wheat gluten involved is “food grade”, which means it can legally be used in food for human consumption! This is quickly turning into a major disaster for someone, whoever the importer is of this stuff.

  3. NeoteriX says:



  4. North of 49 says:

    Our cat is at a friend’s place for various reasons. Anyway, he refuses to believe that the food he is giving our cat could be dangerous. His reasoning is that since the cat has been eating it since January, its safe.

    Right… sure…

  5. tvh2k says:

    That picture is priceless!

  6. kjherron says:

    Listlessness? We’re talking about cats, you know.

  7. spryte says:

    Listless is different than lazy or sleepy.

    bluegus32 – We’re talking about people’s pets dying. I think the sarcasm could be better used elsewhere.

  8. Citron says:

    One of my cats threw up, but it’s because she’s a bastard. I feed them organic food. Those bastards.

    I’m hopefully optimistic that the snafu in the pet food industry will finally get some decent regulation down in there, but I know in my brain-of-brains that such a thing will never happen.

  9. RagingTowers says:

    I actually happen to find about 5 packages of tainted food in my house…

    So what color should said vomit be? Cause one of my cats has been spewing up a mix of brownish red hairy stuff…

  10. BMR says:

    the callous nature of many of the comments surrounding this terrible tragedy shows you why there will never be proper regulation in the animal food industry. people think pets are just another bit of property and many people, even pet owners, don’t take this seriously. death of a living thing is serious, especially a living thing that is essentially helpless and completely dependent upon you to do right by it.

  11. dix99 says:

    I had a healthy dog die last year. He stopped eating, was always drinking water & looked depressed & in pain. He was fed with Iams wet & dry food, so if you think this is something new, I think you’re wrong. Somebody was testing this poison a while ago & it’s just come to light, because so many people started to question what was going on.

  12. bluegus32 says:

    spryte says: “bluegus32 – We’re talking about people’s pets dying. I think the sarcasm could be better used elsewhere.”

    spryte — we’re talking about national hysteria. I think the sarcasm is completely appropriate.

    Lighten up. I have animals myself.

  13. bluegus32 says:

    And another thing — let’s keep this in perspective. Yes, it’s very, very sad when an animal dies. And yet, we hear news reports on a daily basis of people dying in droves in other countries and yet we seem immune to it.

    If you don’t want your pet to die, pay attention to the news reports and don’t feed them any of the known contaminated foods.

    It’s sad, but it’s not that tragic. We know which foods to avoid. Therefore, as a responsible consumer, I do not feed those foods to my cat, dog, rat or fish (yes, I have a whole damn zoo in my house.) Funny, they seem to be still alive now.

  14. spanky says:

    This last recall was the last straw for me.

    Our dog was on mostly people food until he had to go on a diet a few years ago (it was just easier to regulate his intake with kibble). But now, he’s going back on a human food diet, and I’ve been reading up on how to do that with the cats, too.

    (Dogs are easy–apart from a few things you need to avoid, their nutritional requirements are almost like humans’, but with a higher proportion of meat. The cats will be a little harder, but it looks pretty doable so far.)

    To do list:

    1. Make homemade cat food.
    2. Dye hair bright orange.
    3. Stand on front lawn terrorizing neighbors with a broom.

  15. detoth67 says:

    So, bluegus32, its not the manufactuer’s fault, its the owner’s fault? How about the animals who died previous to the recall? How about the animals who have died after the recall and before even more companies were added?

    I’m sorry, your flippancy and poor attitude speaks volumes about your ability to understand the seriousness of this issue. WHen thousands of pets have died and a possibility of it infecting the human food supply, it is not simply hysteria.

    I encourage you to use better judgement in measuring your words.
    Your words are the window into your mind, and they present ot others who you are.

  16. bluegus32 says:

    detoth67: “WHen thousands of pets have died and a possibility of it infecting the human food supply, it is not simply hysteria.”

    And your words also speak volumes. When I said hysteria, I meant hysteria. You see, as a responsible consumer, I investigate the facts before I run off at the mouth.

    According to the Food and Drug Administration, as of March 17, 2007, a grand total of 14 deaths have been reported as associated with contaminated foods.

    Statistics compiled by the American Pet Products Manufacturing Association estimates that Americans own 62.4 million dogs.

    The ASPCA estimates that Americans own approximately 70 million cats.

    That’s 130 million cats and dogs. This excludes other small pets including rats, hamsters, gerbils, etc.

    So, 130 million pets and only 14 reported deaths. Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and push that number up to 100. That means that a total of .000076% of animals have died.

    14 animals of 130 million have died. Hardly significant. You’ll excuse me if I think that the incredible media coverage of this event amounts to hysteria. You’ll also excuse me if I have a hard time with your misinformed characterization of the true scope of the problem.

    Furthermore, the FDA and reputable Veterinarians have indicated that all taineted foods have been recalled and are no longer on store shevles. So, the “emergency” is over.

    As for the concern regarding the danger to humans, there has yet to be a single reported case of a single human being injured by any of the recalled pet food or products that may have been associated with any contaminated pet food ingredient. So far, the concern over danger to humans has only been peddled by scaremongers looking to fabricate a neat little news story.

    I encourage you to do your research before irrationally calling me insensitive and blithely buying into the media scare machine. The Consumerist did the responsible thing by reporting this information to us. As a responsible, informed and highly educated consumer I gave this terrifying scare story it’s proper attention. What about you?

  17. spanky says:


    According to the Food and Drug Administration, as of March 17, 2007, a grand total of 14 deaths have been reported as associated with contaminated foods.

    Even for human fatalities associated with dangerous products, most estimate that only 1 to 10% of deaths are reported. Reports would be much less than that for pets. We don’t know how many pets died that nobody even thought to link to the food, or that nobody bothered to or knew how to report. Pets that die are buried in backyards, (apparently) tossed into the garbage, etc. They’re usually not autopsied, and their deaths are rarely investigated in any way.

    Also, it’s worth noting that that number is from when the recall was initially announced. Who would have even thought to investigate the possibility that store-bought pet food was poisoned before it was reported?

    The most controlled and reliable statistic here is that of the 25 cats that participated in the taste test for the first batch of recalled foods, nine died. And that’s just deaths, too, not counting any that might have gotten ill or suffered organ damage without dying.

    That’s a LOT. That’s huge.

  18. bluegus32 says:

    @spanky: thank you for your intelligent response and from refraining from flinging insults at me personally based out of emotion.

    However, you state a lot of “facts” completely unsupported by citation to evidence. Mind pointing me to the evidence of which you speak? Because if you can’t, then you’re arguing my facts without any evidentiary support for your counter belief.

    How do you conclude that the problem is being under-reported by pet owners? To what study are you referring that showed that 9 of 22 cats died? See, that doesn’t make sense. Because if nearly a full 4% of tested animals were in fact dying from ingesting this food, we would expect to see far more than the paltry sum of reported deaths we’ve seen to date.

    Sorry, I smell something wrong with the “facts” to which you cite. I stand behind my original argument that the media has way overblown this issue.

  19. jojoscats says:


    “The most controlled and reliable statistic here is that of the 25 cats that participated in the taste test for the first batch of recalled foods, nine died.”

    As someone who has been involved in animal-based biomedical research for nine years, I’d like to see a source for that information.

  20. spanky says:

    @bluegus32: @jojoscats:

    Sorry I didn’t notice your comments until now. I should have provided a cite for that in the first place, too. I was being lazy.

    Here are a couple places that mention the taste testing deaths:

    BBC America article

    Here’s a PDF from a veterinarian group.

    The last one also references an FDA press release.

    As to the low reporting rates, I research a lot of recalled (human) drug cases for work, and the common wisdom is that, depending on type and severity of interaction, only about 1% to 10% of serious side effects are even reported to the FDA. Of course, that’s pretty inherently unsubstantiatable.

    But based on the rate of deaths in the controlled environment, and the sheer volume of food out in the wild, I’m pretty confident in concluding that the problem is far, far larger than the initial reports would indicate.

  21. spanky says:

    And of course, right after I post, I find an article that covers the issue in depth, making me a big double-posting spaz. I hate it when that happens.

    Bigger than you think: The story behind the pet food recal…

    They address some of reasons for the underreporting, and they do throw out a few numbers from various sources who are trying to take tallies. A lot of those are self-reported, and sources are pretty scattershot, so the numbers and subsequent estimates are necessarily sloppy.

    It does hint at a much, much larger problem than the initial (and many of the current) reports indicate, though.

  22. bluegus32 says:

    spanky: thanks for the info. The problem I have with the SFGate article you cite is that it’s all speculation. There’s a whole lot of “we don’t know” and “reporting is unreliable” blah blah blah.

    Here’s what we do know: Certain pet food has been contaminated. We now know which brands to avoid. Other than that, there are an uncomfirmed number of animal deaths. Of the “thousands” of reported deahts, we have no idea which are related to food contamination and which are simply the result of other unrelated causes. The article states that they conducted their own voluntary survey, with unconfirmed results, where they asked pet owners to report deaths. Read the article very carefully because it is very filled with completely unreliable information and media scare tactics:

    We wanted to get an idea of the real scope of the problem, so we started a database for people to report their dead or sick pets. On March 21, two days after opening the database, we had over 600 reported cases and more than 200 reported deaths. As of March 31, the number of deaths alone was at 2,797.

    Notice that the statistics the author throws out only counts for the number of deaths reported — but there is absolutely no mention of the cause of deaths. The “database” simply asked people to report the death of an animal. Well guess what? Animals die every day. What this article fails to point out is any statistical significance. For instance, had they opened that same database, with that same question, two years ago, what would the results have shown? Are we seeing more deaths now than we would expect to see at any other given time?

    You see, this is what the media does. They take statitistics completely out of context, report them in a way that is technically correct but that is guaranteed to mislead people.

    The piece you cite is an opinion piece. There is not a single shred of reliable information in that document. Which, by the way, is standard fare for the SF Chronicle. They usually don’t care about pesky little things like “facts”.

    That’s not to say that you’re wrong. Maybe we are facing an epidemic. I don’t know. What I do know is that this would not be the first time that the media has reported an epidemic that does not exist. We certainly don’t see any EVIDENCE of one here. So far, it is all based on conjecture and anecdotal evidence. Until I see something more concrete I’m simply not going to buy into the media scare tactics.

    Good example: remember the media hysteria created by the Tylenol tampering in the ’80s? Exact same thing. Thousands and thousands were responding to the media scare and reporting illness related to purported Tylenol tampering. If I recall correctly, when all was said and done, there was noly 1 confirmed illness/death related to Tylenol tampering.

    My life is already too complicated to bother getting scared over whatever media “epidemic” we happen to be facing today. If that makes me “insensitive” so be it.

  23. spanky says:


    Just to clarify, as I said before, the only reasonably reliable statistic we have are the nine deaths out of 25 from the taste test–that is the cleanest, most controlled data available. Everything else is speculation, but we will likely never know the real numbers. There’s just no good way to track and count them. I thought the SF Gate story gave a decent overview of the situation, so I linked it. I wasn’t presenting that as any kind of cite for anything. (And nobody called it an ‘epidemic,’ did they?)

    But the scope of the problem, which is what I’m talking about here, is different from the significance of the problem.

    This isn’t the worst thing possible. This isn’t the worst thing happening today. But it is a pretty egregious consumer issue.

  24. tazawolves says:

    I just want to say that there is probably deaths caused by this that goes undetected BECAUSE of the very fact that so many people who either won’t take their sick or dead animal to the vet to find out what’s wrong with them because-

    1. They don’t have the money for a vet bill due to sickness or an autopsy.

    2. Some people just aren’t as close to their animals and if they get sick they just let them die or they take a gun and shoot them, I have several friends,family and acquaintences who do this even if they have the money.

    Either way is just a sad thing for anyone who has lost a pet from this. Who cares about the exact numbers for even 1 death is enough especially for those who their pets are like their children. Some people only have their pet for a companion and to lose them for such a reason is sad.

  25. Jamez1957 says:

    Dear People:
    After reading about the contaminated pet food and
    the tragic stories told by pet owners I did some
    research and I would like to tell you what I found.
    Everyone at one time or another has been bitten
    by a dog or cat. Last week, my sister`s little dog gave
    me a nip and I jumped(she laughed). It’s
    no big deal where we live. But, if you live in China,
    get bitten by a dog, you could become one of the 200
    people that die every month from rabies.
    It seems the Chinese have been breeding dogs and cats for a
    long time for their skins. I guess they make fur hats
    or something that they sell and export and the dog
    population is out of control like a 150 million dogs.
    And so rabies has proliferated to the point where 80%
    of all world human rabies cases occurs in China.
    Last summer the authorities started a campaign to
    kill all dogs, usually by clubbing them to death even
    in front of their owners.
    Now maybe someone got a little tired of swinging clubs
    and opted for a more efficient approach to the culling
    of the dogs. Maybe poison bait.
    The pet food poison.
    I hear a lot about melamine, but after reading the MSDS
    sheet on melamine it looks like it is not anything more
    than an irritant and carcinogen. It certainly does not
    block an enzyme necessary for protein synthesis upon
    which kidney function depends but Aminopterin(the rat
    poison) sure does.(It used to be used as a chemo
    drug but was discontinued because it was too toxic.)
    The 2008 Summer Olympics will be held in Bejing China.
    If people find out about the rabies epidemic they
    might think twice about attending, investors might think
    twice about investing in a would-be profittable venue.
    I`m not aware of how Menu Foods got the poisoned wheat
    gluten – maybe it was thought to be a very economic
    purchase or the supplier was having a going-out-of-business
    sale or you got our gluten we got yours by mistake.
    My heart goes out to the owners of the pets that
    are sick and dying. The only thing sicker is that
    when the slime and destruction is finally scraped away,
    there`s the dollar.