What is a euthanasia drug doing in dog food?
A few years ago our technician checked off the wrong box on our laboratory request form and accidentally ordered a test the dog didn't need-- phenobarbital levels. Phenobarbital is a drug used to manage epileptic patients. To our surprise the test came back positive-- yet this dog was not epileptic and wasn't on this drug.
So, we weren't shocked by a recent story that reported presence of pentobarbital in dog food--a drug chemically similar to phenobarbital used for epilepsy. According to the pet food manufacturer, it was traced to a single source which wasn't revealed. That source, however, is probably a rendering plant where remains of animals euthanized in shelters are "processed". We don't know how common the practice of using rendered shelter-euthanized pets in dog food is, in spite of the fact that this gross and unhealthy practice is supposed to be illegal. FDA considers such food adulterated.
Pentobarbital wasn't discovered by the FDA, but rather by reporters who randomly tested dog foods finding drug levels in the majority of cans of Skippy canned dog food made by Smuckers, maker of Gravy Train, Kibbles 'N Bits, Ol' Roy and Skippy, better known for its jams and jellies.
FDA stated that levels found were low and non toxic evading the fact that chronic low levels of this drug needlessly risk pet health.
The reason veterinarians monitor phenobarbital levels in epileptic patients is that even in low levels it can cause liver damage and if veterinarians find elevated liver enzymes, they don't know to check barbituate levels in pets who aren't supposed to be on this drug.
Please check the links below for more information and if you are a dog owner bothered by this it might be a good idea to let Smuckers as well as FDA know that this is unacceptable.