The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising pet owners and caretakers, veterinarians, and the pet food industry to be aware that pet food and treats made with livestock gullets (meat from the throat region) have the potential to contain thyroid tissue and thyroid hormones. Pets that eat food or treats containing thyroid hormones may develop hyperthyroidism, a disease that is rare in dogs and usually triggered by thyroid cancer.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include excessive thirst and urination, weight loss, increased appetite, restlessness, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, rapid and/or labored breathing, vomiting, and diarrhea. Continued exposure to excess thyroid hormones can cause damage to the heart and in some cases, death.
The FDA is issuing this alert now after a recent Center for Veterinary Medicine investigation into reports of three dogs in different households that showed signs of hyperthyroidism. In these cases, extensive testing on all three dogs conducted at a reference laboratory showed elevated thyroid hormone in the blood, but ruled out thyroid cancer. Reference lab interviews with the dogs’ owners revealed that all three dogs had been fed BLUE Wilderness® Rocky Mountain Recipe TM Red Meat Dinner Wet Food for Adult Dogs and/or Wellness 95% Beef Topper for Dogs.
Based on the recommendation of the reference lab’s consulting veterinarian, the feeding of these dog foods was discontinued. After the dogs stopped eating these products for a few weeks, their clinical signs disappeared and thyroid hormone levels returned to normal. An FDA lab tested unopened cans of BLUE Wilderness® Rocky Mountain Recipe TM Red Meat Dinner Wet Food for Adult Dogs and Wellness 95% Beef Topper for Dogs and confirmed that they contained active thyroid hormone. The source of thyroid hormones is likely from the use of gullets from which the thyroid glands were not completely removed before adding to pet food or treats.
After consulting with the FDA, both WellPet (the maker of Wellness) and Blue Buffalo (the maker of Blue Wilderness) initiated voluntary recalls of select lots of the affected products on March 17, 2017.
- WellPet voluntarily recalled of certain lots of 13.2 ounce cans of Wellness 95% Beef Topper for Dogs with best-by dates of 02 FEB 19, 29 AUG 19, and 30 AUG 19 printed on the bottom of the can. The UPC Code is 076344894506.
- Blue Buffalo Company voluntarily recalled of one lot of 12.5-ounce cans BLUE Wilderness® Rocky Mountain Recipe TM Red Meat Dinner Wet Food for Adult Dogs with a best-by date of June 7, 2019 printed on the bottom of the can. The UPC code is 840243101153.
The FDA appreciates the cooperation and swift action taken by both firms to address this issue. If your dog has eaten either of these foods and is showing symptoms of hyperthyroidism, discontinue feeding of these foods and consult your veterinarian, making sure to provide your dog’s dietary history, including what the dog has been eating, how much, and for how long.
Consumers who have any of the recalled food should not feed it to their animals and can refer to the company press releases for further instructions about returns/refunds.
Questions about whether a particular pet food or pet treat product contains livestock gullets and/or thyroid hormones should be directed to the product manufacturer.
The FDA provides more detailed information about the issue of thyroid hormones in pet food in its Letter to Veterinary Professionals and Letter to Industry. The Letter to Veterinary Professionals includes information about lab results to guide you in assessing potential cases.
If you encounter a case with lab results and symptoms consistent with exogenous hyperthyroidism, please report it to the FDA through their online portal (preferred) or by calling (800) 353-3965.