The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cautioning pet owners and veterinary professionals to avoid certain Sportmix pet food products after dozens of dogs fell ill and died after ingesting the products.
Midwestern Pet Foods Inc. recalled four different lots of dry cat and dog pet food Wednesday after an investigation revealed that some of the products contained potentially fatal levels of aflatoxin.
The mold byproduct, which "can cause illness and death in pets" at high levels, may still be on store shelves, online or in pet owners’ homes, the agency said in a notice.
Midwestern Pet Food initiated the recall after the FDA received reports that at least 28 dogs died and eight others fell ill after consuming the recalled Sportmix pet food.
After multiple samples were tested, the Missouri Department of Agriculture discovered very high levels of the toxin, which can be present even if the mold isn't visible, the FDA said.
Pets that have been poisoned by the toxin may seem sluggish and have a loss of appetite. They may also experience vomiting, jaundice (yellowish tint to the eyes or gums due to liver damage) and/or diarrhea, the FDA said. In some cases, pets may also suffer from liver damage without even showing symptoms.
Unlike people, pets are "highly susceptible" to aflatoxin poisoning because they generally eat the same food, according to the FDA.
"If a pet’s food contains aflatoxin, the toxin could accumulate in the pet’s system as they continue to eat the same food," the FDA said.
Midwestern Pet Foods is urging pet owners to safely discard the products and to wash and sanitize any pet bowls and areas where the food was stored. The company is also encouraging retailers to contact customers who have purchased the affected products.
Pet owners should also consult with their veterinarians regarding any concerns, especially if their pet is showing symptoms, the FDA said.
To date, the FDA says there is no evidence to show that handling the food poses any risk to pet owners, although they are encouraged to wash their hands afterward.
The investigation into the matter is ongoing and the agency plans to conduct follow-up activities at the manufacturing facility. The agency will update the public when more information becomes available.
Midwestern Pet Foods did not provide further comment beyond the recall notice.