A pet food company announced it was voluntarily recalling five lots of its dog food because of the possible presence of pentobarbital — a euthanasia drug that is used by some states to carry out executions.
Evanger's Dog Food in Illinois said on Friday that it was voluntarily recalling five lots of its Hunk of Beef product "in an abundance of caution" due to the possible presence of pentobarbital — a drug used not only to euthanize dogs but also in lethal injection protocols used to execute death row inmates in some states.
The company began an investigation when four dogs belonging to a family in Washington got sick, and one died, after being fed Hunk of Beef on New Year's Eve.
However, both the FDA and Evanger's said that a total of five dogs became ill after consuming the product. It is unclear who the fifth dog belonged to.
"Although nearly all product involved in this recall have already been consumed by pets without incident, we have decided to initiate the recall as a proactive measure against the remote possibility of any illness," Evanger's said in a statement.
The company accused one of its beef suppliers for the possible presence of pentobarbital in the dog food and said it would no longer purchase beef from the supplier.
Evanger's said it was "unaware" of the problem of pentobarbital in the pet food industry, as it was most pervasive in dry foods. The company said it would publicly release the results of the lab testing of its cans.
"I fed them one can and within 15 minutes, they were acting drunk, walking around, they couldn’t … they were falling over," Nikki Mael, the owner of the four dogs who fell sick after she fed them Hunks of Beef on New Year's Eve, told KATU in January. One of her pugs, Talula, died, while another Tito, continued to suffer from seizures.
Mael said that all her dogs were "limp" when she took them to the emergency vet. "They weren't moving or anything."
The FDA said that possible side effects of pentobarbital in animals included drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, or nausea, or in extreme cases, possibly death.
Three of Mael's dogs survived, but Talula, who ate the most food, died. Mael said that she was going to take Talula's remains to Oregon State University for a necropsy to determine the dogs' cause of illness. She said she believed it was something in the Hunks of Beef can she fed them from.
“I lost my dog, and it shouldn’t have to be this way,” she said.
Evanger's said it fully funded the veterinary bills for Mael's dogs and that it would be making a donation to a local shelter in honor of Talula the pug.