A lawsuit filed against the maker of a popular dog food has triggered concerns among California pet owners.
Frank Lucido of Discovery Bay, a community in Northern California’s Eastern Contra Costa County, said his 8-year-old bulldog, Dozier, died three weeks after Lucido switched his pet’s diet to Purina’s Beneful dog food.
On Feb. 5, Lucido sued Nestle Purina PetCare Company in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, alleging the dog food contains propylene glycol, which the suit said is an animal toxin used in automobile antifreeze; and mycotoxins, a group of toxins produced by fungus that occurs in grains.
Lucido also said his 11-year-old Labrador, Remo, and 4-year-old German Shepherd, Nella, are still recovering from kidney failure, lethargy and diarrhea.
"We have a dog that is still on a touch-and-go situation right now, and a decision might have to be made and I’m kind of dreading that right now," Lucido added.
The suit seeks unspecified damages, and a guarantee that Purina’s products are “safe for dogs.”
"I feel very strongly there’s a definite situation with this dog food," Lucido said Thursday in an interview with NBC. "The doctor said the dog had been poisoned. The dogs are part of the family. It’s been real rough."
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Lucido alleges that in the past four years, there have been more than 3,000 complaints online about dogs becoming ill or dying after eating Beneful, having shown "consistent symptoms" including stomach and related internal bleeding, liver malfunction or failure, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, seizures and kidney failure. The complaints about Beneful report symptoms that are consistent with mycotoxin poisoning, according to the suit.
Since he filed the suit, one of Lucido’s attorneys, Michael Ram of San Francisco, said at least 1,000 people have come forward complaining of similar situations. The suit is seeking class-action status.
In response to a request by the NBC4 I-Team, Nestle Purina issued a written statement:
"First and foremost, there are no quality issues with Beneful. Beneful is a high quality, nutritious food enjoyed by millions of dogs every day. In fact, in 2014, nearly 1.5 billion Beneful meals were served to millions of happy, healthy dogs who enjoy and thrive on this food," the statement read.
"Recently, a class action lawsuit was filed against Beneful in Northern California. We believe the lawsuit is baseless, and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves and our brand. Beneful had two previous class action suits filed in recent years with similar baseless allegations, and both were dismissed by the courts. Class action suits are common in business these days. They are not indicative of a product issue. Beneful is backed by Purina’s strict quality controls and comprehensive food safety program," it continued.
"Like other pet foods, Beneful is occasionally the subject of social media-driven misinformation. Online postings often contain false, unsupported and misleading allegations that cause undue concern and confusion for our Beneful customers. Bottom line: Consumers can continue to feed Beneful with total confidence. At Purina we’re passionate about pets. We encourage anyone with a comment or question about Purina to contact us directly at the toll-free number on every package. For answers to FAQs about Beneful, go to: https://www.beneful.com/frequently-asked-questions."
The I-Team contacted Dr. Julio Lopez, a veterinarian at Studio City Animal Hospital, who said he’s seen no cases of Beneful-related health risks to dogs he’s examined.
"There is no scientific evidence that shows that the Beneful product is causing harm to pets," Lopez said. He added that propylene glycol and mycotoxins are both FDA-approved ingredients, and that pets are not alone in consuming them.
"The propylene glycol as well as the mycotoxins are things you and I can be ingesting with our food," he pointed out.
Lopez says common symptoms of many pet illnesses include vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. If your dog is suffering from any of these, see your veterinarian, but don’t assume it’s the result of the food.
"If your dog has been on Beneful, there’s no reason to change it if there are no problems with your pet," he says. In fact, a sudden food switch could actually make a dog sick.
If your dog does show signs of illness, and you suspect food may be to blame, Lopez suggests the following:
- Document all symptoms, and report them to your vet.
- Report the symptoms to the dog food manufacturer and the Food & Drug Administration.
- Save a sample of the food you believe might have caused the problem; freeze it to preserve the ingredients, and save all packaging.
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