What to do in a pet foodborne illness emergency: Step-by-step instructions on how to get help

In emergencies involving Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulated products such as a pet food or pet medicine, call FDA’s emergency number: 1-866-300-4374 or 301-796-8240. It is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When should you call the FDA’s emergency number?

When your pet is currently having a non-life threatening adverse reaction to a pet food or a pet product that requires immediate reporting. And since pet food and animal feed are a FDA regulated products, it is necessary to call the FDA if your pet is experiencing a food-borne related illness to a pet food or a pet product.

How to report adverse events related to pet food or treats?

If you are a consumer or a veterinarian, it is your duty to report problems if you encounter any safety issues with a product and/or unanticipated harmful effects that you believe may be related to an animal feed or a pet food related products through the Safety Reporting Portal or contact the district office consumer complaint coordinator for your geographic area in order for an investigation be initiated.

The Safety Reporting Portal (SRP) streamlines the process of reporting product safety issues to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Whatever your role, (manufacturer, health care professional, veterinarian, researcher, public health official, or concerned citizen), when you submit a safety report through this Portal, you make a vital contribution to the safety of America’s food supply, medicines, and other products that touch us all.

Ultimately, the Safety Reporting Portal enables anyone with Internet access the ability to report a safety concern about a medical product as well as foods, cosmetics, animal feed and veterinary products.

How do I report adverse events about veterinary products?

If you are a consumer, report any problems with veterinary drugs and devices for animals to FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine at 1-888-FDA-VETS (1-888-332-8387). You can also find the reporting form on the center’s Website. For more information, see Veterinary Adverse Event Voluntary Reporting.

The importance of your veterinarian’s role

It is extremely important that, not only do you report the problem to the FDA, you take your pet to a veterinarian immediately to determine if indeed it is a foodborne illness, especially if the problem appears to be life threatening.

If the veterinarian believes it may be a foodborne related illness, it is the duty of the veterinarian to secure samples of the patient’s blood, urine and other bodily fluids, and to send samples of the suspected food or treat to their state department of health or state department of agriculture for testing. The veterinarian must also report any adverse food related event to the FDA through the Safety Reporting Portal, inform their state department of agriculture or contact the district office consumer complaint coordinator for their geographic area.

FAQ

If you need more information about the Safety Reporting Portal, here are some answers to the most common questions (to view the complete list, click here):

To email a question about supporting requirements, policy or legal assistance, please select your reporting situation:

Who do I report an emergency to?

If the situation concerns: Contact:
A biological, chemical or radiological agent—or if you believe an intentional threat will occur or is occurring Your local “911” emergency number
Serious, life-threatening event with FDA-regulated products (human drugs, animal drugs, medical devices, biological products, foods, dietary supplements, cosmetics, radiation-emitting electronic products) FDA’s 24-hour emergency line at 1-866-300-4374 or
FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator in your geographic area.
Also contact your health care professional for medical advice.
Food-borne illness:  Meat and poultry The USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline
1-888-MPHotline
1-888-674-6854
mphotline.fsis@usda.gov
Food-borne illness: all other The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 24-hour emergency number: 1-866-300-4374.
Drug product tampering The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at their 24-hour emergency number: 1-866-300-4374.
Blood transfusion-related fatality Call: 301-827-6220
E-mail: fatalities2@fda.hhs.gov
See also the FDA Web page on  Transfusion/Donation Fatalities.
Accidental poisoning A regional poison control center: 1-800-222-1222
Oil and chemical spills The National Response Center

If you have an otherwise serious adverse event concerning:

Contact:

A human medical product, including:

  • An FDA-regulated drug
  • A biologic (including human cells, tissues, and blood products)
  • A medical device
  • A special nutritional product or cosmetic
The MedWatch Online Voluntary Reporting Form (3500)
A vaccine The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) or call 1-800-822-7967 to request a reporting form.
donate poisoned pets

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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and advisor to AAFCO. Help support her work by making a donation today.

Comments (5) Write a comment

  1. You correctly point out that, if consumers don’t report, the situation cannot change. Consumers should also report to the manufacturer, keeping relevant information such as the product samples and the packaging (from medicals) or food (which would have production/lot information). Pursuant to FIFRA, pesticide manufacturers are required to report adverse reactions that consumers bring to their attention to the EPA. In the case of foods, some (conscientious) pet food manufacturers might refund veterinary costs to a consumer if their vet documents that the injury was specifically food related. But don’t count on it… pet food manufacturers have a vested interest in ensuring that there is NOT a connection to injury and their product, and before considering a request for reimbursement, will expect that veterinary records be very specific about the causal nexus to the food. Even when the consumer asserts that the food is the sole cause (“that’s all they’ve had… and no treats, etc.”), most vets would not be anxious to go on record on that issue. Absent the specific tests you mention (blood, urine, etc.) which the consumer may often be reluctant to undertake (perhaps because of cost), it’s a tough hurdle…

    Reply

    • Yes, it is very unfortunate that most vets are not willing to go “on record” about animal food-borne illness, but I suspect their reluctance stems from a lack of education about the reality that most commercial pet food is actually pure garbage (or waste as the industry has coined the term). And you are correct – reporting problems to the manufacturers is a must as well. I think of it in terms of the cost and burden a foodborne illness causes to society as a whole, not specifically pet food. In some cases, as I mentioned, if it is a suspected food poisoning, some state departments of health will at least cover the cost of testing the food (depending on their budget and circumstances). If not – I would push them to ask another state or a VetLRN lab to do it if they can’t or won’t.

      Reply

      • Many vets are in a sense “beholden” the pet food industry, which subsidizes their education, provides (expensive) textbooks, and funds “research” that is part of their education. How can we expect that they would even think to “bite the hand that fed them” during that time? Many of the issues you discuss on your site would exist at all, if vets took effort to educate their clients… shouldn’t they be standing on their rooftops calling out about the folly of modern pet food manufacture? They don’t. Nor do they feel “guilty” about that. “Nutrition” even as a preventative lifestyle choice is not necessarily the focus of veterinary schooling as we might think: treatment of illness is. The feline/canine equivalents of smoking, drinking, and lack of exercise that our own medical doctors would quickly counsel against are simply income triggers for many vets and many consumers rightly resent that. Quite horrifyingly, when asked “what do YOU feed your cats?” recently, a well-regarded (and expensive) vet in our area quipped: “whatever is on sale.”

        Reply

        • Whatever is on sale?! We are going to change that. We will offer an alternative source for information about the “truth” in pet food (via webinars, apps for vets etc.). In the mean time, the comment of that vet is indicative of a vet who clearly does not know the truth. I have to believe that as physicians they cannot be so corrupt as to ignore the critical role nutrition or the lack of it plays in their patient’s health – otherwise they have no business being in the healing profession. Until they are educated by someone other than industry, we cannot expect much to change, unless that vet looks beyond what they have been told to believe is true. It’s a complicated issue, one that is not unique to the veterinary community, physicians have always been largely subsidized by pharmaceutical companies for decades.

          Reply

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