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Euthanasia Drug Found in Evanger’s Dog Food, Causing Illness and Death of Dogs

UPDATE: Phyllis Entis of eFoodAlert received confirmation from an FDA spokesperson that “FDA testing carried out in the agency’s Forensic Chemistry Center and Vet-LIRN labs detected pentobarbital in Talula’s stomach contents, in an open can of food collected from the dog’s owner, and in closed cans of food collected from the dog’s owner and from the retail location where the food had been purchased. With those results in hand, FDA requested that Evanger’s issue the recall notice that was released late in the afternoon of Friday, February 3rd.”

Toxicology reports confirm that sodium pentobarbital – a drug used to euthanize animals – was found in Evanger’s canned dog food.

This shocking discovery comes following the tragedy involving Nikki Mael’s four pugs, one of whom later died, who became violently ill immediately after being fed from a single 12 oz. can of Evanger’s Hunk of Beef with au jus dog food. Nikki explained:

“Within 15 minutes they were walking around acting drunk and then unable to walk. By the time we got to the vets, they were listless and not moving.”

When veterinarians suspected their illness might have been due to the Evanger’s dog food, samples of the remaining dog food and the stomach contents of one of the dogs were sent to Oregon State University’s Diagnostic Laboratory for analysis. What their diagnostic report revealed was stunning:

“Testing of the feed and stomach contents has found pentobarbital.”

In the toxicology report (attached to the diagnostic report from Oregon State University) from Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Animal and Population Health, they found in the samples submitted to their lab for analysis that both the Evanger’s dog food and the stomach contents of the deceased dog tested positive for pentobarbital. Alarmed, the toxicologist adds in his report:

“If this sample came directly from a can, this is an urgent matter and needs to be reported to the FDA Feed Safety Portal.”

Immediately following the horrifying discovery of a euthanizing drug in Evanger’s dog food, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture were notified, prompting an FDA an investigation Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company, its canning facility and further testing to confirm the initial toxicology reports indicating pentobarbital contamination.

During the FDA investigation, the FDA confirmed to Nikki that their independent testing found,

“An abundant amount of pentobarbital in the can.”

Despite this, Evanger’s continues to flatly denies that the accusation by claiming the “FDA has not completed any additional tests.”


In an email from the FDA to Susan Thixton of Truth About Pet Food, following her inquiry into the matter regarding Evanger’s, the FDA confirmed that they had received adverse reports of Evanger’s pet food and was conducting an investigation:

“The FDA has received and is investigating adverse event reports related to this issue,” but as the investigation is ongoing they “cannot share anything further at this time.”

To date, the FDA has not made these test result public nor have published the results of their investigation of Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company.


Curiously, the Evanger’s dog food implicated in the poisoning claims to be made of “completely human-grade” 100% beef. Historically, cattle are not euthanized with drugs. Therefore, the finding strongly suggests another – decidedly unsavory – source of the meat in the dog food: Euthanized horses or worse, euthanized dogs and cats. To confirm the hypothesis, species analysis would need to be performed. To date, it is unknown whether the FDA plan to conduct such testing.

For years, there has been speculation that the pet food industry uses euthanized animals in pet food. Unfortunately, FDA testing in 2002 failed to discover the species responsible for widespread contamination of pentobarbital they found in major brands of pet food in 1998, leaving the world wondering if such a horrific practice was in use.


Evanger’s also has the unfortunate reputation of substituting inferior meats in pet food in the past. In fact, Evanger’s has a long and sordid criminal history involving racketeering, money laundering, fraud, and bribery dating back years.

Evanger’s continues to hotly deny any wrongdoing in this most recent scandal, publishing several test results of the dog food in question. The company insists that they haven’t found any connection between their dog food and the “alleged incident,” going on to say “there is no medical evidence that shows [Evanger’s] were responsible.”

In response to recent media reports that Evanger’s pet food contains pentobarbital, Evanger’s continued to deny the allegations by claiming they are simply “unverifiable reports or unsubstantiated rumors that are intended to deceive the public” and that “the “claims” are simply fear tactics and either unrelated or unsubstantiated claims against our company and our foods.”

Adding, “None of our foods have been reported to contain pentobarbital or any other contaminant.”

Instead of testing for toxins or chemicals, Evanger’s tested the dog food in question (lot number is 1816E06HB13) for Commercial Sterility of Pet Food (free of micro-organisms), Botulinum Toxin A/B, Salmonella, Enterobacteriaceae, Clostridium, and Staphylococcus aureus and they came back negative.

However, the absence of evidence does not equal evidence of absence.


The FDA is anxious to hear from other pet parents who may have had any adverse reactions to feeding Evanger’s pet food. The FDA urges consumers who want to report any problems or adverse reactions relating to animal foods to contact the agency’s district office complaint coordinators.

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To view the toxicology report in its entirety click on the following link: Toxicology Report


Our thoughts and prayers go out to Nikki Mael and her family during this difficult time and I want to personally thank her for her willingness to be interviewed for this story. I also appreciate her giving me a copy of the toxicology report and generously giving me permission to publish it here.

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Mollie Morrissette

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

Comments (15) Write a comment

  1. Does anyone happen to know which pet food brands Evanger’s packing facility cans for. I know it’s a number of different brands, yet I can’t find this information. Any help would be so greatly appreciated!


    • No, I don’t know the answer to that question. I doubt if anyone does. If you are worried, I would suggest calling the pet food manufacturer you are wondering about and ask them who packs their food. If they don’t give you an answer – stop buying that brand and move on to some other brand. I suggest only buying human-edible pet food, made in facilities that are under continuous inspection by the FDA.


  2. I would like to know if the FDA has done DNA species identification testing of the contents of other cans in the same lot to discover if it was indeed 100% beef as labeled or a combination of inexpensive proteins. Also, it seems unlikely that the woman with the pugs bought the only can in existence, as there could conceivably be cans in other lots that contain sodium pentabarbitol. Being that toddlers are always crawling around on the floor and often eating pet food, this could be an extremely dangerous situation.


    • You bring up all very good points. Presumably, the FDA is doing species identification testing. When I receive any cans of the Hunk of Beef dog food I will have it tested.


  3. I also had an incident with Evangers last August 2016. Both of my Great Pyrenees dogs ate it up initially, but then chose to refuse the food over their hunger. They has no interest in any play, then vomiting any morsel of food they ate, then lethargy set in. After 3 days, the vet stated the problem was probably food related & to stop feeding whatever I had been feeding them. Following a few days of plain white rice & human grade chicken, both Pyrs were back to normal. I returned the food for full refund & documented to the pet store WHY the return!


  4. Why was it originally reported that NO contaminates were found in the sample submitted? this story is fishy.


    • Evanger’s claimed that. Which of course they turned out to be wrong. Evanger’s initially only tested for a few common pathogens and bacteria – not chemicals, drugs or pesticides.

      There is nothing “fishy” about this story. I caution you – if you have pets or children I urge you to keep them far away from having contact with any food that could potentially kill them.


  5. I worked years ago for a humane society. I asked the man who picked up the euthanized animals what was done with the bodies. Yes, it went to “meat by products”, complete with aluminium collars. This is no surprise to me.


    • Yes, I volunteered for a huge city animal shelter in Santa Rosa, California where I personally witnessed dump trucks coming to pick up the euthanized dogs and cats where the loader dumped barrel after barrel into his truck where it was taken to an “independent” renderer where the dead dogs and cats would then be cooked down (rendered) and turned into meat meal. Presumably, that meal is used to make any number of products including animal feed.


    • And then it ironically just comes back to the SPCAs and Humane Society’s as that garbage we know as Royal Canin and Science Diet dog food.


  6. My God there seems to be NO safe Dog or Cat food we need to go back to what grandma did and that was to feed pets a balanced diet of what was cooked that day for the family. The pet food industry seems to be a huge disaster. This would stop if EVERYONE in the USA NOT buy ONE dog or cat food product for a week, maybe than the companies will listen when it hits their pocket books or bottom line.


  7. This can of pet food could have been contaminated by anyone. Why are no other cans contaminated. JUST one LONE can of food ? Very odd case – Normally FDA will be testing just more than 1 Lone can that was in question. NO other can in the USA is contaminated with this ? VERY odd — I still side with the company at this point unless I see other cans contaminated


    • The FDA is currently finalizing tests on unopened cans. And – off the record – the FDA indicated they have already found sodium pentobarbital in unopened cans of Evanger’s dog food in “abundant amounts.” The FDA has already collected cases of the food from the same lot as Nikki’s. Stay tuned.



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