Fact Check: Is Purina Making Dogs and Cats Sick?
Frightening claims are circulating online, but Purina says they're strictly rumors.
Sometimes we put more thought into the dog and cat food we buy than our own groceries. After all, our furry friends are part of the family, and we'll do whatever it takes to keep them healthy and well-fed. Purina has long been one of the top names in the pet food industry, but while it's known to be a popular and trusted option, recent social media claims have sent some pet owners into a panic. Many are now claiming on social media that Purina Pro Plan food is making dogs and cats sick.
Dozens of allegations about pets (primarily dogs) getting sick after eating the Pro Plan food were posted in a public Facebook group called Saving Pets One Pet @ A Time. According to The New York Times, pet owners said dogs experienced seizures, vomiting, and diarrhea. In total, the Facebook group received 194 anecdotal reports of sick animals as of Jan. 4, including 151 dogs and 46 cats, eFoodAlert reported. The outlet also reported that a total of 51 dogs had allegedly died.
Purina is not taking these claims lightly. The company issued a statement on Jan. 5 refuting the "online rumors" and asking customers to be wary of "false statements." The brand, which is a subsidiary of Nestlé, urged pet owners to reach out to Purina directly with questions, or if they read something online that concerned them.
"These false statements may be creating unnecessary stress for pet parents," the statement reads. "There are no health or safety issues with any of our products, and they can continue to be fed with confidence."
In the statement, Purina noted that some social media users were "well-intentioned pet parents" who were genuinely concerned, but alleged that others "may be trying to create chaos and distrust of certain brands as an opportunity to sell their own products."
Purina spokeswoman Lorie Westhoff later told the NYT that they've had more customers reaching out to see if there is a product recall in place. In response, the brand informed them "that these rumors are not true and our food is safe to feed."
"We know this is a rumor because we have absolutely no data showing us that there is a pattern of problems with any specific product," Westhoff told the NYT. "As a company that feeds more than 100 million cats and dogs each year, we don't take risks with pet health ever."
One TikToker, Rachel Fusaro, has posted a series of videos outlining the situation and the alleged health issues associated with Purina Pro Plan. In her videos, Fusaro states that there isn't an official recall or confirmation about any issue with the Purina food, but in a Jan. 6 TikTok, she added, "The number of comments and [direct messages] I'm getting from pet parents is alarming and concerning."
She also has a blog post about the situation and is encouraging pet owners to report suspected illnesses to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Speaking with the NYT, Westhoff stated that Fusaro hadn't offered evidence of a connection, and said that Purina was "considering other avenues to address this directly with those who started the rumor."
Westhoff added, "They have acknowledged in multiple ways that they have no evidence that there is an issue with Purina products but continue to purposefully spread this misinformation."
In a statement to Best Life, Westhoff added, "In light of this rumor, our Quality Assurance team has reviewed all incoming consumer contacts, manufacturing, and quality assurance data (this includes ingredient testing, analytical data throughout the production process, and quality assurance post-production testing) for the past year, and we have found no data or trend that would indicate an issue."
Westhoff also said that Purina has a quality and safety program in place—which involves daily quality checks—which is intended to catch issues before pet owners purchase products.
The spokeswoman also told the NYT that there is no connection between the rumors and the 2023 recall Purina voluntarily issued.
In February, the company recalled select lots of Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EL Elemental due to potentially elevated vitamin D. There were two confirmed instances of dogs showing symptoms of vitamin D toxicity after consuming the food. As the FDA noted in its release, signs of vitamin D toxicity range from "vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, and excessive drooling to renal (kidney) dysfunction."
That situation was resolved almost a year ago, and at the time, Purina stressed that no other Purina products were affected by the recall.
Meanwhile, anecdotal claims continue to circulate despite Purina's strong denial, and the FDA has yet to officially weigh in. In a statement to Best Life, an FDA spokesperson said the agency cannot comment on recent reports going around online. However, they added that the agency takes its responsibility of making sure pet food is safe seriously, and that the FDA investigates cases of pet illnesses to see if action is required.