A class-action lawsuit filed Feb. 5 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California claims that certain ingredients in Beneful dry kibble dog food from Nestlé Purina PetCare Company have sickened or killed thousands of dogs.

Frank Lucido of Discovery Bay, CA, states in the complaint that after his family began feeding their three dogs Beneful in late December 2014 or early January of this year, all of them became ill and one died.

shepherddogfood-iphoneA post-mortem examination of the English Bulldog who died reportedly found signs of internal bleeding in the stomach and liver lesions, according to the lawsuit. Similar symptoms were found in the other two dogs, a German Shepherd and a Labrador Retriever.

An official with Nestlé Purina called the lawsuit “baseless” and noted that two earlier class-action lawsuits making similar allegations had been dismissed by the courts.

“We believe the lawsuit is baseless, and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves and our brand,” said Bill Salzman, the company’s director of corporation communications. “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.”

According to Nestlé Purina, ingredients in the Beneful brand original style product include:

Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, rice flour, beef, soy flour, meat and bone meal, propylene glycol, sugar, tricalcium phosphate, salt, phosphoric acid, potassium chloride, animal digest, sorbic acid (a preservative), mono and dicalcium phosphate, dried spinach, dried peas, dried carrots, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, calcium propionate (a preservative), choline chloride, zinc sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, Red 40, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, copper sulfate, Vitamin B-12 supplement, calcium pantothenate, Blue 2, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite. The lawsuit contends that propylene glycol is a known animal toxin and a component of antifreeze. However, the company states that the type it uses is FDA-approved and is also used in human foods such as salad dressing and cake mix. In addition, the suit claims that mycotoxins, which are toxins produced by mold found in grains, are a health risk to dogs. An attorney for the plaintiff said that after he heard Lucido’s story, he checked into the situation and began to see a pattern of similar allegations among pet owners. “We found a significant number of folks who were trying to draw exactly the same causal link. Thousands,” said Jeff Cereghino, of Ram, Olson, Cereghino & Kopczynski in San Francisco. “If it’s a hundred or so, it’s like, ‘OK, a lot of dogs eat Beneful; things happen.’ But when you start getting into the thousands … .” The lawsuit has raised questions among those with pets, said one veterinarian, and she advised those who are concerned to be aware of common poisoning symptoms and bring any concerns to their family vet.

These symptoms include lethargy, decreased activity and appetite, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased thirst and increased urination.

“Any time you notice a medical problem or a significant change in your pet’s behavior, you should take them to your family veterinarian or nearest emergency veterinary hospital as soon as possible,” said Dr. Jennifer Welser with BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa Bay, FL. Lucido’s lawsuit is alleging negligence, misrepresentation, product liability and unfair business practices on the part of Nestlé Purina and is reportedly seeking more than $5 million in damages, plus costs and fees. Besides Cereghino and three of his firm’s lawyers, Lucido and the class are being represented by John Yanchunis of Morgan & Morgan Complex Litigation Group in Tampa, FL, Karl Molineux and Charles Merrill of Merrill, Nomura & Molineux in Danville, CA, and Donna Solen of Kimbrell Kimbrell & Solen LLC in Washington, D.C.