Hill’s Pet Nutrition (Hill’s) expanded its worldwide recall late last week to include 85 total lots of 33 varieties of canned, wet dog food, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recall notice dated March 21, 2019.

The recall impacts Hill’s customers in at least 78 countries, according to information posted on Hill’s own websites, and the European Union’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).

An updated list of recalled products sorted by country is available at eFoodAlert.

Hill’s expanded its recall after FDA requested that the company test the vitamin D levels in additional products that were not part of the original recall. Testing leading up to both the January 31st and March 20th recalls revealed excessive, potentially toxic amounts of vitamin D, according to FDA.

All of the recalled products were manufactured using the same vitamin premix from a single U.S.-based supplier, according to Hill’s.

Although several hundred pet owners have posted complaints on the Hill’s Facebook page in response to the recall notice, there is no official tally of the number of affected pets.

In response to a question from Food Safety News, a spokesperson for FDA offered the following statement:

“The FDA has received a number of reports since the first Hill’s recall press release was issued on January 31, 2019. We are in the process of verifying the details of the complaints and it would be premature to release a number until the cases have been vetted to ensure they are all related to recalled product and are indeed cases of vitamin D toxicity.”

According to the FDA, dogs suffering from vitamin D toxicity may vomit, have little appetite, drink and urinate more, drool excessively, and/or lose weight. The severity of the symptoms and the speed of onset depends on the concentration of vitamin D ingested.

A dog exhibiting these symptoms should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Duncan’s story

Duncan was a 13-year old lascho bichon, a service dog trained for seizure alert, and Kelly’s constant companion.

Kelly and Duncan divided the year between their homes in Michigan and Florida. They walked together, rode golf carts together as many as four times a day.

Twelve years ago, as Kelly told Food Safety News, Duncan suffered from pancreatitis and was prescribed Hill’s Science Diet by his veterinarian. He ate Hill’s I/D and Z/D wet and dry foods.

In early January, Duncan started to vomit white foam, had excessive thirst and urination and was lethargic. The next morning, he awakened with tremors.

Over the next three days, during which Kelly brought Duncan to the veterinarian three times, Duncan lost excessive weight and his condition deteriorated.

Three weeks after Duncan’s death, Kelly read about the Hill’s recall. She contacted the company on February 6, and was offered compensation consisting of $10.00 in coupons for the purchase of Hill’s pet food.

Because Duncan died weeks before the recall was announced, there was no necropsy and no suspicion at the time that his death was due to vitamin D toxicity.

When asked by Food Safety News what message she wished to share with other pet parents, Kelly replied:

“Hill’s claims they subject all of their food to extensive and repeated testing. Yet, now they have admitted that they sold food contaminated with Vitamin D. Obviously, Hills did NOT have testing and quality controls in place to check the food before they put it on the shelves for sale. Also, they dragged their feet issued the three waves of the recall, with the last wave coming on March 20th. During that delay, additional pets were fed this poisoned food and have died. And, the recalls still don’t include all of the contaminated food. Why would anyone trust them now? Go to the Hills Pet Nutrition Facebook page and read the thousands of comments underneath the two recall notices from angry pet owners.”

Kelly has set up a Facebook Group, Saving Pets One Pet @ A Time, in Duncan’s memory where pet owners can comment on their experiences and share information about nutritious pet food options.

What pet owners should do

  •  If your pet is exhibiting symptoms of vitamin D toxicity, contact a veterinarian immediately. Provide a full diet history to your veterinarian. You may find it helpful to take a picture of the pet food label, including the lot number.
  • Do not feed the recalled product to your pets. When discarding recalled products, make sure that they cannot be accessed by children, pets or wildlife. * Pet owners can report suspected illness to the FDA electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal or by calling your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators. It’s most helpful if you can work with your veterinarian to submit your pet’s medical records as part of your report. For an explanation of the information and level of detail that would be helpful to include in a complaint to the FDA, please see How to Report a Pet Food Complaint.

What veterinarians should do

  • Ask your clients for a diet history if you suspect vitamin D toxicity, which may present as hypercalcemia.
  • Do not sell the recalled foods to your clients, and contact the manufacturer for further instructions. The FDA also encourages veterinarians to contact clients who have purchased recalled products, if they have the means to do so (such as through medical records or sales receipts).
  • FDA welcomes case reports, especially those confirmed through diagnostics. You can submit these reports electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal or by calling your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators. For an explanation of the information and level of detail that would be helpful to include in a complaint to the FDA, please see How to Report a Pet Food Complaint.

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