It's every pet owner's nightmare: your dog or cat suddenly falls ill, out of nowhere, and there's nothing you can do to help them. One California man faced this nightmare when three of his dogs fell ill after eating Purina-brand dog food, and now he's accusing Purina's Beneful dog food of containing poison in a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit claims that Beneful led to the illness and death of 3,000 dogs, an accusation that the company calls "baseless" and is fighting "vigorously."
Earlier this month, Frank Lucido filed the class action lawsuit in a California federal court against Nestle Purina PetCare Company claiming that the brand's Beneful line contained toxins that was killing thousands of dogs. Lucido and his family owned three dogs — an 8-year-old English Bulldog named Dozer, a 4-year-old purebred German Shepherd, and an 11-year-old Labrador — who all became sick after Lucido started feeding them Beneful exclusively around late December or early January.
By the end of January, Dozer had died from his illness. All three dogs were kept in separate houses because Lucido's home was being renovated, so the one thing they were all exposed to at that time was their dog food.
According to the suit, Lucido's experience echoes more than 3,000 complaints posted online by owners whose dogs became ill or died after eating Beneful kibble food. Many of them listed symptoms including stomach bleeding, live failure, weight loss, and diarrhea. Those are the exact symptoms that Lucido's dogs experienced.
The suit states that a postmortem examination showed that Dozer had suffered internal bleeding in his stomach and lesions on his liver. The German Shepherd exhibited similar symptoms of internal bleeding and liver failure, as well as drastic hair loss and unusual odor. She is currently under veterinary care along with the Lab. The lawsuit reveals that the symptoms that the dogs showed were "consistent with poisoning," which the lawyers believe stemmed from propylene glycol and mycotoxins.
Propylene glycol is an ingredient that's often found in hair products and automotive antifreeze. But because it's a humectant, it's also often used as an additive for dog food to help preserve its moisture. While it's been scientifically proven to be significantly less toxic than its relative ethylene glycol, it has also been linked to blood diseases in animals, like Heinz body anemia. In 1996, the FDA banned the use of propylene glycol in cat food, so it's a mystery why it's still allowed to be added to dog food to this day.
Mycotoxins are produced by microfungi (commonly known as mold) that can cause disease and death in humans and animals. They're often found in grains, which are a common component of many dog foods. The suit states that some of the online complaints of Beneful described symptoms consistent with mycotoxin poisoning.
As for Purina, the company is vehemently denying any "quality issues with Beneful." In response to the lawsuit, Purina issued the following statement:
We believe the lawsuit is baseless, and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves and our brand. Beneful had two previous class action suits filed in recent years with similar baseless allegations, and both were dismissed by the courts.
Images: Getty Images (2), Alisha Vargas/Flickr