Pet owners concerned Beneful may have killed their dogs

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PITTSBURGH - Target 11 is getting calls, emails and Facebook postings from pet owners who are concerned that Purina Beneful dog food may have sickened or killed their dogs.  Consumer Investigator Robin Taylor first told you about the complaints and now she has answers to some of your questions.

Let me start by saying, we don't know if it's the food that’s behind these deaths.

Purina says there's nothing wrong with Beneful.  Even the Food and Drug Administration says there's no warning or recall at this time.

Yet, more than 400 complaints have been filed with Consumer Affairs.

The FDA has also received complaints and is looking into the death of 2-1/2 year old Mazey, an English Mastiff that went into kidney and liver failure after eating Beneful for less than 3 weeks.  Mazey’s vet suspected aflatoxins, which can be found in moldy grains

A necropsy was performed on Mazey.  The FDA is awaiting a toxicology report and is also testing a sample of the food.

After my story aired, I heard from Andrew Cooper, who lost two dogs.  He wrote, “The kidney failure set on so fast, we had to put the first, a 10 year-old pit-bull mix, down the first week of November 2012, and the second, a 3-year-old Labrador mix, down two weeks later to the day."

I also heard from Damian Palmieri, who wrote, “I lost my 6 year-old Bull Terrier of January 31 due to kidney failure.  He went from healthy to dead in 1 month and I bought a bag in mid-December.”

Like a lot of other emails I received, Andrew and Damian want to know whether Beneful caused the deaths.    

The best advice I have is to talk to your vet because there are many things besides food that can cause illness.

If you're convinced the food may be at fault, you can file complaints with Consumer Affairs, the FDA, and Purina. Purina can also be reached at 1-888-236-338.

I want to be careful because Purina says there's a lot of misinformation circulating with no scientific evidence to back it.

“Online postings often contain false, unsupported and misleading allegations that cause undue concern and confusion for pet owners, so of whom may then conclude that the pet’s food must have been the cause for an illness,” said Bill Salzman, spokesman for Beneful Dog Food.

It's also not unusual for the FDA to look into adverse events.  “If we determine there is a safety concern, we will alert the public,” said Tamara Ward, with the FDA Office of Public Affairs.

While researching this story, I found out about a dog food advisor website, that ranks dog food based on the ingredients listed on the label.  It can provide some interesting insight into pet foods.

Keep in mind, the best advice for your pet is likely to come from your veterinarian.