Hill's Pet Nutrition has expanded the scope of its recall of a variety of canned dog foods as the Food and Drug Administration continues to investigate the presence of potentially excessive amounts of vitamin D in some products.
The company expanded its voluntary recall on March 20 so that 85 total lots of 33 varieties of canned dog food products manufactured by Hill's and marketed under the Hill's Science Diet and Hill's Prescription Diet brands have been recalled. This action comes on top of the late January recall of 54 lots of 25 varieties after the company received complaints that some dogs eating the food experienced clinical signs of vitamin D toxicosis. In all, the recalls have affected 1.083 million cases of dog food, or 21.6 million cans, which represents 6.3 percent of the company's U.S. annual sales.
"As a company, and as pet parents ourselves, we are sorry to be expanding our recall list. We regret the concern that the recall has caused pet parents and veterinarians and any possible effect the recalled foods may have had on pets. We are working hard to make this right," according to a statement from Hill's.
The recall was expanded after the FDA requested that Hill's test samples of foods it had produced that were not part of the original recall, according to an FDA advisory.
Following the original recall, according to Hill's, "We conducted a detailed review of all canned dog foods potentially impacted by the vitamin premix with elevated levels of vitamin D. This review included: analyzing consumer complaints; reviewing veterinarian medical consultations; auditing our supplier; and reviewing our own manufacturing and quality procedures. We then did additional product testing to ensure we had taken all appropriate action. Our review determined that there were additional products affected by that vitamin premix, and it is for that reason that we are expanding the recall. Hill's has received a limited number of complaints of pet illness related to some of these products."
Going forward, Hill's has required its supplier to implement additional quality testing prior to release of ingredients. In addition to the company's existing safety processes, it is adding its own further independent testing of incoming ingredients, said Dr. Jolle Kirpensteijn, chief professional veterinary officer for Hill's Pet Nutrition in the U.S.
No dry foods, cat foods, or treats are affected by the recall.
Although vitamin D is an essential nutrient for dogs, ingestion of an excess amount can lead to potential health issues depending on the amount ingested and the duration of exposure. Dogs may develop signs such as vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling, and weight loss. Dogs that consume very large amounts of vitamin D can develop serious health issues, including renal dysfunction, according to Hill's. In most cases, complete recovery is expected after ingestion of excess vitamin D is discontinued.
Hill's says it will review requests for reimbursement of expenses related to hypervitaminosis D for affected dogs on a case-by-case basis. The company is directing owners to call its Consumer Affairs Line at 1-800-445-5777 or email contactushillspet [dot] com (contactus[at]hillspet[dot]com).
Hill's also will review requests for reimbursement of expenses related to diagnostic screening and continued diagnostic testing for dogs that consumed the recalled dog food. Veterinarians can submit requests for reimbursement at vet_consulthillspet [dot] com (vet_consult[at]hillspet[dot]com) or call the company's Veterinary Consultation Service at 1-800-548-8387.
Several class-action and individual lawsuits have been filed against the company, including claims such as negligence and false advertising, in response to the recall in January.
"While we don't comment on pending litigation, we can say that we do not agree with many of the characterizations in the lawsuits," said Dr. Kirpensteijn. "As a company, we care deeply about pets and work hard to provide them with the best products available. We are equally as committed to pet parents and veterinarians and will continue with our long-standing processes to review individual claims and veterinarian reimbursement requests."