You may have heard of the recent pet food recalls involving certain brands of commercially-available canned pet foods as a result of pentobarbital contamination (see Truth About Pet Food for the latest update).

Considering the fear imparted into the psyche of pet owners worldwide after the Melamine recall and the ongoing concerns surrounding chicken and duck treats manufactured in China, these latest recalls should prompt owners to consider the current foods and treats that their companion canines and felines consume each day.

What is Pentobarbital?

Pentobarbital is a thiobarbiturate anesthetic (i.e. a barbiturate), which is a class of drugs derived from barbituric acid. It has uses both in human and veterinary medicine as a sedative.

What is Pentobarbital Used for in Veterinary Medicine?

Pentobarbital is most commonly used in veterinary medicine when performing euthanasia, as only small amounts are needed to severely suppress breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure which ultimately causes lack of normal oxygen and nutrient delivery to vital organs (brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, etc.), organ system malfunction, and death.

Generally, pentobarbital is used for life-ending procedures (euthanasia). It is also sometimes used for sedation, although this use is less common because there are safer and more-effective drugs available that don’t have the same potential for severely depressive effects.
Pentobarbital is chemically related to phenobarbital, which is a commonly used anti-convulsant drug that helps control seizures in both dogs and cats.

What Can Happen if Your Pet Consumes Pentobarbital in Food or Treats?

If your pet consumes pentobarbital in food or treats there are a variety of adverse and potentially life-threatening health responses that can occur. Larger volumes of pentobarbital will lead to more severe clinical signs, including:

Ptyalism (salivation)
Emesis (vomiting)
Stool changes (soft to liquid stools, blood, mucus, urgency, explosive nature, etc.)
Hyporexia (decreased appetite)
Neurologic abnormalities (tremor, seizure, vocalization, unusual eye movements)
Ataxia (difficulty walking)

Pentobarbital should definitely not be included in pet food or treats. If your pet shows any of the above or other signs of illness after consuming foods or treats, immediately call your veterinarian or a local veterinary emergency hospital.

Read more at The Honest Kitchen Blog.