Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Revisiting The Blue Buffalo Dog Food Recall

Stories behind the story

When an animal receives an excessive amount of vitamin D in its diet, it develops a condition known as Hypervitaminosis D, or vitamin D toxicity. What is the significance of vitamin D toxicity, and when should a dog owner suspect that a canine family member is suffering from this condition? Here is the answer that I found in the 1996 textbook Clinical Endocrinology of Dogs and Cats: An Illustrated Text, by Adam Rijnberk. I've inserted "translations" of technical terms in square brackets where appropriate.
"Hypervitaminosis D may result from excessive supplementation of vit D in the diet..." It leads to increased formation of 25-OHD [a form of vitamin D], augmented calcium and phosphate absorption from the intestine, and increased calcium and phosphate reabsorption in the kidneys."

"The clinical picture may be dominated by one or more of the signs of hypercalcemia [elevated calcium] such as polydipsia/polyuria [excessive thirst/excessive urination], dehydration, weakness and anorexia [loss of appetite]. If complicated by renal insufficiency [inadequate kidney function], there may be vomiting and other signs of azotemia [abnormally high nitrogen compound levels in the blood]. Routine laboratory investigations will reveal that calcium and phosphate concentrations in plasma and urine are elevated."

Last Friday, researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) alerted pet owners to a link between Blue Buffalo dog food and 16 cases of excessive blood levels of Vitamin D in dogs. The sick dogs had increased thirst and urination; some of them also suffered weight loss, anorexia and signs of kidney damage.

MSU also announced that it was cooperating with FDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture in an investigation of the dog food. Shortly after this announcement, Blue Buffalo recalled the following products:
  • BLUE Wilderness Chicken Flavor: 4.5 lb; Best if used by JUL2611Z, JUL2711Z, JUL2811Z
  • BLUE Wilderness Chicken Flavor: 11 lb; Best if used by JUL1211B
  • BLUE Wilderness Chicken Flavor: 24 lb; Best if used by JUL1211B, JUL1311B
  • BLUE Basics Limited Ingredient Formula Salmon and Potato Recipe: 11 lb; Best if used by AUG2111B, AUG2211B
  • BLUE Basics Limited Ingredient Formula Salmon and Potato Recipe: 24 lb; Best if used by AUG2111B, SEP2311P, OCT2611P
  • BLUE Life Protection Formula Natural Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Large Breed Adult: 30 lb.; Best if used by SEP2211P, SEP2311P, OCT2611P

By the time the recall was announced, the known number of sick dogs had risen to 36.

In its recall notice, the Company explained that "...a sequencing error had occurred at the supplier of the dry ingredients for these products. Immediately before producing the ingredients for these specific production runs, the supplier had run a product for another customer that contained a more potent form of Vitamin D used in chicken feeds. It is now believed that there was some level of carry over of this Vitamin D product into the ingredients for the specific manufacturing runs of the BLUE products, thereby increasing the Vitamin D activity to unacceptable levels in the Blue ingredients."

Since posting the original story, I have received comments from some readers, who have described their own experiences with Blue Buffalo and its dog foods. Their descriptions hint at the possibility of additional problems with the company's products. Here is what they had to say.

From Las, who posted this comment on October 12th:
"We have two dogs on this food. They have only been on it since early August. Three weeks ago one of our dogs had a horrible kidney infection. Last night we took our "puppy" (19 months) to the vet because she started drinking so much water and then having accidents. The vet was a little worried and gave us a run if antibiotics and told us to watch her water intake for the next few days and bring her back at the end of this week.

This morning we got a panicked call from him telling us he treated another dog with the same symptoms and the owner had mentioned the food recall. He put two and two together and I have to bring in my girls later today to have lab work done. My girls are feeling very ill and you can tell they don't feel well either.

As for classy, I called Blue Buffalo and.... I wouldn't call the terrible customer service I got today "class"."

From Alice, who emailed me privately on October 11th:
"I had my three Goldendoodles on Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Chicken and Rice Adult. I had seen your notice of the recall on Blue Buff. food, and figured that since it was a different variety from the Life Protection, I was ok. however, the last 40 lb. bag I purchased had an inordinate quantity of their "Life Source Bits". Well over half of the bag was these "bits". Since they tout them as being the blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, I was concerned that my dogs would get too much of a good thing and I decided to mix the food with another brand to balance the ingredients. In the meantime, I sent a request to Blue Buffalo asking if there would be a problem in feeding it to my dogs without mixing it and in the request, I asked for a prompt reply. I sent my request on 9-24-10 by email. I finally received a reply tonight, 10-10-10. Their reply will follow my long diatribe to you. It includes the text of my email to them. I do not store my dog food in the original bags, so do not have the bag from the food, nor do I have the receipt, however it was purchased at Petsmart and I can show the purchase date from my debit card transaction. I usually save the production information just in case, but for some reason unbeknownst to me, I didn't save it this time.

Now, my questions: What do I do next? I am no longer feeding it to my dogs, but have about half of the bag's quantity left. I do not want another bag of Blue Buffalo!! Is there someplace that I should report this to, and if so, who and where? Needless to say, I am not a happy camper!!"

Blue Buffalo offered the following explanation for Alice's experience, and suggested that she return the product to the retailer for an exchange.
"It sounds as if you may have purchased a bag from the beginning or end of a production run."

And from Anonymous, who posted this on October 13th:
"I wouldn't be surprised if they recall other flavors of their dog food too. My dog got horribly sick several times this summer and I narrowed it down to the Blue Buffalo Lamb & Brown Rice. I took it back to the store and they refunded me. I wish I still had it so they could test it."

My first reaction to Blue Buffalo's recall announcement was a favorable one – it's not often that a company immediately offers to reimburse "... any veterinary or testing expenses related to illness caused by..." a recalled product. But delays in responding to consumer complaints and comments about "terrible" customer service are worrisome. As is Blue Buffalo's complete lack of response to my request for information on the retail distribution of the recalled products.

In the absence of a response from Blue Buffalo, I have surveyed most of the pet supply chains listed on the company's Store Locater web page. I have found only two that have posted Blue Buffalo recall notices on their web sites – PetCo and Pet Supplies Plus. I encourage readers who purchased recalled product from other retailers to post the information below, or to email me directly with the information so that I can help to spread the word.

I hope Blue Buffalo realizes that its reputation for quality products and customer service will be harmed permanently if it does not respond promptly and effectively to complaints and questions. As Alice said in granting me permission to share her experience,
"I hope that Blue Buffalo's rush to enter the market with quality foods is the reason for the problems that they are having. I know they've spent a lot of time and money to introduce it and to promote it to the pet stores. Sloppy production practices may cost it dearly. I know I won't use any of their products again. I had such high hopes for them."

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  1. Phyllis, thank you for staying on top of this. A couple of things that also bother me is this was another Friday night recall, something that seems to be pretty standard with pet food recalls. The recall info is not on Blue Buffalo's front page of their website, you have to go through a couple of links and you can find it in their "Blue News" section but you definately have to search for it. Also they did not announce it on their Twitter page. In fact on Twitter, is a tweet to someone telling them to contact their customer service dept but nothing else. Their most recent tweet is about some pets looking cute in their Halloween costumes but no mention of the recall. I have a dear friend who has said in the past, if companies can use Twitter to advertise their product, they most certainly can use it to announce their recalls if they want to get word out to people and their pets who might be affected.


    Got an update from FDA, and best I can tell, Sep2311 & Oct2611 appear to have been added for Blue Buffalo's 24 lb Salmon food.

    Hummmm, don't find these additional codes on BB's site, though.

    Many thanks to Phyllis for reporting Blue Buffalo's recall.

  3. @Sandi.- I agree. Companies should use every means possible to get prompt and accurate recall information into the hands of consumers.

    @Anonymous.- You are completely correct. I took the recall product info from the Blue Buffalo notice. I have updated this post with the complete FDA-posted notice. I have corrected the info, above.

  4. Phyllis,

    Thanks for updating the date code info on your site. Many of my friends visit here.

    I called BB on Monday and spoke with their "call center". The person was very ill informed and could answer NONE of my questions. She took my personal info and said that someone would call within 48 hrs.

    Still waiting for that call back.

    I have a bad feeling about this recall and wouldn't be surprised to see more food recalled. Hope I'm wrong.

  5. I went to Petsmart in Crestwood, IL yesterday and they knew nothing about the recall...I told them about it and one of the managers tried to tell me it was not Blue but another brand. They were not very nice when they asked me where I got my information from. Of course I told them, and their reply was that they did not hear it from the company. ERG!

  6. My dogs are both sick and the expire is not one noted on the recall. Buyer beware, and shame on them. I have the product in hand, where can I send it to be tested?

  7. Reporting a problem with a pet food.

    The organization responsible for overseeing pet food safety is FDA. FDA accepts complaints about pet food problems either by telephone or through an on-line Safety Reporting Portal.

    To complain on-line, go to:

    Choose "Report as Guest"; then choose "Start a new report" and the "consumer or concerned citizen" option. Click on "Begin report", and complete the fill-in form with as much information as you have available.

    To report a problem by telephone, go to and call the Consumer Complaint Coordinator for your state. Have at your fingertips all the available information about your complaint, but don't be surprised if you reach a recorded message asking you to leave a name and phone number.

  8. Thanks so much, you are awesome to stay on top of this. I will post when I have a report from the FDA. Going back to the vet. Although they are functioning they have no zest for life, very lethargic, just ho-hum not themselves. The youngest was actually walking drunk (no balance) which is not a symptom reported here. That was the first visit to the vet. I feel it is the food that has caused this for both of them, but need the vet to help me out if there is a solution for them to get it out of their system sooner. Thanks again.

  9. Anonymous, I hope you can get help from FDA. Phyllis's suggestion for filing the report via the newer safety portal is a great idea. I hope you can get help for your dogs and they start getting better very soon. Let us know what happens, if you can, both with your dogs and your report to FDA.

  10. No word from the FDA. Been almost 3 weeks since my dogs have been off Blue buffalo. One of the two got really sick last week and I suspect it is not the one I was so concerned about that had the loss of balance. Both acted dazed and unresponsive to commands for about a week after being off it for two weeks (last week). Long story short, no liver damage and vet work up was positive. As of last night,they are back to their happy playful selves. Will let you know what the FDA says about the food that is not on recall YET. Thank you again for your help and support. No more blue for me in Lubbock!

  11. @Anonymous.- Thanks for the update. I'm glad to hear that there was no permanent damage and that your dogs are back to themselves. When you say that the vet work-up was positive, do you mean that the vet found elevated calcium and/or vitamin D levels in the blood? If so, please encourage your vet to report the findings to FDA as well. My gut reaction is that the agency will pay more attention to a report from a vet than from an individual consumer, sad to say.


  12. All three of my dogs eat Blue what food should we use. Not comfortable with this product, but what should we switch to.

  13. CAUTION! PURCHASING BLUE BUFFALO DOG FOOD MAY RESULT IN SERIOUS HEALTH ISSUES FOR YOUR DOG. I purchased a medium size bag of BLUE BUFFALO LIFE PROTECTION SENIOR FORMULA dog food on 10/20/10 and my dog had extreme bloody diarrhea by 10/27/10. Previous to this episode my dog had finished her first small bag of the weight control chicken & brown rice formula without incident. My vet in Irvine, CA reported seeing several dogs with similar symptoms that had recently purchased a new bag of blue buffalo dog food. Apparently my dog had the most severe reaction, with diarrhea lasting 2 weeks and an intestinal tract infection, resulting in vet bills totaling $478.13. PetsMart took the product back for a full refund (without the bag) and took a full report of the incident and copies of my vet bills to file a report with their corporate office.

  14. I just purchased a 24 lb. bag of Blue Buffalo Wilderness chicken flavored dog food (expiration date of 11/12/2011 B 11 1644) on 1/03/2011. Fed my 15 lb. terrier and for two days in a row, she's waken me up twice in the middle of the night to go out for bathroom, which is extremely unusual. This morning 1/05/11 I followed her out and finds that she has soft wet puree-like stool with blood in it. The first day, I remember hearing her stomach gurgling really loud, and being very busy, didn't think too much about it and gave her a 280 mg capsule of activated charcoal to calm her stomach and absorb what I thought might be some junk she may have picked up eating outside on her walks. But now I am searching the internet to see if there was a recall for Blue Wilderness and came to this website. Going back to PetsMart to return this, but now, not sure what else to give her instead because I thought this was a good quality food.

  15. has anyone used the fish version and had problems?

  16. Just found this website after switching my Golden to Blue Buffalo. I gradually added this food to his usual Nutro in small amounts until the Nutro was gone. Well last weekend my dog started to lose his appetite and became sick with runny stools and upset stomach, wouldnt eat anything and eating grass so I started looking online for problems with Blue Buffalo. I switched him back the other day and he is fine now. I took the bag back to Pet Smart and exchanged it for Nutro but I didnt think to look at the date. Could this be a bag from the recalled batch? If not then there is still a problem!

  17. I changed my 6 year old Golden Retriever to Blue's Large Breed Chicken and Brown Rice formula about 3 months ago. The 1st month we noticed lots of excessive scratching but the vet said she seemed to be okay otherwise. The second month, my Golden had become deathly sick. She vomited yellow bile, pooped loose stool and blood all over the house (carpet). Her symptoms lasted for three days. She would not eat and would barely move. The vet said that she didn't have any obstructions and that the cause could have been her food. They put her on antibiotics and gave her meds to calm her stomach. Last week, while I was out of town my Golden got sick again. Blood, loose poop, and vomit all over the carpet again!!!! Again!!!! I immediately had my mother go buy her old food that she'd been on since she was 8 weeks old and after a day or so she regained her strength and is now fully active, eating and happy.

    Now, my Golden has always been on Nutro's lamb formula and has never had ANY problems. I was engaged in the Petco Store (Conyers, GA) by a "Blue" representative about your products and how much better they are for my dog. I researched the representative's claims and decided to try my golden on an "accessible" Organic Chicken and Brown Rice formula. (After all I eat very healthy so why shouldn't my dog)

    This situation has racked up over $600 in carpet pet care cleaning bills, vet, and pet medication bills.

  18. What most people don't know is Blue Buffalo is simply a marketing company. They do not make their own dog food unlike Nutro. the same people who make Beniful make Blue Buffalo. My uncle works in the plant where it's made. There is no such dog food maker as Blue Buffalo.

  19. I have a yorkie that has been pooping blood for a few months now. I have not done any bloodwork but my vet thinks it is just a stubborn intestinal bacteria so he is on another dosage of antibiotics. I do feed him Blue Wilderness/chicken. I thought the food was making him sick now this may confirm it. Though the recall codes do not match. My code if used by Feb 15 12Z12. While he's been sick, I have been cooking and feeding him plain chicken and rice. I will wait and see how he does after finishing all the medications. After reading this blog and if my yorkie gets better I don't think I will be able to trust another pet food company.

  20. I know this site is a bit old but this is for anyone who's still researching this food. My puppy is 5 months old and I have recently started giving him Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free chicken recipe for puppy and ever since he started eating this food his stool is loose and with a little bit of blood. He was perfectly fine before this and I was careful with the transition into this food. I was a bit hesitant with feeding him Blue Buffalo because of the recall incident and the employee at petsmart convinced me to feed him this. I will never again go against my better judgement. I will be going back to Beneful where my dog will be healthy again. I have never seen Beneful on the recall list by the way.

    1. I'm so glad you changed your puppies food back, I truly believe that the blue buffalo grain duck was the cause of my 8 yr old English bulldog of getting really sick. He had always eaten Science Diet because of his allergies.he was a tad over weight. About a month ago my vet said I should try the blue baffalo all natrual grain. So I did. My columbo ate it for a few weeks having orange diahera. Then he stopped eating and having a bowel movement. Fluid build up in his belly I was told I had to put him asleep. He never had any problems until I changed his food. I feel with all my heart this food was the cause of my baby's life!I put him down 2 days ago.

  21. Beneful is a horrible food.

  22. About a month ago my vet told me I should consider the blue dog food for my 8 yr old English bulldog because ( Columbo) was a little over weight. He had always been eating Science Diet. So I took my vets advice went to Pet Smart bought a bag of blue baffalo (duck) and Columbo seemed to like it . He had alot of diahera .i just thought because of the a few weeks ago I bought another bag with the blue cookies Columbo stooped eating and stopped having bowel movements I took him back to the vet they did x-rays and found a tumor on his spine said that it probably wasn't cancer that it couldn't be removed so I took columbo home with stool softeners hoping he would have a bowel movement,a few days go by he still is not eating or having a bowel movement.but drinking Alot of water so I took him back to the vet they said now he had a large amount of fluid in his belly. The vet said he would not last a week that there was nothing I could do. I took Columbo home 2 days later I'm back at the vet putting my sweet little man to sleep... so sad its only been since yesterday but I'm very upset, I feel that Blue Baffalo duck food was the cause . Just knowing if I wouldn't had changed his food I truly think he would still be with me!


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