How to Report a Pet Food Complaint to the FDA

How to Report a Pet Food Complaint to the FDA

In 2023, the Facebook group Saving Pets One Pet @ A Time had received many messages that companion pets were becoming suddenly ill or dying. Symptoms included lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, seizures, rapid weight loss and rectal bleeding. After a series of questions, the group found a common denominator of a particular brand of dog food. The overall trend was that pets were eating the same food as they always had, but a new batch or bag of food possibly made them sick.

Many people have asked for our opinion. We are concerned and have theories, but prefer not to speculate. In summary, neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the pet food companies, nor anyone else knows enough right now to even conjecture.

Since the situation is still up in the air, we thought it would be best to help people navigate the FDA’s Pet Food Complaint portal. Reporting a pet food complaint to the FDA appears to be easy. Appearances can be deceiving. So, Hemopet keys in on the critical information – and shows you where to put it – that the FDA needs to investigate claims in this post. If you want to watch along, we have a YouTube video at the end. First, we want to tell you what others are doing.

Dr. Judy Morgan

We would like to thank our friend and colleague, Dr. Judy Morgan, for taking on this cause. She and her team are actively trying to figure out why companion cats and dogs are possibly becoming ill from their pet food. They have taken on the following effort:

  • Collecting survey results ( from affected companion pet parents;
  • Encouraging veterinarians to reach out to her team;
  • Urging parents or vets to report ill or deceased pets to the FDA;
  • Filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to the FDA to receive those reports; and,
  • Personally paying for independent testing of various foods.

Dr. Morgan provides additional tips:

  • Stop the food immediately.⁠
  • Contact your veterinarian. Request a copy of your pet’s medical records.
  • Report your concerns to the pet food company and ask your vet to do the same. ⁠
  • SAVE THE PET FOOD. Do NOT agree to send the pet food company the food. If you feel compelled to do so, only send a small portion. Keep the rest of the food in original packaging, closed securely, and stored away from pets and people. Document your conversation with the pet food company.⁠

As this situation is ever-evolving, please follow her on social media for updates.

Save the Pet Food and Packaging

Please note the importance of Dr. Judy Morgan’s last point: Save the pet food. The FDA is adamant that this is critical. Please save the food, but also the packaging.

“Consumers often transfer dry pet food into other containers for easier handling. If possible, please save the original packaging until the pet food has been consumed. The packaging contains IMPORTANT information often needed to identify the variety of pet food, the manufacturing plant, and the production date.”

Reporting to the FDA

Quite honestly, it is so very difficult and stressful to be emotionally prepared for a sudden illness or death. We’ve been there. We encourage you to seek emotional support from online groups, friends and family.

Within that emotionally charged state, you want justice for your companion pet and want to save other pets from the same fate. So you rush to complete the FDA’s pet food complaint form.

Stop. Don’t rush. Yes; timeliness is critical, but quality and quantity are tantamount.

Why are we encouraging you to take a moment? Here’s why.

We have read over the complaints submitted during the Dilated Cardiomyopathy Debate from a few years ago. Some are detailed. Some are not detailed. Some are emotional.

Some are editorialized, “My gut feeling says the dog food and diet definitely has something to do with her sudden death.”

Some urge the FDA to contact them, “I am more than willing to provide whatever vet reports, food records, detailed health records to help. Please do not hesitate to contact me.”

We love the love for the pet and that companion pet parents are well-meaning.

Now for the hard truth. The FDA is a huge agency under the Department of Health and Human Services. It does not have the budget or the resources to follow-up with everyone.

So, your report needs to be as thorough and detailed as possible.

However, if your emotions are still too raw, you can ask your veterinarian to submit the report.

First Set of Tips

The reporting portal can be daunting – particularly if you are overcome with emotion. We hope these tips will help you navigate the system, and help you gather the facts. Remember, this is about justice for your companion pet, saving other pets, and holding pet food companies accountable.

We suggest you don’t report immediately until you are familiar with the numerous questions, so click “Report as Guest.”

  • The next two webpages are:
    • New Guest Report
    • Introduction

Complete these to get to the next sections.

  • The left-hand toolbar has five additional sections:
    • Contact Information
    • Problem Summary
    • Products
    • Veterinary Visits
    • Attachments

Click around these sections to find out what the questions are or required fields.

Important Tip 1: Introduction

In this area, you can report:

  • Adverse Event
  • Product Problem
  • Both

We assume your pet companion pet had a reaction to the food, so choose either adverse event or both.

Why? The questions are more detailed.

If you simply opened the bag, noticed it smelled “off”, and did not feed it to your pet, then choose product problem.

Important Tip 2: Contact Information

This is a standard form. In this section, the FDA asks if it can contact you. We urge you to click “Yes.”

Important Tip 3: Problem Summary

Once you select species, the system prompts you for breed. Many breeds are listed. However, we noticed popular hybrids and Pomeranians were not. You can choose “Mixed”, but note the breed in the description.

The aforementioned description is one of the most important areas. Be as detailed and descriptive as possible, but please do not embellish or overly editorialize. Go through the FDA pet food complaint tip sheet we suggested you print. You have a 35,000 character limit.

Ideas to help you:

  • How long (months, years) did you feed this particular food prior to and during the adverse event?
  • Timeline of events with approximate dates
  • Detailed description of the illness
  • Diarrhea? What color? Frequency? Size?
  • Medications, supplements or treatment provided for sudden illness
  • Outcome
  • Why you suspect the food is the culprit (This is about the pet’s condition not the food. The next section will address the food.)
  • Current conditions such as cancer
  • Current medications, supplements, and preventatives (if you have space)

Some of our suggestions might be repeated in other sections, but the FDA can sort through the details. You might need to edit for space, but that’s OK too.

Important Tip 4: Products

The portal feels pieced together in this section, which may be an indication of its age.

The webpage looks like this initially. Click “Add”.


“Describe how the product was used or administered”. Within this field, you could add if you free-feed or schedule feed, and amount per day. This field provides you 1,000 characters.

You can add multiple products. Each product would have its own Product Details form. So, you would have to save the first product, and then add another product on a new Product Details form.

Other examples fed directly preceding or during the illness could be:

  • Other foods
  • Broths
  • Toppers
  • Treats
  • Chews
  • Supplements (prebiotics, probiotics, etc.)

If you give canned pumpkin to your companion dogs that you purchase in the regular grocery aisle, this would be considered human food, which is an option in the dropdown. Same logic applies for fresh fruits and vegetables you may give.

Over-the-counter or prescribed medications and preventatives can be added as well. However, if you suspect these types of products instead of the food, they are reported differently: Report Animal Drug and Device Side Effects and Product Problems.

Are you concerned about diverting the FDA’s attention to other products from the product you suspect as the causative agent? We would not worry about it. On the Product Details page are two questions:

  • How strongly do you believe this product is related to the adverse event?
  • Were there any other foods or products given to the animal during this time period?

Important Tip 6: Lot Numbers

Once you save all the Product Details information, two new sections pop up. The most critical is Lot Number.

According to the FDA: “Lot Number – This number is often hard to find and difficult to read. It is stamped onto the product packaging and typically includes a combination of letters and numbers, and is always in close proximity to the best by/before or expiration date (if the product has a best by/before or expiration date). The Lot Number is very important as it helps us determine the manufacturing plant as well as the production date.”

Click “Add” under Lot Number.

Now, we add the Lot Number for the product Dfdf.

Make sure you enter the correct Lot Number that corresponds to the button selected under Product Details.

We just used canned pumpkin as an example. You should be able to find a Lot Number on the can. However, you probably will not for the fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s OK.

In the example below, we created three products. For example, we have Sadasdasdas product selected, so then we press Lot Number and add the Sadasdasdas Lot Number.

Important Tip 7: Veterinarian Visit

Bear in mind, that if your companion pet did not visit the veterinarian for this sudden illness, you can still report it. However, if you did take your pet to the vet, we suggest that you allow your veterinarian to release medical records to the FDA.

Important Tip 8: Additional Attachments

You can submit up to five attachments. The priority documents are from the veterinarian. If you can attach more, you could provide pictures of the product, Lot Number, Expiration Date, or vomit or diarrhea during the acute illness.

Final Steps

Once you have your meticulous notes and documents ready, please create an account so you can save drafts, and report more than one companion pet if necessary.

Access to Portal

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