Petfood Industry - May 2018 - 44
44 | www.PetfoodIndustry.com
David A. Dzanis, DVM, PhD, DACVN
in pet foods
The potential presence of
pentobarbital in pet food
has been a significant topic
of discussion in the news,
both inside the industry and
Of the number of issues in
the news of late regarding safety
concerns with pet foods, perhaps
receiving the most attention
are the reports of adulteration
ian_atpn | BigStockPhoto.com
with pentobarbital. There has
been much speculation as to the
source of this contamination, including the oftrepeated allegation of inclusion of euthanized dogs
and cats in pet foods.
What is pentobarbital
and what is it used for?
Pentobarbital is an animal drug approved by
the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Used properly, it is a safe and effective short-acting
surgical anesthetic for use in dogs, cats and
horses. It also can be used to relieve convulsive
seizures in animals. Because it is rapidly metabolized, there would be negligible, if any, risk of
other animals' exposure to the drug through these
uses. In higher concentrations and in combination with other drugs, though, it is approved as
a humane and rapid euthanasia agent in dogs.
FDA law restricts its use to by or on the order of a
Further, because of its addictive qualities as a
barbiturate and abuse potential by people, pentobarbital is subject to the Controlled Substances Act
as enforced by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Veterinarians who do not store the
drug in a manner to prevent theft or misuse and/
or do not keep records sufficient to account for use
for legitimate purposes may lose their DEA registration (severely hampering ability to practice) or suffer
other serious penalties.
While pentobarbital's approval by FDA as a
euthanasia drug is expressly for dogs, it is likely the
agent of choice for other species as well, especially
other small pet animals. It also may be an option
for horses or other livestock kept as companion
animals. However, for economic and other reasons,
it would seem to be a very unfavorable drug for
use in any commercial livestock operation. FDA
regulations make very clear that it cannot be used in
animals intended for food.
In fact, the regulation expressly dictates that
"euthanized animals must be properly disposed
of by deep burial, incineration or other method in
Dr. Dzanis is CEO of Regulatory Discretion Inc. and a writer and consultant on nutrition, labeling and regulation. He is also the
author of Petfood Industry magazine's monthly column, "Petfood Insights."