If you were to Google search ‘Pentobarbital’ and ‘Euthanasia Drug,’ you would find no less than 138,000 SERPs [search engine results pages.] It’s an issue that is killing our dogs, and while its been identified as dangerous by the FDA and recalled by manufacturers, it’s a concern as to why this barbiturate was used as a component in dog food to begin with?
What is this drug?
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 and for euthanasia when administered in higher dosages.
Who are the culprits?
To date, there are 237 brands of dog food that have been pulled from warehouses due to possible pentobarbital contamination. One company of consequence that has been called out in this regard goes back to 2016. According to a Gizmodo report, recall concerns for wet and canned dog food manufactured by J.M. Smucker, which includes popular brands such as Kibbles’N Bits, Gravy Train, O’ Roy and Skippy.
Why is Pentobarbital used?
Pentobarbital is purposely used in veterinary medicine when performing euthanasia, a life-ending procedure. It severely suppresses — 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 — causing death.
So why add to dog food? Since, it’s also used as a sedative, this says to me that by including this component, dogs will appear to be happy and content after a meal that includes pentobarbital? From a manufacturers' standpoint this distills down to dollars — the more happy dogs, the more happy pet owners, the more sales.
The lessons learned here is that this drug should never be used in food products. There are safer and more-effective drug additives available that don’t present a danger.
The other reason for possibly considering phentobarbital is its other use — that of an anti-convulsant drug, which helps control seizures in both dogs and cats. However, if a veterinarian was to diagnose your pet with such a condition, we’re sure he wouldn’t be prescribing Kibbles’N Bits to rectify the condition. So, again 'no cigar!'
Keep your dogs safe
You can take preventative steps to keep your pet safe from pentobarbital exposure by offering them meals and treats, which are made with human-grade ingredients versus feed-grade ingredients. As the majority of commercially-available pet consumables are made with feed-grade ingredients, you’ll have to carefully discern the product label to see if the term “human grade” is used on the packaging.
Primary Source: What is Pentobarbital?