Pets aren’t just animals, they’re friends and family as every dog, cat, and rabbit-lover knows. For this reason, Nestle Purina Petcare Company should not be surprised by the strong emotions underlying a recent lawsuit. The class action suit filed in California by plaintiff Frank Lucido on Feb. 5 alleges Purina's Beneful is responsible for making thousands of dogs either seriously ill or causing them to die, according to Top Class Actions. Specifically, the suit concerns "kibble," which includes the popular Purina Beneful Original, Purina Beneful Healthy Weight, and Purina Beneful Healthy Smile, among many other sub-brands.

While the lawsuit is new, the actual complaint is rather old. In fact, on Consumer Affairs, dog owners have been saying for some time that Beneful has hurt and in some cases killed their beloved dogs. One owner of a “perfectly healthy” mixed terrier wrote, “She went from happy to sickly upon eating Beneful. ... I stop the food and bam, she was back to normal.” Another owner, after switching her dog to Beneful, wrote, “She seemed fine at first, but then I started noticing incontinence problems. A few weeks later she started becoming lethargic, then she started vomiting. … My dog so far has not died, but she is also still not healthy.”

Another dog owner fed his dog a single serving of Beneful with this result: “He was vomiting, diarrhea, lethargic, wheezing, and couldn't walk or eat. We rushed him to the vet where he was put on steroids, IV to re-hydrate, and antibiotics. He almost died. He was there for four days.”

In fact, more than 3,000 complaints have been posted online according to Frank Lucido v. Nestle Purina Petcare Company. The lawsuit further alleges the dogs “show consistent symptoms, including stomach and related internal bleeding, liver malfunction or failure, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, seizures, bloating, and kidney failure.” Importantly, the suit asserts, “on information and belief,” that these illnesses and deaths were caused by toxic substances found in Beneful, including propylene glycol, an automotive antifreeze component, and mycotoxins, a group of toxins produced by fungus.

Don’t Mess With My Pet!

How could mere dog chow inspire such anger and passion? For owners, pets are not just play-dates, but true unfailing social support. One study from the American Psychological Association found pet owners fare better on tests of well-being when compared to people without pets. The research also demonstrated ways in which pets were able to stave off negativity caused by rejection from people. Clearly, pets can be relied upon at times when mere humans fail us.

“Pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful, and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners,” said lead researcher of the 2011 study, Dr. Allen R. McConnell of Miami University in Ohio.

While it’s been clear for years that pets can be helpful to people facing a grave health crisis — think of caredogs helping hospital patients or guide dogs for the blind — this study proves that everyday pet owners reap many health rewards from their favorite “buddies.” As for Purina, well, these few words should suffice: Prepare yourself, this will be painful.