Merrick - Herbal Extracts and Neurological Problems?

by Mel
(Tampa, FL, USA)

Does your new “natural” cat or dog food contain herbs such as rosemary extract, a neurotoxin that can cause neurological problems, seizures and anemia?

The real culprit in cat and dog foods may be rosemary extract, a natural neurotoxin. Adverse reactions, including seizures, can show up soon after ingestion but symptoms may also be delayed which complicates accurate diagnosis.

Holistic practitioners warn that herbal extracts, such as rosemary, sage, thyme, wormwood, dill, and mint, may be “mind-stimulating and “contributors to seizures”

MERRICK DOG FOOD IS LOADED with these ingredients! Help me petition Merrick to take them out! Dogs are not gourmets - they won't know the difference and the food will be safe!

I have sent email to Merrick.

WHY use these ingredients at all? The dogs don’t know the difference – only people think it sounds yummy. The dogs have to eat it!! It will lower their production costs and make a safer product!!!

Editor's Comment

See here for full article on this very interesting (and worrisome) topic:   Rosemary Extract, Pet Food Neurotoxin.

Bear in mind though, it's not only Merrick dog food. There are also other all natural dog food brands that contain these herbal extracts in some of their recipes.

If this is a concern to anyone, or if you're already dealing with dog seizures, we believe it's definitely worth paying attention to. As pointed out by our visitor, Mel, our dogs certainly are not going to notice the difference, and it's always best to err on the side of caution. When in doubt, leave it out!

If anyone else has any information on this subject, or if you've suspected a herbal extract, such as rosemary, has caused seizures in your own dog, PLEASE add your comments here.

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Jul 11, 2015
...or not...
by: Anonymous

I have a dog that's hypothyroid and started having seizure-like episodes until we got the thyroid under control AND switched to Merrick (Duck & Sweet Potato). This does have rosemary extract in it, but whenever she eats another type of dog food she starts having episodes again and does not have them on Merrick. Just my two cents.

Jun 07, 2015
Merrick Raw Bits
by: Kelly

I recently wanted to let my dog try a new flavor from Merrick. Backcountry Raw Infused Great Plains Red Recipe. He ate it one time. The next morning he was throwing up..... It continued for two days. I took him to the vet, they admitted him immediately with kidney failure. He was in ICU for just over a week with around the clock care. He didn't recover..... The only thing that I changed was his flavor of Merrick dog food. Now he's dead. Please stay away from the raw infused dog foods!!!!!!

Editor's Comment

Oh Kelly, we are so sorry for your loss. How very traumatic. :(

This is very concerning to read and definitely something not to be ignored. Have you considered sending a sample of the food for independent testing?

Again, our condolences, and thank you so much for taking the time to alert our fellow dog owners.

Apr 13, 2015
Rosemary extract
by: Anonymous

I have recently bought a bad of Merrick back country raw induced food. i asked friends if they had used it. one friend said she looked into it but it contained Rosemary and told me why she decided not to. I haven't opened the bag yet and decided to do a search. I search every brand of dry dog food I have ever fed and all of them listed rosemary extract mostly at the very bottom of the list. From what I got was the cheap brands that have all the other bad stuff in them like corn, and soy have other preservatives that are bad. If your dog has seizures it may be harmful but will not cause them in the first place.

Mar 23, 2015
Rosemary oil
by: Thunder's mom

I know this is a "dog" site however I wanted to say thank you. It was sites like this that helped me find the culprit to my cat's seizure. There it was mid way down on my holistic cat food from Blue. After eating this food three times he had a grand mal seizure and has not had one since I switched it.

The ironic thing is that my cat had seizures in my opinion from the fancy feast food I gave him as a treat with Purina natural dry. He started having seizures and not tying the food to it, I had all sorts of tests done. Wanting him to be happy I increased his treat fancy feast to half a can and seizures kept getting worse. Not until a specialist mentioned that Tufts vet school was doing a study on the link between nutrition and seizures did I decide to remove the fancy feast from his diet.

After having a few a month ..He had not had a seizure in 6 months or more. From what I have read it is believed to be the sodium nitrates in the fancy feast.

My furry baby was doing fine on the Purina Naturals but when I heard about Purina's response to the alleged deaths and seizures from glycol with their Beneful product, I decided to switch to Blue. I did contact them and although they were very kind and I do have my dog on Blue Buffalo, they don't seem to think it's the Rosemary.

All I can say is it may not affect all cats and dogs. My other cats were ok but if you have a cat that is sensitive or has had seizures avoid Rosemary oil, sodium nitrates, and of course for all avoid glycol.

I learned that not every seizure looks like one sometimes it's pre seizure hyper, or acting off, aggressive or overly affectionate..staring or looking for or biting bugs that aren't there.
I give my cat warm milk mixed with water to calm him and try to keep him quiet.

Finding information from others like from this site is so helpful and saves pets from torturous effects of ingredients thought to be harmless and natural. Just because it is great for humans it is not always so for our furry loved ones.

Thank you Again..

Jan 18, 2015
Rosemary Extract
by: Connie

Thank you for the warning about Rosemary Extract. I feed my dogs raw meats, etc.. I usually don't feed ground meats, but I had plenty of ground turkey, so I figured I would include it in this batch of home-made food. The ingredients were turkey and Rosemary Extract. This article could very well have saved my Beagles from seizures and/or anemia!


Jan 17, 2015
Rosemary Myth
by: Anonymous

After doing a lot of research about Rosemary in dogs I have not found any scientific research that has shown that the trace amount found in Merrick or other dog foods are harmful.

Their may be an exception: If the dog has allergic reactions to certain food groups or is prone to seizures then it is probably best to avoid it.

Rosemary is frequently used in dog food because it is a natural anti-oxidant and preservative and is considered an anti-cancer agent.

I have not found any FDA warnings on the use of Rosemary in any dog food.

Dec 31, 2014
issues with rosemary extract
by: Anonymous

We have a healthy 3 year old schnauzer who has had no health issues.

For Christmas we got him some "jerky" USA made/product, 100% natural. He had 3 - 4 of the jerkey in the past week. Last night had a seizure, which turned into two and then a 3rd while at the vet clinic. This morning a 4th. The vet didn't find anything wrong - other than an elevated white blood count. And wanted to label it epilepsy.

We have been searching the internet and found the information about rosemary extract. Checked the ingredient list on the jerky and sure enough the jerky has rosemary extract in it. We will not be giving him anymore of the jerky and are praying the toxins will pass out of his body so we can wean him off the seizure medication. We are devastated and scared that this has happened to a young, healthy dog.

Sep 13, 2013
rosemary and seizures??
by: Anonymous

I had started changing my dog over to Nutro Natural Choice dog food...not knowing about rosemary being a toxin. I had also bought (around the same time) some mint flavored dog treats that had rosemary in them.

My dog (2 yrs 6 mos) had been on the dog food for maybe a week (was mixing it in with dog chow...trying to do the right thing...) and I gave her a couple of those treats I mentioned.

The following day she had her first ever seizure. It was mild in comparison to what she has had since though. I gave her a couple more the day after that and what do you know...she had another seizure the following day.

Coincidence??? Maybe..... I had changed her over to JUST Nutro and early this week, she had two more seizures...13- 15 hours apart. It wasn't until I started researching online that I even knew about rosemary doing this. My vet has told me that because noting else is wrong with my dog, she is epileptic. They started her on Phenobarbital (much to my frustration, but I live in a very rural area with limited options...) NOW I just found out that Nutro dog food company has nearly 1500 complaints against it regarding sickness and even deaths in dogs!! Some of those dogs had seizures! I am seriously wondering if there is a connection.

Aug 25, 2013
Rosemary Extract Is Toxic!!
by: Anonymous

My dog was on Nutro for Small Breed Puppies until he was one year old and had no problems at all. We switched him over to their Nutro for Toy Breeds Adult Formula at that time and he still had no problems until Nutro changed their formula and we didn't know it. Within 12 hours after eating the 'New and Improved' food he began vomiting bright yellow bile and started refusing to eat. We would try to coax him by adding warm water to his food. He lost a lot of weight and started having severe diarrhea which turned bloody and the vomiting continued (always within 12 hours after each meal).

Then the seizures started and I thought he would die, it was so traumatic for me and for him. Grand Mal seizures are terrifying!! After a lot of tests we found out his liver enzymes were elevated. We immediately switched him to a different food and all of his symptoms went away, including the seizures.

We knew the food was the problem, but didn't know it was the ROSEMARY EXTRACT that was causing the problems until recently.

I bought him some organic treats that contained 2 ingredients (human-grade, freeze-dried chicken breast & ROSEMARY EXTRACT). Within 12 hours of eating the treat he started vomiting bright yellow bile again and a second treat gave him bloody diarrhea! No more treats, no more vomiting or diarrhea.

The other day we had some baked organic turkey burger & I gave him a tiny bite. Within 12 hours had started vomiting bright yellow bile again! I dug the package out of the trash & looked at the ingredients, there were only two (organic ground turkey & ROSEMARY EXTRACT)!

That clinched it for me. The only thing that is connected in all of these is the ROSEMARY EXTRACT!! My dog is a small house dog & his diet is highly controlled, as is his environment. I have looked into consumer reports & food complaints & reviews and nearly all of them are related to foods (both dog & cat) that contain ROSEMARY EXTRACT. In addition, all of the symptoms are identical (vomiting of bile, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), seizures, itchy skin, lack of appetite, loss of weight, elevated liver enzymes, etc.) & the symptoms disappear as son as the food (& ROSEMARY EXTRACT) is removed.

ROSEMARY is not only a neurotoxin/neurostimulant, it is also known to be a bile stimulant. The stimulation of excessive amounts of bile can be what is causing the stomach upset & vomiting of bile in these animals. Plus, excessive amounts of bile can irritate the intestines & cause diarrhea (eventually eroding the intestinal lining causing bloody diarrhea). It is also a blood thinner, which will only aggravate the intestinal bleeding.

Jul 12, 2013
My dog did die from Iams rosemary extract
by: Nancy

I switched from Purina to Iams about 1 1/2-2 weeks before my healthy Boston Terrier Maggie Mae started having seizures.

She started out by falling over, ataxia and not being able to see out of one eye. Next day she started having grand mal seizures, as many as 10 an hour. This would go on for about 22-24 hours then stop for about 5-7 days. Then start all over. The phenobarbital was not controlling the seizures. This happened 3 times. The fourth time she went into cluster seizures, they were the worst I had ever seen.

Years ago I had a Boston that had grand mals, he was on phenobarbital for them. Maggie went blind, eyelids raw from banging into walls. The vet had me leave her to see if he could put her under a "drip medicine" to stop brain activity and then bring her out and start the phenobarbital again. She came out and even with massive doses of phenobarbital he could not stop the seizures. Maggie Mae died on July 2, 2013, she would have been 10 years old on July 29, 2013. Out of all of my dogs she was the healthiest and the most loving baby.

I had heard about rosemary extract but did not see it listed on my Iams bag. The vet said that rosemary extract is fine for dogs but I will never ever buy any dog food with rosemary in it again and definitely not Iams. Something happened to kill Maggie and I truly believe that Iams dog food killed her. My dogs were on Iams for about 5 weeks until Maggie died last week and I figured out what happened. My other dogs did not have any issues with it, just Maggie.

If in doubt stay away from all dog food containing rosemary extract. Herbs affect dogs differently than humans and some dogs will have different reactions. I almost lost a dog to Rimadyl a few years back, he had only taken 2 doses and the vet saved him. Rimadyl has killed some dogs, it is a bad medication but people still use it.

Until it can be proven that rosemary extract is killing our dogs and a class action lawsuit is brought against those companies that put it into their food, then our pets are still at risk.

Jun 15, 2013
rosmary extract
by: pia florenzano

What a shame to find rosemary also in your food. Myself, and everybody won't tolerated, we will all stop buying your food. People are getting wise to the kibble companies. I feed it to my dogs, heaven help if they will have another seizure because of rosemary extract. Is it just a coincidence that hundreds of dogs seizure? HELL NO, it's because all the cheap sh** that is put in there, we all had enough, we will fight for our dogs. You will, and so will other companies see the difference in your sales. Do you really have our animals at heart????????????????????? Or your profits??????????????????

Oct 20, 2012
rosemary and dog allergies
by: Anonymous

I bought two very large rosemary plants today and put them inside the car as they were too tall for the trunk. My shih tsu was in the car. I proceeded to spend a few more hours shopping with my dog and rosemary in close confinement. Later on her normal early evening walk, she had for the first time in 9 yrs severe diarrhea, and urination and the only thing I can attribute it to is the pungent odour of the rosemary with my dog....?????

Sep 08, 2012
My Boxer ate Merrick
by: Rich

I would like to post this as much as possible to warn other pet owners. My boxer has had mild seizures (approx one a month) for 5 years. Shortly after switching to Merrick dry and wet food he started having seizure clusters. I read about rosemary and decided to change his diet to another food. I won't mention which one so that you don't think I'm just trying to push another brand. If your dog has seizures look at his/her food and see if it contains rosemary or other neurotoxins. My dog has been seizure free for a few weeks now and has a renewed energy. It doesn't hurt to try, right? It has worked for us so far.

Sep 06, 2012
What about topical use?
by: Laurie

Would this also apply to topical use of herbs? I've read a lot about using things like rosemary and lavender to help repel bugs, by either making a diluted bath rinse or soaking a collar in an infusion (sort of a home made flea collar). Could that cause problems too, or would they have to ingest it?

Aug 29, 2012
rosemary is toxic
by: Angel

Recently went to buy our Pomeranians food at tractor supply, they were out of the weight management formula, so bought same brand but different formula. (4-health brand).

Our pom started having seizures about 3 weeks into the switch. Also had bile diarrhea and seemed unwell.

Took her to the vet and they tried to put her on phenobarbital. I refused, that is a serious med.
started researching and ended up calling Dr. Jean Dodds, top research vet in k-9 epilepsy. First question she asked was what do we feed and does it have rosemary. Sure enough looked on bag and rosemary is listed. We switched to Taste of the Wild with venison grain free. So far no more seizures. It's worth trying dietary change before medicating a dog if indeed rosemary is the culprit. Dr. Dodd said rosemary can cause seizures especially in toy breeds and seizure prone dogs.

Hopefully we remain seizure free and it would be great if it only is the rosemary but unfortunate for those who have opted to put their dogs on a medication and still feed the bad food.

Aug 29, 2012
The Reason for Rosemary
by: Mallory

Rosemary extract is added to natural pet foods and products not for flavor, but because it is a natural preservative. When we make a product natural, preserving becomes a real issue as we can no longer use chemicals to achieve this and natural choices are much more limited. Rosemary extract is a very effective natural alternative.

No legitimate studies have proven that rosemary is linked to seizures. Of course this does not rule out that possibility as more research is needed. So by all means avoid it if your dog has a history of seizures. Otherwise, it is safe for your dog to remain on a diet which includes rosemary.

Rosemary in fact is known to have many health benefits including anti-cancer properties. As a product developer in the natural pet food industry (for a brand that does use rosemary extract as a preservative), I feel 100% confident feeding this ingredient to my own beloved dogs. If a seizure were to occur, sure I am likely to discontinue use of the rosemary (just to be safe). In the meantime I am happy to let my dogs enjoy the health benefits of rosemary, along with the increased protection from harmful bacteria of their food due to rosemary's preservative quality.

Apr 22, 2012
Rosemary extract
by: NWP

My small mixed breed dog had a history of occasional petit mal seizures, they weren't severe or frequent enough to justify medicating her. Recently they have been occuring daily and sometimes in clusters. These occurred usually within an hour of eating, I was feeding IAMs.

In researching canine epilepsy I came across a mention of rosemary extract triggering seizures and a recommended home cooked dog food recipe and supplements for dogs. Decided to give it a try and the seizures have stopped completely, she has had none since the introduction of the new diet. Plus they both seem to feel better. The small mixed breed is 12yrs and our lab is 11yrs old.

I continue to research the nutritional requirements of my dogs so I can give them the best most complete nutrition possible. I have long researched human nutrition, so this is just an extension of an old interest. I continue to look but so far I have not found a commercial food that is acceptable and not cost prohibitive. My cost of food for the dogs is twice what I was paying for the IAMs but that is a lot less then many "natural dog foods".

I will never give my dogs any food or treats that contain rosemary.

Jul 31, 2011
Now what??
by: Anonymous

I researched. Did my homework. I wanted to feed my newly rescued board collie a healthy food. So, I found Merrick BG. He loves it. Now after reading about the rosemary, Im back to searching for a truly healthy dry dog food. It seems every food has fillers or by products ect. Ect ect. So disappointed. This seems like a great food minus the rosemary.

Jul 06, 2011
Ditto for Seizures
by: Doxxymom

In April I started using a plaque and teeth cleaner on my Dachshunds. After a week of using, one of my Dachshunds had his first set of seizures.

After researching on the web and reading about rosemary extract, I picked up the teeth cleaner and there it was - rosemary extract.

I took him to the vet to make sure there wasn't another medical reason for the seizures and the vet said all of his panels were normal. He told me since he couldn't find anything out of the norm that he was epileptic. I have put off putting him on any kind of medication until I have exhausted holistic avenues. I put him on one of the top rated holistic dry dog foods after researching them. He had more seizures. I looked into the ingredients on the dog food company website and yes, the bag of food I bought had rosemary extract in it too. The product line I bought was the only kind in their large variation of products that had the rosemary extract in it. So now I will be dumping $45 worth of dry dog food. I will replace with the same brand since it is a good holistic choice for kibbles but I will make sure there is no rosemary in it next time.

Don't assume because one flavor doesn't contain rosemary that none have it. Could be a costly oversight as it was with me. I am going to continue with natural kibble food and herbal supplements to try to relieve my dog from these seizures. I do believe that the rosemary extract set his seizures off and feel that this ingredient should be removed from all pet foods and products.

Jun 04, 2011
by: Anonymous

Who told you this stuff was bad for dogs? I have been in vet school for 2 years and never heard anything to this effect in ANY class I have ever taken. Mint is fantastic for dogs!!! Rosemary is one of the few herbs dogs can eat! A lot of veggie treats contain rosemary, and many holistic and herbal dental products use mint and rosemary!

May 03, 2011
Shih Tzu Seizures
by: Anonymous

All started when I realized that a combination of Iams and Cesar dog food wasn't the healthiest thing to feed our dog (for around 9 years): in fact it was probably the worst brands combined. Plus he was often sick most mornings and would throw up his food.

Anyway, swapped him over to Artemis Fresh Mix Small Breed and Wellness canned food and he seemed to feel a lot better.

A few months into his new diet he one day flopped on the floor and convulsed. We literally thought he was dying.

Took him to a vet, they diagnosed him with epilepsy because of his breed. Before that though they wanted to do a $2,000 dollar scan to make sure he didn't have a brain tumor, which I declined for obvious reasons. I even BROUGHT IN HIS ARTEMIS FOOD to see if there were any ingredients that may be contributing to his seizures. They said the food was fine. Stuck him on Phenobarbital. Pheno made him hungry, tired and changed his personality pretty drastically.

Six months later, I'm here today. I decided to do a Google search just to completely rule out that it wasn't anything in his food. Found out that Artemis contains, yep you guessed it, Rosemary Extract. I threw his food out last week, hasn't had a seizure since although I'll be keeping a close eye on him. Next is to slowly get him off his Pheno. If he still has seizures after that then I'll know it's probably genetic. Regardless, I'm surely not going to feed him more Rosemary Extract, especially as much as he ate with his increased appetite on his Pheno! Talk about counteractive, my god.

Anyway, just found this article today and it basically just takes the words right out of my mouth. This should really be a red flag ingredient, maybe even more so than the preservatives and by-products found in other dog foods. Switching over to Wellness Super5Mix Small Breed.

I really am a living example of everything in the article. I just wonder how many other people are unknowingly doing this to their dogs. Like in my case, my own Vet didn't even know about the dangers of Rosemary Extract. Goes to show that "Natural" can be just as bad as all the fillers and toxins at times.

Aug 27, 2010
by: Danyelle

I was reading your comments about side effects regarding rosemary in dog food. Do these apply to oil of rosemary?

Editor's Comment

Hi Danyelle -

Yes, these side effects appear to also apply to oil of rosemary.

According to an article entitled "Plant-induced seizures: reappearance of an old problem", published in the Journal of Neurology Volume 246, Number 8, 667-670, DOI: 10.1007/s004150050429:-

    "Several plant-derived essential oils have been known for over a century to have epileptogenic properties.

    A survey of the literature shows essential oils of 11 plants to be powerful convulsants (eucalyptus, fennel, hyssop, pennyroyal, rosemary, sage, savin, tansy, thuja, turpentine, and wormwood) due to their content of highly reactive monoterpene ketones, such as camphor, pinocamphone, thujone, cineole, pulegone, sabinylacetate, and fenchone."

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