Advent calendar for dogs pulled over treat quality question

Costco offers refunds for Irish Rover product; veterinarians in Canada field concerns

December 14, 2021 (published)
Photo by Natalie Murphy
Jerky treats from the Irish Rover 2021 advent calendar have been pulled from Costco warehouses in Canada. Mocha, the shih tzu-Yorkshire terrier pictured, ate a few of the treats but did not get sick, according to owner Natalie Murphy, who reviewed the product for her blog
Photo by Natalie Murphy
The Irish Rover advent calendar for dogs contains 80 pieces of a variety of jerky, made from duck, chicken, beef, salmon and shrimp. The treats are manufactured in Ireland.

Way back in October, Natalie Murphy was shopping at a Costco in Toronto when she saw an advent calendar for dogs, containing goodies for each day of December through Christmas. She grabbed one for her two pets, Mocha and Kiwi.

The author of a popular blog reviewing Costco products, Murphy composed an upbeat and detailed description, including photos. "You get 25 days of different dog treats for a total of 80 single dog treats!" she wrote. "If you like to spoil your dogs like I do and you think they can handle 80 treats, pick this up for Christmas 2021! They'll love you for it."

The advent calendar might not have been such a great gift after all.

On Saturday, Costco in Canada posted a product advisory cautioning buyers to immediately stop feeding jerky treats to their pets from the Irish Rover brand calendar, saying they "do not meet our quality standards." Costco apparently called buyers, as well: Murphy said she received the notice through an automated phone message from the warehouse store. The retailer is offering full refunds.

"We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and ask you to please pass this information along to anyone to whom the product may have been given," the advisory reads. 

The product, item code 2462182, was manufactured by Irish Dog Foods, headquartered in Kildare, Ireland. The advisory doesn't specify what is wrong with the treats or whether the suspected problem is associated with any cases of illness. A phone call to a number for the company posted by Costco was answered by a customer service representative for Irish Dog Foods named Melissa, who said she was in Indianapolis.

"I believe the recall reason is because bugs were found in a very small number of the calendars," said Melissa, who declined to provide her last name.

The VIN News Service was unable to reach Costco for comment. A post circulating on the internet reports that "There have been worms found in the treats" and cited stories of dogs experiencing diarrhea, vomiting and lethargy.

Whether the reported illnesses are caused by the treats is not substantiated. "Many dogs occasionally experience gastrointestinal upsets for various reasons, and it is natural and common for owners to speculate as to associations that might not be causative," said Dr. Paul Pion, president and co-founder of the Veterinary Information Network, an online community for the profession and parent of the VIN News Service.

Some VIN members in Canada have reported hearing from clients concerned about the Costco advisory. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association tweeted the advisory today, echoing Costco's warning: "Please stop feeding the treats to your pets immediately."

Social media posts reveal many anxious owners and some with sick canines.

A reddit page concerning issues in Victoria, British Columbia, features owners whose dogs reportedly are experiencing gastrointestinal issues after ingesting the treats. "My dog is super sick from it right now so just letting other pet owners know," reported a user of the site, who shared the Costco advisory.  A message on another reddit page, dedicated to but not affiliated with Costco Canada, states similarly: "I've been feeding my pup Costco treats for 11 days now. My dog has been puking and having diarrhea for a few days …" 

On the Facebook page for Costco Kingston, Ontario, a user identified as Ashley Marie reported Sunday that she stopped feeding the treats to her dog, who was vomiting and having diarrhea. 

For her part, the blogger Murphy said she had stored the treats she bought in a plastic zip bag in her pantry and forgotten about them. "So the dogs only had a few tastes the night I opened it," she told VIN News by email on Monday. Her two shih tzu-Yorkshire terrier pups were not sickened.

One owner whose dog wasn't ill, either, expressed disappointment about having to stop giving her pet the daily treats. 

"My dog was sooo loving it every morning," Mae Squires of Toronto posted on Facebook. "Never saw an issue but don't want to take the chance." 

Irish Dog Foods can be reached at (888) 671-8851 and

Update: A few hours after this story was published, VIN News received an Irish Dog Foods press release stating that it was aware that a "small number" of its advent calendars were reported to have "bugs present" but that the event is not widespread. The company said "rigorous microbiological testing" was conducted on every batch of treats in the calendars and there is "no reason to believe there is any food safety issue" and "no reason to believe this would cause any type of illness on consumption." It goes on: "If your dog is unwell, it is likely that the treats do not agree with your dog, or perhaps have ingredients that are new to your dog." Nevertheless, the company says "the calendar falls short of Costco's and Irish Dog Foods high quality standards," they are investigating the issue, and they recommend returning the products for a refund.

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