ST. LOUIS – A class-action lawsuit claims Nestle Purina PetCare's Beneful dry dog food contains toxins that have sickened and, in some cases, killed thousands of dogs.

Frank Lucido, Discover Bay, Calif., filed the lawsuit Feb. 5 in US District Court in the Northern District of California. He claims that Beneful "contains substances that are toxic to animals and that have resulted in the serious illness and death of thousands of dogs", including Lucido's English bulldog, Dozer.

Court documents state a post-mortem veterinary examination revealed signs of internal bleeding in the dog's stomach and lesions on its liver. The damage was similar to that found in Lucido's other dog, a German shepherd named Nella that became sick on Jan. 17. Lucido's third dog, a Labrador named Remo, also is sick and receiving veterinary care.

Lucido is seeking $5 million in damages.

Bill Salzman, director of corporate communications for Nestle Purina PetCare, denied the allegations in a statement.

“We believe the lawsuit is baseless, and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves and our brand,” Salzman said. “Beneful had two previous class action suits filed in recent years with similar baseless allegations, and both were dismissed by the courts.

“Like other pet foods, Beneful is occasionally the subject of social media-driven misinformation. Online postings often contain false, unsupported and misleading allegations that cause undue concern and confusion for our Beneful customers.

“Bottom line: Consumers can continue to feed Beneful with total confidence.”

The eight varieties of dry Beneful food are Purina Beneful Healthy Weight, Original, Incredibites, Healthy Growth for Puppies, Healthy Smile, Healthy Fiesta, Healthy Radiance and Playful Life.