The FDA's Incriminating Dog Food List
We are taking a break from our planned posts to talk a little about the world of Dog Food.
This post is, of course, in response to the list of 16 dog foods that potentially have a link to causing a rare canine heart disease (DCM) (https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/dog-food-dcm-fda-1.5199186). This list has blown up the dog world and everyone (including their dog) has an opinion.
This has been a really quick one two about nutrition from my years of experience in the industry (please note that I am not a vet nor a pet nutritionist) - there are a million things I didn't say and lots of things I brushed over hoping to keep things condensed. What I hope you take away from this is that we all need to be better informed consumers. Do your own research and make your own decisions when it comes to your dog's food (if you have questions, find a vet that shares your values and consult them!). BE INFORMED.
I'm not often one that wants to comment on things like this because, to be frank, I have no interest in getting into arguments with people over my own humble opinion (and we all know that the dog world is full of people ready to fight tooth and nail to prove themselves right).
One of the reasons that this list is causing such a ripple is that a number of the brands named have long been seen as leaders in the dog food (specifically kibble) industry. From my years working in the pet food industry, I would have recommended all but a few of the brands listed as a good quality food to feed a dog. So it is worrisome that they are all appearing on an incriminating list.
From my research on the list and listening to a number of interviews about it, there are a few things to note:
1. The list is NOT based on a scientific study, but it IS based on 515 reports of DCM in dogs received between Jan 1, 2014 and April 30. The FDA has said that they will be investigating this further, but at this point there is no scientific evidence of the connection.
2. Many of the brands mentioned are "Grain-Free"
3. The interviews seems to be pointing at legumes (peas, lentils) as being a worrisome ingredient.
So, what is my opinion you may ask? (Don't worry, Duke will share his opinion too). (I'm not going to get into the grain-free/filler/alternative protein sources argument at this time).
My opinion is that I don't know. If there is one thing that my mother taught me is that you should triple check your facts with legitimate sources. And if you can't make a decision, it's because you don't have the facts. (pretty exciting so far, hey?)
If I were pushed to say something, it would be: We don't have all the information to make an informed decision on this matter. If I have underlying concerns of my dog's heart health, or if I have an "at risk" breed, I may consider choosing an alternative dog food. However, I would not suggest trading in a food with great ingredients that are sourced ethically and have an outstanding rap sheet for one that is not a high quality. Alternatively, I might look into some more alternative dog food to either switch too or feed in conjunction with another food.
IN THE MEAN TIME (while someone does a study and we can get some real answers), I would urge everyone to learn more about the pet food industry and become an informed consumer.
1. Learn about how to read dog food ingredients and guaranteed analysis.
- Be aware that the listed ingredients are in order of weight (highest to lowest) BEFORE cooking. Meaning that if Chicken is listed as a first ingredient, after being cooked it will loose all it's moisture and be a fraction of it's initial weight, placing it many items down the ingredient list. So that meat first food you're buying may not be what it seems.
- Be aware of ingredient splitting. This is when companies list similar ingredients as different items to place them lower on the ingredient list when in fact to total weight of all similar ingredients would place it higher. For example: Red lentils, Green peas, Field beans, Green lentils, Yellow peas. All slightly different ingredients, but when separated, each can be lower on the ingredient list while in fact the total legume weight is much higher.
2. Learn about where the manufacturer is getting their fresh ingredients as well as their meat meals.
- Lots of companies will highlight the fact that their fresh ingredients come from local farmers or reputable "human grade" sources. If a company says nothing about this, ask the question.
- Meat meals have different qualities and guaranteed analysis' as well. As the producer about where they get their meat meals. There are easy ways a consumer can distinguish between bad ones and good ones, but there's a little more to it than buying Chicken Meal vs Meat Meal.
3. Where is your food being manufactured?
- Recalls often occur because of something going wrong at the manufacturing facility. There are facilities in Canada that produce several different brands of dog food and those brands are limited by the bulk ingredients and suppliers that that facility works with. These facilities aren't a bad thing, but something to be aware of if your high quality food is coming out of the same facility as a lower quality food. And if one company has a recall, maybe your pet food will be affected as well.
- I only offhandedly know of one company that produces all of it's food in house - meaning that they own their own facility and therefore have complete control over their ingredients, and how they produce their food.
4. Learn about alternatives to highly processed dog foods.
- Recognize that in order to make and extrude kibble, there needs to be some level of 'filler' (whether good or bad filler) to keep the kibble pieces together.
- Recognize that kibble is one of the most processed dog food options you can purchase.
- If all of this seems a little fishy and too complicated, you might want to look at alternatives to the traditional kibble diet.
- Alternatives could include: Raw, Home cooked, Freeze-Dried/Dehydrated, Wet.
If you are thinking of trying a home cooked/homemade raw diet, PLEASE do as much research as you can so your dog is getting the proper nutrition and consult your vet.
Duke's opinion: I like food. But the raw food makes my poops nicer than kibble.
Some good resources and articles:
This has been a really quick one two about nutrition from my years of experience in the industry (please note that I am not a vet nor a pet nutritionalist) - there are a million things I didn't say and lots of things I brushed over hoping to keep things condensed. What I hope you take away from this is that we all need to be better informed consumers. Do your own research and make your own decisions when it comes to your dog's food (if you have questions, find a vet that shares your values and consult them!). BE INFORMED.
Until next time,
Holly (Human Food), Duke (Raw/Acana) and Jax (Acana)