FDA dog food study not a reason to panic


A recent study on dog food by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has some pet parents rethinking their dry food choices. But local pet service professionals say it’s no reason to panic.

In the study released at the end of June, the FDA linked 16 brands of dog food that had been linked to heart disease in dogs. The brands are Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature’s Variety, NutriSource, Nutro and Rachael Ray Nutrish.

The foods studied are generally the grain-free variety.

In the weeks since the study came out, local veterinarians and other pet professionals have been fielding questions from pet parents about whether or not to switch foods. The answer? Don’t panic. If your dog isn’t having health problems on their food, don’t worry about it.

“Just because one study came out, we don’t go into a panic,” said Bri Dowland at Dogwood Animal Clinic in Jasper.

Dowland compared the study to studies on human food. Studies come out all the time, and some of them conflict. If you have a food that’s working well for your dog, Dowland said, don’t switch it.

Local pet dietitian, groomer and trainer Alicen Ingle — owner of Pet-Agree Professional Pet Services in Jasper — is also advising her customers not to panic. She noted the importance of paying attention to the number of cases looked at in the studies. Often, she said, it’s a relatively small number, and when news of the studies breaks, the issue tends to be overstated.

According to a New York Times article about the recent study, the FDA began receiving reports in 2014 of canine dilated cardiomyopathy — a treatable condition that thins the left ventricle of the heart and potentially allows fluid to enter a dog’s lungs and causes a cough or illness. Since 2014, 560 cases of the disease have been reported, with 119 of those resulting in deaths.

The FDA investigates anything with 10 or more reported isolated cases, the New York Times reported.

For perspective, the American Veterinary Association estimates that there are about 77 million pet dogs in the U.S., most of which are not developing canine dilated cardiomyopathy.

“As a responsible pet parent, the best thing to do is not really rely on those studies,” Ingle said.

As for whether or not to choose grain-free, Ingle said grain-free is generally the best option for dogs, mostly because those foods don’t use wheat and corn, two big no-nos for dogs. But, she said, some dog foods that aren’t labeled grain-free are still good options because their recipes don’t include wheat or corn. Instead, they use oatmeal or barley in the recipe. They’re not grain-free, but they’re still a healthy option for dogs without a grain allergy, Ingle said.

Another way to identify a quality food is to look for one with at least two meat-sourced proteins, for example a recipe that uses chicken and duck.

“What a lot of pet food companies have done is replace one of these proteins with lentils,” Ingle said.

Lentils are a source of plant protein, but they have been linked to health issues in canines, she said.

When it comes to choosing your dog’s food, Ingle suggests looking at the bigger picture. Do your own research on food brands and talk to your vet or other pet professionals. Consider your pet and your lifestyle, then choose a food that best fits.

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