What I Feed My Dog and Why I Feed What I Do

< A version of this article was published in the August 2020 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 11DEC20 >

< A short link for this page – https://bit.ly/WhatIFeedAndWhy >

At least once a week, someone asks me, “Don, what food do you feed your dog?” Based on experience, they expect me to say, “I feed my dog brand X because it is the best food for all dogs!” Sadly, that is the response they hear far too often from other pet care professionals.

I tell them, “I feed Muppy a variety of different types and brands of foods. Every time I purchase food, I switch the primary protein source. I also mix additional water in with whatever food I am feeding. I do not believe that there is a single brand of food or formula that is or ever will be the “best” for all dogs.”

When I got my first puppy, Trivia, in 1975, I was a teenager. I knew nothing about dogs except that I liked them. I fed her dry food based on the recommendation of her veterinarian. When my wife and could afford our first home in the early ’80s, we continued to feed our dogs kibble.

In 1991 Paula was a vet tech, and we had just purchased our second home and a Cairn Terrier puppy we named Gus. Paula’s boss taught us that not all kibbles were the same, so we started Gus on a premium kibble. However, Gus soon developed health problems that led to his becoming the catalyst for our continuing education on pet nutrition. [ FMIhttp://bit.ly/Gus-Nutrition ].

We learned dry food or kibble was developed during World War 2 when steel for cans and meat for dog food was in short supply. Today kibble is the type of food most commonly fed to dogs. Dog food companies promote kibble as if it is the best source of nutrition for a dog. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Kibble exists because it is cheap to manufacture, convenient to feed, has a long shelf-life and is less expensive for the consumer than higher-quality foods. Kibble meets the minimal nutritional requirements so that your dog will survive. It does not provide optimal nutrition that can help your dog thrive.

In 1998 we learned about the benefits of raw diets. We traveled to San Diego to attend a seminar with Dr. Ian Billinghurst, a veterinarian advocating for the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet for pets. Based on what we learned from Dr. Wysong and Dr. Billinghurst, both veterinarians, we started to explore feeding fresh, whole food to our dogs.

In 2002, we started selling commercially prepared, frozen, raw food in the store. At the time, we had five dogs, so economics dictated that we fed a raw meal once a day and kibble once a day. When we were down to two dogs, we switched to feeding 100% raw. Since then, other options such as freeze-dried, and lightly- cooked diets, have also become available, and they are vastly superior to kibble. While we still sell mostly kibble, we also sell nine different food brands in the non-kibble category.

Just like you, my budget plays a role in what I choose to feed my pets. That’s why we fed a mixture of fresh food and kibble when we had five dogs. We knew that feeding a raw diet only a few times a week would be beneficial. One of the reasons we choose to limit our home to one small dog is so that we can afford to feed her the best.

I believe the best diet for a dog is composed of muscle meat, organ meat, and bone. The food should contain little or no soluble carbohydrates. Such a diet represents what a dog is designed to eat. Even the best kibble contains carbohydrates, and some formulas are over 50% carbs.

As much as possible, ingredients should be human-grade, but that is rare in kibble. When you see chicken on the ingredient list of a bag of dry dog food, you may envision a whole roast chicken, but what is probably in the food is a chicken frame. A chicken frame is the bones and cartilage of a chicken, containing the meat that was not removed for use in human products. Chicken frames are also often used in frozen raw diets. There is nothing inherently wrong with a chicken frame, but it is not what most consumers think is in their pet’s food when they see the word “chicken” on the label.

When Muppy joined us in 2013, we started feeding her various types and brands of food. Today, one meal every day is raw or lightly-cooked food. Her second meal may be the same type of food but is a different brand and protein. It may also be a freeze-dried or canned food, or even a very high quality, low carbohydrate kibble.

In the past 12-months, Muppy has eaten ten different brands of food composed of ten protein sources (beef, bison, chicken, lamb, pork, rabbit, salmon, sardines, turkey, and whitefish). To learn more about why I believe dietary rotation is so important, go to http://bit.ly/DietRotation1-30JUL19.

You will note that the above image includes a water faucet. That is because I always add water to Muppy’s food. If she were surviving on her own, she would be looking for living food sources, like mice and other rodents, that are mostly water. If kibble, freeze-dried, or dehydrated food were are fed without adding water, they could be dehydrating.

So that is how I answer the question, “Don, what food do you feed your dog?” What I recommend for your dog will depend on their nutritional needs, your concerns, and your budget.

FMI – On a recent Woof Meow Show podcast, Kate and I talk about what we feed our pets with animal nutritionist and author Linda Case. – https://bit.ly/WfMw-WhatWeFeed-11JUL20

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com  )

Things I Wish I Had Known… The Importance of What I Feed My Pets – – WWM-MAR2019 – http://bit.ly/Things-Nutrition-1

Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 1 – My story with Gus – Maine Dog Magazine – Winter 2017 http://bit.ly/Gus-Nutrition

Pet Nutrition – What Should I Feed My Pet? http://bit.ly/What-Should-I-Feed-My-Pet

Pet Nutrition – What Do You Feed Your Dog? – WWM-JUN2016 – http://bit.ly/WhatDoYouFeedYourDog

Pet Nutrition – Should I Feed My Pet A Raw Diet? http://bit.ly/ShouldIFeedMyPetARawDiet

Pet Nutrition – The Science and Dogma of Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton with link to 1 hour video http://bit.ly/Video-Dr-Richard-Patton

Pet Nutrition – Why Rotating Diets Makes Sense http://bit.ly/DietRotation

Pet Nutrition – The Wisdom of Rotating Your Pets Diet – Part 1 http://bit.ly/DietRotation1-30JUL19

Pet Nutrition – The Wisdom of Rotating Your Pets Diet – Part 2 http://bit.ly/DietRotation2

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/ )

Podcast – What We Feed Our Pets and Why, with – Don Hanson, Kate Dutra, and Linda Casehttps://bit.ly/WfMw-WhatWeFeed-11JUL20

Podcast – Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Pattonhttp://bit.ly/DrPatton-Podcast

Podcast – Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry with Kohl Harringtonhttp://bit.ly/WfMw-Pet-Fooled

Green Acres Pet Nutrition Resources Page
( http://bit.ly/GAKS_Nut_Home )

GAKS Philosophy on Pet Nutrition http://bit.ly/GAKS_Nut_Phil

Pet Foods We Offer At Green Acres Kennel Shop http://bit.ly/GAKS_PetFood_Brands

Pet Nutrition – Which Companies Are Behind Your Pet’s Food?  – http://bit.ly/PetFoodComp

 

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©11DEC20, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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FDA Update on Heart Disease in Dogs & What Should You Do?

< A short link to this post – http://bit.ly/FDA-DCM-Food-7JUL19 >

If you are concerned about the latest news from the FDA and Grain-Free pet foods, please take the time to read this post. Much of what you hear in the mass media is misleading. Here are some of the facts.

  • There is currently no FDA recall of any brand of pet food related to canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
  • While the loss of a pet to DCM is tragic, there have been only 524 cases reported to the FDA since January 1, of 2014 out of an estimated 77 million dogs in the USA. The number of dogs corresponds to 0.000007% of cases possibly being related to diet.
  • Genetics plays a significant role in DCM, with typically larger breeds being more predisposed. The majority of these reports have been submitted in the last year, suggesting an increase in reporting.
  • While the situation certainly warrants further investigation, there is currently no corroborating scientific evidence that the increased cases in DCM are related to diet.

From the FDA

On June 27, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration issued a press release entitled FDA Investigation into Potential Link between Certain Diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy updating the investigation that began a year ago based on reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods, many labeled as “grain-free.” In my opinion, the most significant statement in this press release is “Based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors.” In other words, there is still much research that needs to be done, and at this point, we can still not draw any definitive conclusions as to the specific cause for the rise in cases of DCM.

Other statements of note in the FDA press release include:

“The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that there are 77 million pet dogs in the United States. Most dogs in the U.S. have been eating pet food without apparently developing DCM.” [ Emphasis added ]

Another puzzling aspect of the recent spike in DCM cases is that they have occurred just in the last few years. The FDA is working with the pet food industry to better understand whether changes in ingredients, ingredient sourcing, processing or formulation may have contributed to the development of DCM.” [ Emphasis added ]

Grain free foods have been available for many years, with increases in DCM only reported recently. As previously indicated by the FDA, the possible link between diet and DCM may be based on a variety of factors, and there is still much research to be done. The FDA press release encourages anyone with a pet that is showing possible signs of DCM or other heart conditions (decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse) to seek veterinary care immediately. That is excellent advice and will help to further our understanding of any link between DCM, diet, and genetics as well as other possible environmental factors that may be at play.

While the FDA report lists several brands of food that have been reported to have been fed to pets diagnosed with DCM, they did not list all brands nor specific formulas; this is unfortunate. If there is a link between DCM and diet, it would be beneficial to know which specific formulas are involved, as not all formulas of a particular brand may be of concern.

Green Acres Kennel Shop sells food from three of the companies on the list; Fromm, NutriSource, and Zignature. Each of the companies has contacted us, and they want to get to the bottom of this as much as the FDA, maybe even more so. All three are family-owned companies that are genuine pet lovers that have been producing some of the highest quality pet foods in the world for many decades. I have included parts of their responses below. If you would like a full copy of their response, please stop by the store.

NutriSource/PureVita/Natural Planet/Tuffy’sIn addition to your pet’s overall health, transparency is of the utmost importance to us. On June 27, 2019, the United States Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put a multitude of brands, along with NutriSource, in the position of defending ourselves in a confusing situation about grain-free dog diets and their potential link to canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

  • The comprehensive health of EVERY SINGLE pet is extremely important to us. We are continuing our efforts to study DCM and closely monitor all the information that the FDA can provide. The FDA’s published updates have not concluded that there is a causal relationship between diet and DCM. [ Emphasis added ]
  • All NutriSource diets include supplemental TAURINE to boost naturally occurring levels derived from our high quality meats and fish. Due to the potential link between taurine-deficiency and DCM, we felt it important to take this step as a safeguard to protect pets until scientific research is complet [ Emphasis added ]
  •  We have committed funds for additional research on our diets and initial results have shown that our products deliver the recommended nutrients to support normal levels of taurine.
  • We have proactively funded independent research at Kansas State University to study pet health including the issue of canine DCM. [ Emphasis added ]

< Click to read Tuffy’s July 1, 2019 message regarding DCM concerns. >

 

Fromm responseAlthough no conclusive evidence relating diet to DCM has been scientifically substantiated, each of the recipes in our full line of grain-inclusive and grain-free dry foods is supplemented with taurine. In addition, our foods contain ample levels of cysteine and methionine which dogs also use to metabolize their own taurine. All of our grain-inclusive and grain-free offerings are held to the same high nutritional standard, and our variety of recipes allows our retailers and consumers to make buying decisions they are most comfortable with. [ Emphasis added ]

While the FDA continues their investigation, we want our retailers and consumers to feel confident knowing that Fromm has and will continue to follow the most up-to-date research. Our family-owned-and-operated company is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of pets and has been since we began making pet food in 1949.

< Click to read Fromm Response to Updated FDA DCM Complaint Reporting. >

 

ZignatureWhile DCM impacts less than one percent of U.S. dogs, with .000007% being supposedly related to diet, we recognize that these studies are of critical importance to those families whose beloved dogs have been afflicted by this heart diseases.

As you review the FDA’s most recent report, it’s important to understand the following:

  • The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that there are 77 million pet dogs in the United States. Most dogs in the U.S. have been eating pet food without apparently developing DCM. [ Emphasis added ]
  • The FDA continues to believe that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors and that the actual cause has still yet to be determined.
  • Among all the cases from all brands that were reported to the FDA, the overwhelming majority of impacted dogs belonged to breeds genetically predisposed to DCM, a disease that was first discovered in the 1980’s well before the grain-free diets were available for pets.
  • The FDA issued the June 27th update, even though it has no definitive answers yet, to solicit additional reports from pet owners and veterinarians to help further it’s investigation.
  • Is there a link between exotic proteins and DCM? – Based on the most recent data released by the FDA, and contrary to previous speculation, that does not seem to be the case. Most of the cases (more than 50%) reported to the FDA were for foods containing chicken, lamb and salmon. [ Emphasis added ]
  • How does Zignature formulate its food? – Our meticulously designed diets have been formulated by a thought-leading team of veterinarians, PhD animal nutritionists and veterinary research scientists to deliver the safest pet products on the market that exceed the industry’s AAFCO guide for balanced and thorough nutrition. [ Emphasis added ]

< Click to read Zignature Statement in Response to FDA Findings >

What should we do for our pets?

  • Stay informed and go beyond what you hear or read in the mass media (TV, Radio, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and be a critical consumer of information.
  • If possible, rotate your dog’s diet through several different protein and carbohydrate sources as well as brands of foods. If you are not sure how to do that, ask us. We have been recommending dietary rotation for many years. FMI – http://bit.ly/DietRotation
  • Do not be in a panic to immediately change what you are feeding. However, if you stop by, we would be glad to introduce you to other pet food options.
  • If you have a breed that is already genetically predisposed to DCM, and you are very concerned, strongly consider rotating diet your dog’s diet and possibly including some balanced raw diet or high meat content canned food.
  • Know that there are many pet foods available that are not grain-free; however, also know that there is still no scientifically substantiated link to DCM and grain-free diets. The foods cited by the FDA are primarily kibble or dry foods. Pet food comes in many other formats such as; canned, freeze-dried, and frozen, all of which have many benefits over conventional dry kibble. We have many right here at Green Acres.
  • Never stop reading the ingredient list on your pet’s food nor presume that all pet food companies are equal and are primarily concerned with your pet’s health. We have always preferred the small, family-owned companies that mainly focus on pet food as opposed to the megalithic multi-national corporation. We like companies like; Bravo, Eagle, Fromm, Fussie Cat, Grandma Lucy’s, Health Extension, Koha, Natural Planet, NutriSource, Primal, PureVita, Steve’s Real Food for Pets, Vital Essentials, and Zignature. We are not fans of the enormous multi-national conglomerates that control 70%+ of the pet food industry (Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills, Mars Candy, Nestle Candy, and Smuckers) as in our 25+ years of experience there are much better products available. If you want to know why, stop by and ask us or watch the documentary film Pet Fooled.
  • Purchase your pet food from locally-owned retailers who educate their staff and will spend time teaching you about what’s important when feeding your pet. No big-box store or online pet food marketer offers that same level of customer service or knowledge.
  • Subscribe to our email newsletter, Don’s Words, Woofs and Meows blog, and “Like” and follow the Green Acres Kennel Shop Facebook page. We will be updating this story as we get more information in all three areas.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com )

 Shared Blog Post – FDA Updates on Heart Disease in Dogs – Hemopet – Dr. Jean Doddshttps://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2019/04/12/shared-blog-post-fda-updates-on-heart-disease-in-dogs-hemopet-dr-jean-dodds/

UPDATE! – Pet Nutrition – Grain-Free Foods and FDA Reports of Increased Heart Disease in Dogs – WDJ Blog Post – < https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/08/06/update-pet-nutrition-grain-free-foods-and-fda-reports-of-increased-heart-disease-in-dogs-wdj-blog-post/

UPDATE! – Pet Nutrition – Grain-Free Foods and FDA Reports of Increased Heart Disease in Dogs – < https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/07/27/update-pet-nutrition-grain-free-foods-and-fda-reports-of-increased-heart-disease-in-dogs/ >

Grain-Free Foods and FDA Reports of Increased Heart Disease in Dogs – < https://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2018/07/22/pet-nutrition-grain-free-foods-and-fda-reports-of-increased-heart-disease-in-dogs/ >

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://www.woofmeowshow.com )

Podcast – Is Feeding A Grain-Free Food to Our Dogs Dangerous?, with Linda Case, MShttp://bit.ly/Podcast-FDA-Grain-Free-LindaCase-29SEP18

Web Sites

FDA Investigation into Potential Link between Certain Diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathyhttps://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/news-events/fda-investigation-potential-link-between-certain-diets-and-canine-dilated-cardiomyopathy

Tuffy’s Pet Foods (NutriSource/PureVita/Natural Planet) – A Message Regarding DCM Concernshttps://nutrisourcepetfoods.com/images/content/Tuffy’s%20DCM%20Statement%20(7-1-19).pdf

Fromm Response to Updated FDA DCM Complaint Reportinghttps://frommfamily.com/connect/fda-dcm-20190701/

Zignature Statement in Response to FDA Findingshttps://www.zignature.com/statement-on-dcm/

 

________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©7-Jul-19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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UPDATE! – Pet Nutrition – Grain-Free Foods and FDA Reports of Increased Heart Disease in Dogs

< Updated 29SEP18 >

On July 22nd we informed you of a report issued by the FDA indicating an increase of dogs presenting with canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and a possible but unconfirmed link to specific ingredients in grain-free foods < click to review > Since then Tuffy’s Pet Food, manufacturers of NutriSource, Pure Vita and Natural Planet has issued an updated report on actions that they are taking. I have included that statement below, emphasizing what I believe to be the key points.

Tuffy’s Pet Foods is issuing this statement to update our position related to the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Statement regarding the potential link between Dilated Cardio Myopathy (DCM) and Grain Free dog foods.

Tuffy’s continues to research this matter and has gained a better understanding of the potential concerns raised by the FDA.  Today, to our knowledge, there simply is not a volume of research that allows for any statistically significant correlations or conclusions regarding any potential link between DCM in non-predisposed dog breeds and ingredients like peas, lentils, other legumes or potatoes.  The small amount of available data shows a lack of consistency at this time and more study is required to understand this issue.  Tuffy’s is aware that certain breeds, many large breed in nature may have a pre-disposition to DCM and that taurine levels in the food may play a role in helping these breeds avoid DCM.  Because of that understanding Tuffy’s already supplements taurine in our large breed diets and in our Adult diet.  

Given the uncertainty of the research surrounding the reported cases of DCM in breeds not genetically pre-disposed to DCM Tuffy’s is immediately supplementing taurine above the naturally occurring levels in all of our NutriSource and Pure Vita diets in the amount referenced by the FDA.  While the end results of studies into this issue are unknown, the responsible action is to err on the side of caution by delivering additional taurine as it will not have any adverse effect on pets to do so until such time as scientific study or regulatory agencies establish guidelines.

Tuffy’s offers diets that deliver healthy, effective solutions for pets.  As an industry leader in pet nutrition Tuffy’s grain and grain free NutriSource and Pure Vita diets all feature our exclusive Good 4 Life supplements and are ideally suited to rotational feeding or smooth introduction to pets.

Tuffy’s invites pet owners with concerns or questions to view a video statement from our family of ownership at www.nutrisourcepetfoods.com/fda-updates or to contact us directly at info@klnfamilybrands.com or toll free at 800-525-9155.

Tuffy’s remains committed in its support of any and all studies that promote the health and well-being of pets.

Podcast – Is Feeding A Grain-Free Food to Our Dogs Dangerous?, with Linda Case, MS – http://bit.ly/Podcast-FDA-Grain-Free-LindaCase-29SEP18

©27JUL18, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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