Dog owners have been asking pet food companies and veterinarians about canine dilated cardiomyopathy, following U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials’ announcement in July 2018 of an investigation into correlation between the disease and grain-free dog foods with high levels of peas, lentils or potatoes. However, so far, the investigation haven’t revealed any evidence for causation between those grain-free dog foods and the onset of the heart disease in dogs.
“When I talk to clients in my office and they ask me about the DCM issue, I say look, we don’t know a thing,” Shawn Messonnier, DVM, founder of Paws and Claws Animal Hospital, author and member of the Champion Transparency Council, told Petfood Industry. “Until I know what’s going on, all I can say is there are some fearful statements that have been made by the government, here’s some foods that some of these dogs were supposedly eating. I don’t know if these dogs had DCM or not, but even if the food caused DCM, which would be impossible from a biological perspective, but let’s just say somehow it did, you’re talking a few hundred cases out of 60 million dogs; this is not even statistically significant to discuss.”
As the pet food industry, dog owners and vets continue to wait and look for facts, dog food companies face communicating with concerned dog owners about an uncertain issue. Some pet food companies have shared with pet owners how their dog food formulators are adapting to concerns over DCM.
“We’ve received a number of calls and emails from pet parents that are just confused and, like us, are looking for answers,” Jilliann Smith, director of communications for Merrick Pet Care said. “Many pet parents see that their dog is thriving on a Merrick diet and just want us to provide reassurance that they can continue to feed our food with confidence. We aim to be upfront and transparent with our pet parents by sharing what we know and what we’re doing as a company to better understand this complex topic. We also try to remind them that the FDA is not advising diet changes based on the information gathered so far, and all of our Merrick diets are crafted with the safest and highest-quality ingredients to deliver complete and balanced nutrition for their pet.”
“We have heard from a handful of concerned pet parents,” Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of Caru Pet Food Company, said. "We simply tell them that while legumes and potatoes are included in Caru stews, they are not the main ingredients. But to be on the safe side, we explain that we’re making these modest formula modifications to include more fresh, human grade poultry, fish and meat.”
Pet owners want a lot from their pet food brands. They want primary proteins that suit what they believe is best for their animal. They want grains or they don't. They want something customized, but it has to be easy to understand.
Constraints and crises, like those experienced in 2020, help drive innovation and sustainability offers context.