Last year, dog and cat shelters emptied in some regions as pandemic-related movement restrictions encouraged people to bring more animals into their homes. These pandemic pets helped people deal with loneliness and provided playmates for children stuck at home, among other benefits. While these animals have helped humans, these rescue pets may have particular needs, such as anxiety and digestive problems, resulting from their own traumas and illnesses before adoption.
“Any pet living in a shelter is likely experiencing increased stress,” said Dr. Darcia Kostiuk, senior veterinarian for ACANA pet foods brand. “One way to help animals cope in that environment is to make sure they are properly nourished.”
New product developers with Canada-based pet food company Champion Petfood’s ACANA hadn’t planned on a deadly virus inadvertently boosting shelter pet adoption rates. Nevertheless, a formulation launched in mid-2021 serendipitously endeavored to meet the needs of these pandemic pets rescued from shelters.
“We began development of ACANA Rescue Care for Adopted Dogs prior to the pandemic, but the increase in adoptions during the pandemic validated the need to craft a food that helps rescue families thrive through the change,” Dr. Darcia Kostiuk, senior veterinarian for ACANA pet foods. Kostiuk and her veterinary team conducted research on shelter dogs’ diets and bolstered their findings with external review.
Rescue dog diet formulation
Kostiuk and her team formulated the shelter dog diet using:
- Antioxidants that help support the immune system. Recipes contain vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Beef or chicken bone broth as palatant to entice dogs that may be skittish about new foods
- Fish oil helps support skin and coat health
- Prebiotics and fiber helps support digestion. Recipes feature ingredients like dried chicory root, oat groats, whole oats and whole pumpkin.
ACANA Rescue Care for Adopted Dogs kibble is made with 55% premium animal ingredients and balanced with 45% grains, vegetables and legumes, fruit, botanicals and nutrients, she said. The line is formulated to meet AAFCO’s established nutritional levels for all life stages, and includes two recipes Free-Run Poultry, Liver & Whole Oats or Red Meat, Liver & Whole Oats.
“ACANA Rescue Care for Adopted Dogs was developed based on AAFCO formula recommendations, digestibility trials and an ongoing AFFCO feeding trial,” Kostiuk said. “Digestibility is tested on every diet we make. Our ACANA Rescue Care for Adopted Dogs recipes have a digestibility of over 80%.”
ACANA has been working directly with shelters to introduce the new formulation.
“At one animal rescue center, Molly’s Mutts in Kentucky, the anecdotal reports have been positive,” Kostiuk said. “The dogs there have enjoyed the ACANA Rescue Care for Adopted Dogs food with no reported intestinal issues.”
Along with this, ACANA works to support shelter pet adoptions in other ways.
“A recent ACANA survey found more than eight-in-ten (85%) dog owners report experiencing some sort of challenge with their pet when they first welcome them home.For this reason, the pet lovers behind ACANA pet food started the Forever Project – creating a support system for prospective and current rescue dog owners that starts with nutrition but also includes a myriad of resources to help transition a dog into a new home.
“The project will include a multi-year pet food sponsorship with Best Friends Animal Society, a leading animal welfare organization that works with a network of more than 3,300 animal welfare and shelter partners and community members nationwide. The sponsorship will feed up to 2.5 million meals to animals at Best Friends Animal Society's Lifesaving Centers and sanctuary each year, representing half of the total 5 million meals Champion Petfoods will give back to numerous pet organizations this year."