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Is Change in Pet Food a Good Thing?

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  1. Janice

    How has Champion been linked to the investigation of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in dogs? Is it through the legume content of their food? Or is there more (something I missed)? I was told by Champion that they were not contacted by the FDA regarding its investigation into DCM. I don’t disagree with your other points, Susan–just want to know if I missed something. There has been a lot written on the DCM issue since the FDA statement came out; I don’t think we should panic until we know more. It might, however, be a good idea to check the amounts of amino acids in your dog’s food, and compare these to what your dog should have. You’d need to have the complete nutrient profile of the food and also the NRC chart that allows you to calculate your dog’s needs. Some foods give the nutrient profile on their website (for example, Honest Kitchen, Evermore, Petcurean, Champion), some give it by request (e.g., Open Farm) but unfortunately some refuse to provide it. It would be helpful if taurine were listed separately but also check methionine and cystine, which are needed to make taurine.

      1. Janice

        As I read that document, the authors used one Acana food (pork singles) as an example of a food that is grain free with a lot of legumes, but they show no link between that food and DCM. Certain kinds of foods besides legumes and potatoes have been linked, such as lamb and rice diets; beet pulp also: see Jean Dodds: I think we have to look at the science very carefully.

  2. Mary Sue

    Thanks, Susan. As far as replacing salmon with smaller fish, I see that as a good thing, as long as the smaller fish are providing the right amount of protein, fat, omegas, etc. Smaller wild fish will usually have less contamination from heavy metal and other ingredients, as they are lower on the food chain. As far as all the other changes and relatively recent switch from grains to beans, I question those. Grain free does not mean low carb which for cats is important. They’re just replacing one carb with another. I prepare most of the food I feed to my cats and don’t feed dry food, but i do worry about all the pets whose humans aren’t getting the information they need to know what’s best for their cats and dogs.

    1. Leanne

      When a pet food company uses that many legumes, which are high in protein, they can decrease the amount of animal protein, while maintaining the overall protein levels. But it is poor quality protein compared to animal protein. Also much cheaper. When they split the legumes into that many kinds, they can keep the meat ingredients at the top, whereas if they used all one kind of legume, it could well be the first or second ingredient.

  3. Leanne

    Please note that alfalfa is also a legume. It was high on the ingredient list of the orijen foods in 2010

  4. Hope

    Superb research Susan. Thank you.

  5. Cindy T

    Fascinating. When my dogs had trouble with the 2018 Orijen last summer, I called Champion and they told me that taurine was not necessary because it was in the food. I stopped feeding Orijen.

  6. T Allen

    Great research Susan as always. Thanks for your hard work!

  7. Christine

    After losing 2 Shelties to Acana Pacifica’s toxic dog food, we researched extensively with our new baby. We were giving her Whole Paws chicken and rice (with my added fresh cooked chicken). Then all of a sudden Whole Paws disappeared from the shelves and we were told Amazon bought Whole Foods. Now it is back, but obviously is changed by appearance, so who knows what else has changed. I’m trying to find out if there is a manufacturer/production change like with Acana (from Canada to a plant in Kentucky). I’m obviously very wary of dog foods now and do great research with Dog Food Advisor, Truth about Dog Food, and Clean Label Project and others. Do you have any information on the “new formula” involved? Thank you for any help you can give.

  8. Ian

    impressive comparisons !

  9. Teresa

    Very interesting indeed! My memory isn’t what it use to be but I wonder, and maybe someone out there can answer, do the changes to Iam’s occur about the time Proctor and Gamble goaded the family operation to sell to them? I fed Iam’s cat food, dry and canned, to my hedgehogs. After the P&G buyout, first thing I noticed on the canned labels was “now with more broth” and a 10 cent price increase. Really? 10 cents more for water? What else lowered the quality? I stopped feeding it.

  10. tag

    My dogs eat what i do which is organic, grass and pasture raised and things I grow myself. Years ago one of my babies had bladder stones and required surgery. The food they wanted me to feed was ridculosly expensive and nothing but cheap garbage. Until we as animal lovers quit supporting garbage for food, they will keep producing it.

  11. Peter

    Many foods are also re-formulated to reduce the amount of overall “food” itself, most simply, by texturizing them. Merrick changed its formulas to “improve” them, and as part of that, now many are no longer “pate” or “loaf” but “minced” or “shredded,” which really only introduces opportunity to bring air pockets into the can. Merrick’s other line, “Whole Earth,” is formulated with a “foam-y” texture that is so air-ated that it is difficult to get it out of the can. These changes were made well before the company was purchased by Purina.

  12. Christine

    I’d like to point out that the removal of salmon from the list was something we strongly pressured the company to do, and we were relieved when they did it. As an environmentally friendly pet supply store, we choose our products with sustainability in mind. When we first brought in Champion foods to our store in the early days (2005 perhaps?) we did it due to their strict sourcing rules, including their dedication to sourcing only wild fish from sustainable fisheries. Wild Salmon populations have become less and less sustainable, but if a company chooses to use salmon, we still insist on it being wild salmon, as farmed salmon is such a disaster for the environment, and such a terrible health risk for our animal companions to eat on a daily basis. (
    Several years ago I was scrolling through Champion’s FAQ section, and in it was a statement that they were sometimes substituting farmed salmon for wild when wild salmon was scarce. We were very upset but not surprised to find out about that change in that accidental way (most pet food companies change ingredients without sending out notifications to retailers, which is why we check sourcing every year from each company we carry). But, more importantly, we were also upset us that they violated what they had previously stated as their policy for sourcing fish. Farmed salmon actually poses significant threats to wild salmon right in the waters of British Columbia (where their factory is), and it shocked me that they would be either contributing to the demise of their own local wild salmon population knowingly, or that they could be sourcing salmon without even being aware of the environmental problems in their own back yard. We and a few other Pacific NW stores challenged them to stand up for wild salmon and against farmed salmon for the health of the environment and the health of our pets. We have a strong policy against carrying any product that uses farmed salmon, and will drop any products that use it (as we are right now with any flavors of KLN brands that have started using farmed salmon – Nutrisource, Pure Vita and Natural Planet). We don’t just drop a line though, first we try to convince the company to change their minds – we believe that it’s important to try first to protect the health of all pets that may be eating that food, not just the customers of our store, then we drop them. To their credit, Champion agreed to drop salmon and to continue to be committed to sourcing more sustainable populations of fish. The species they chose are not only more plentiful, but are smaller-bodied, carrying less risk of accumulated metals and other contaminants such as PCBs, PBDEs, dioxins, and chlorinated pesticides that are often present in larger fish. When our small bodied animal companions are eating the same exact meal every single day of their lives, it becomes critically important to be careful about chemical contaminants that can accumulate in their bodies.
    Do challenge them for any other reasons you see fit – I don’t love the 8 legumes either. We didn’t necessarily hate peas as an ingredient when they first entered the market, but we do hate that peas then swept the industry almost entirely, making them almost impossible to avoid if your pet has a sensitivity, and becoming such a significant percentage of the protein content, sometimes displacing meat. We do believe that Champion is still very meat-forward, but it’s important to ask every company how much of their protein % is from meat vs peas.

  13. Leanne

    Feeding raw is not scary, folks. And cheaper to make yourself, I think, than a high end commercial dog food. Check out Prey Model Raw. Having small dogs helps with the cost of the food, and the fact that we have no vet bills. No allergies, skin problems, diabetes, obesity, musculoskeletal problems. I just checked my 6 year old dachshund’s teeth. This breed is supposed to be notorious for dental disease. There is not a speck of tartar on any of his teeth. Never had his teeth brushed, never had a dental.

  14. Leanne

    Sample prey model raw meals for a smallish dog, feeding once a day: 1) whole chicken thigh, chunk of beef liver, or lamb organs 2)chicken neck, and my own frozen ground raw mix (beef heart ground, beef kidney, canned salmon, maybe some other freezer burnt meat, maybe some pumpkin, maybe some freezer burnt pureed frozen veggies, raw eggs with shells, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, brewer’s yeast, some olive oil, some yogurt 3)Frozen Honest kitchen base mix with added ground meat of choice (we seldom feed pork) 4)Large raw, meaty bone from the butcher, usually beef trim. 5)Cornish game hen 6)pork ribs 7)Raw green tripe 8)Pork or lamb tongues sliced, chicken neck. It’s really not a lot of effort.

  15. Martha Glew

    If people are interested in learning more about the taurine crisis in dog foods, there are 2 Facebook groups. There are “files” that include several helpful documents, including taurine blood test results on multiple dogs.

    New members must read some important information prior to joining, and we ask that everyone be courteous and respectful to each other. Multiple people have lost their dogs recently to low tau DCM, and people are highly sensitive to the subject.

    **** Taurine-Deficient Dilated Cardiomyopathy (all breeds)

    ***** Taurine Dificiency in Golden Retrievers (golden retrievers only please)

  16. Ms. B Dawson

    Just published in Pet Business magazine:

    ‘Is “Clean Protein” the Next Big Thing in Pet Food?’

    The article states in part:

    ..”Cultured meat is front and center in Bond Pet Foods’ attempt to innovate the pet food category. The company is working to produce the proteins found in chicken by genetically modifying microbes and then feeding them sugars and other nutrients in a fermentation tank. The resulting harvested protein would reportedly come out in a consistency close to baby food, and would be dried and added to pet food and treat recipes. “…

    The human food industry is playing with this as well.

  17. Brian

    More grains and vegetables – like peas and potatoes – the more probability of higher glyphosate concentrations. I’m personally seeing all kinds of issues with my “herd” of cats and dog… and I’m focusing in on glyphosate as the main culprit. Thanks so much for your efforts to educate and inform the public.

  18. Zac Chernik

    From Champion Pet Foods White Paper created in 2009 and modified in 2011 – from page 22
    Protein digestibility is a key quality measure.
    After all, what good is it to have a food made with a higher quality protein if it’s not also easy to digest?
    Meat protein is the best choice – it is easily digested and contains the amino acids essential for dogs and cats.
    To better understand protein digestibility, it’s important to recall that digestion itself is the gradual breaking down of food into components small enough to pass through the walls of the intestines and into the bloodstream.

    A food with high protein digestibility is one that can be broken down into smaller easy-to-absorb components easier and quicker than others.

    Protein ingredients that meet both amino acid requirements and high digestibility, almost always come from animal sources. In the short digestive systems of dogs and cats, plant proteins are far less digestible than meat proteins.
    High levels of trypsin inhibitors grain legumes can cause substantial reductions in protein and amino acid digestibilities (up to 50%) in rats and pigs.

    Similarly, the presence of high levels of tannins in cereals, such as sorghum, and grain legumes can result in significantly reduced protein and amino acid digestibilities (up to 23%) in rats, poultry, and pigs.17

    Here is a list of Grain Legumes

    Grain Legumes: Common Names and Scientific Names

    Adzuki bean, azuki bean, Adanka bean, (Vigna angularis, syn.: Phaseolus angularis)
    Broad bean, faba bean, fava bean, bell bean, field bean (Vicia faba)
    (large-seeded broadbeans, windsorbeans- V. faba var. major)
    (horsebeans- V. faba) var. major)
    (small, round-oval seeded tickbean, pigeon bean- V. faba var. minor)
    Vetch, common vetch (Vicia sativa)
    Common bean, common field bean, kidney bean, habichuela, snap bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
    Chick pea, Bengal gram, calvance pea, chestnut bean, dwarf pea, garbanza, garbanzo bean, garbanzos, gram, gram pea, yellow gram (Cicer arietinum)
    Cowpea, asparagus bean, black eyed pea, black eyed bean, crowder pea, field pea, southern pea, frijole, paayap (Vigna unguiculata, syn.: Vigna sinensis)
    Guar bean, cluster bean, (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba)
    Hyacinth bean, bonavist, bataw, lablab (Dolichos lablab)
    Lentil (Lens culinaris)
    Lima bean, butter bean, patani (Phaseolus lunatus)
    Lupin, lupine, lupine, sweet lupin (Lupinus spp.)
    (white lupin- L. albus)
    (blue lupin (L. angustifolius)
    (yellow lupin- L. luteus)
    (Andean lupin, pearl lupin, chocho- L. mutabilis)
    (wild lupin- L. perennis)
    Mung bean, mungbean, mungo, (Vigna radiata, syn.: Phaseolus aureus)
    Pea, dry pea, podded pea, snap pea, chicharo, (Pisum sativum)
    Peanut, groundnut, earth nut, mani, runner peanut (Arachis hypogaea)
    Pigeon pea, kadios (Cajanus cajan)
    Soybean, soya, soyabean (Glycine max)
    Tepary bean, tepari bean (Phaseolus acutifolius)

    1. Cindy T

      Very interesting. Thanks for posting this.

      1. Zac Chernik

        To understand more on Taurine in pet food ingredients an in-depth study in 2003.

        “This report provides information on the taurine content of commonly used animal feed
        ingredients. Animal muscle tissue, particularly marine, contained high taurine concentra-
        tions. Plant products contained either low or undetectable amounts of taurine. The amount
        of taurine that remained in a feed ingredient after cooking depended upon the method of
        food preparation. When an ingredient was constantly surrounded by water during the
        cooking process, such as in boiling or basting, more taurine was lost. Food preparation
        Influence of cooking on taurine content in animal feed ingredients
        methods that minimized water loss, such as baking or frying, had higher rates of taurine

        1. Martha Glew

          Thanks for your post Zac. Dog feed recipes constantly change, we all need to read labels carefully.
          A serious change was when Acana moved manufacturing from Canada to the US for the US market. They removed much of their meat, despite having having known the benefits and necessity of it.
          The FDA has warned pet owners to read the top 5 ingredients in a kibble. If any legumes or potatoes are present, they should have a discussion with their veterinarian.

  19. Zac Chernik

    Hi Martha,

    The first five can be very misleading as there is NO STANDARD by AFFCO as to following a strict process for measuring. So the first ingredient is Fresh Meat…..contains a high percentage of moisture…..when the kibble is processed the true amount of meat protein is much less than say a rendered ingredient.

    So I can have 30% Fresh Meat by weight but after the process the new level might be say 10% because of the loss of moisture.

    Lets take for example Acana from the UK or CA as they list their percentage except for GET THIS plant protein……all the percentages are listed before and after the plant protein but when you work the numbers the plant ingredients come extremely close to 50% of the list of total ingredients by weight as their product formulation is 50/50. If you subtract the Fresh Meat moisture from the 16% of the overall kibble then plant protein goes even higher. Everything else after the .1% is so small that it might total say 1% of the overall total percentage. ALSO BEWARE OF INGREDIENT SPLITTING

    Here is Acana Pork and Squash which Dr. Joshua Study had listed in his study:

    INGREDIENTS (notice no percentage for plant proteins at all…..also whole green peas and whole red lentils are between the 16% and 6% items so each one of those plant ingredients can be as high as 16% each or a low of 6% each for a total of 32% to 12%. Then after the 4% item there are 3 more plant protein items and then the 2% item followed by lentil fiber…….)

    ACANA Yorkshire Pork features an unmatched variety of local ingredients that are raised by people we know and trust, deemed “fit for human consumption”, and then delivered to our award-winning NorthStar® kitchens fresh each day!

    Fresh yorkshire pork (16%), pork meat meal (16%), whole green peas, whole red lentils, fresh pork liver (6%), pork fat (6%), fresh pork kidney (4%), fresh whole butternut squash (4%), whole garbanzo beans, whole green lentils, whole yellow peas, dried pork cartilage (2%), lentil fiber, marine algae (1.2%) (pure and sustainable source of DHA and EPA), fresh whole pumpkin, dried brown kelp, freeze-dried pork liver (0.1%), salt, fresh whole cranberries, fresh whole blueberries, chicory root, turmeric root, milk thistle, burdock root, lavender, marshmallow root, rosehips, enterococcus faecium.

    SUPPLEMENTS: Vitamin D3, Vitamin E, Zinc Chelate, Copper Chelate.

    *Preserved with mixed tocopherols, a tocopherol rich extract of natural origin – Vitamin E and Rosemary Oil.

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