Boutique, exotic ingredient, and grain-free diets, also called BEG diets, have become a popular fad in pet food in recent years. Following the organic and gluten-free trends in human diets, many pet food companies began to market their diets as superior because they purportedly contained ”human grade” ingredients, no corn or fillers, were all-natural, or organic. Many of these pet food companies perpetuated myths regarding ingredients and nutrition (see attached handouts for more on myths in pet food). While our vets have never recommended these diets, until recently we had no information to indicate that they were unsafe or unhealthy for our patients.
But in 2017, that changed. Veterinary Cardiologists at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine began noticing an alarming trend. Golden retrievers were being diagnosed more frequently with DCM—a disease not commonly associated with this breed. This diagnosis of DCM was coupled with another finding that many of the dogs were eating the same grain-free diet and had blood tests confirming low taurine levels. Taurine is an amino acid that dogs get naturally in their diets and manufacture from other building blocks contained in the food. Then, over the last couple of years, these Cardiologists began to take note that dogs of all breeds were being diagnosed with DCM and not just Golden Retrievers. The FDA launched an investigation that is still ongoing and Veterinary Cardiologists across the country continue to treat an alarmingly increasing number of dogs with DCM linked to taurine-deficiency.
While we await the results of the FDA’s investigation, we are recommending that our clients DO NOT feed BEG diets. We know how overwhelming it can be to choose the “right” food for your pet. With thousands of options available, it can be confusing to separate the truly good ones from those that just advertise themselves as good. The sad truth is that there are very few useful facts on a pet food label. The vast majority of the text and all of the images on any pet food packaging is advertising. It’s aimed at appealing to you, the owner. Sometimes, something that attracts you is good for your pet, but many times, it’s not.
Current regulations do not require pet food companies to provide much factual information on their labels. They want to make the food sound delicious and high quality to get your attention. Oh yes, and they need to make a profit. Always remember when you’re in the pet food aisle: Just ‘cause they say it, doesn’t make it so. Commercial dog food companies aren’t generally evil. Nor do we believe in the many pet food conspiracy theories popular on the Internet. There are companies that produce foods of fantastic quality and those that cut corners or spend most of their money on marketing. Just because a pet food company is large doesn’t mean it’s using substandard ingredients, or tricking people into buying too much food. And just because a company is small, or “artisanal,” or “makes its food with love”, doesn’t mean it necessarily manufactures more wholesome dog food.
At this time, we are recommending that our clients feed diets that meet World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Guidelines (see attached handout). At this time, companies like Purina, Royal Canin, Hills, and Iams/Eukanuba meet these guidelines and have not had any cases of DCM attributed to them. These companies employ full-time qualified nutritionists, have diets tested using AAFCO feeding trials, utilize quality control measures, conduct extensive product research, have diets that are complete and balanced, diets for all life stages, and also put more money back into research than other companies who put that money back into marketing. If you have any questions regarding your individual pet’s diet, please feel free to talk to one of our veterinarians or call our office.
In their most recent update, the FDA released more information regarding the dog food brands noted in their reports. Please visit our most recent blog post on the topic to see if your dog food is on the list . To order food through our online pharmacy and have it delivered straight to your house, visit our online pharmacy’s about page.
For more information on the FDA’s investigation into BEG diets and DCM, please visit our blog. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your pet’s diet, please call our office at 540-776-0700.