Dog owners are going to need to be a lot more cautious with their food selection moving forward. A study by the FDA has shown that certain types of dog foods cause heart disease, known as DCM, with 16 pet food brands being uncovered as the major culprits. And that means that many of these pet brands are likely to see significant recalls, studies, and costs in the future.
And the real winner in all of this may just be Nestle Purina.
Why “Grain-Free” Food May Not Be Best for Pets
Grain-free pet food became popular in the last decade, as a way of feeding dogs a more natural, simplified diet. It was correlated with gluten-free movements, in which many people discovered that their food was causing them health issues. However, veterinarians have always warned against grain-free foods for dogs and cats, stating that there was no inherent advantage to grain-free.
As grain-free foods became more popular, many boutique brands emerged. However, it’s not those boutique brands that have come under fire, but larger brands such as Taste of the Wild, Zignature, and Arcana. These brands are likely going to be forced to reformulate their products.
DCM is likely to arise due to an increase in pea protein and lentil protein. Many grain-free foods used these protein substitutes in place of meats, and consequently may be “overdosing” pets with the nutrients from them. Further, many grain-free brands have been successful on the market primarily because of the selling point of “grain-free” — they may need to pivot their brands accordingly.
16 Brands Labeled as Contributing to Heart Disease
Pet owners have been warned that the following brands have contributed most to cases of DCM:
- Taste of the Wild
- Earthborn Holistic
- Blue Buffalo
- Nature’s Domain
- California Natural
- Natural Balance
- Nature’s Variety
- Rachael Ray Nutrish
This is particularly concerning because many of these are expensive, top-of-the-line brands: brands that a pet owner might feed to their dog if they’re already worried about their dog’s health.
WSAVA Foods May See Increased Purchasing
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has a list of foods that it finds to be safe. This includes: Purina Pro Plan, Royal Canin, Hill’s Science Diet, Iams and Eukanuba. These are large brands. Notably. these brands did not show increases in DCM, even in their grain-free lines. It’s possible that this is down to the formulation of the food.
Nestle’s stock (which owns Purina) has been rising steadily this year, and remains a good buy. And, of course, Mars remains the 6th largest private company in the world. If more definitive information comes out regarding these major grain-free pet food brands, it may inspire a dramatic shift in consumer purchasing habits.
The potential dangers of grain-free foods have been explored in the past, but the FDA hasn’t named specific brands before. Pet owners who are worried that their dogs may be experiencing the symptoms of heart disease have been advised to check with their vets. Some of the damage may be reversible with a change in dietary nutrition.
Grain-Free is a New Craze — So the Extent of the Damage is Unknown
It took the FDA a while to explore the cases of DCM because they are newly emerging. As grain-free grew in popularity, cases of DCM grew as well, but the FDA had to collect data because the trend was so new. However, that also means that new cases of DCM may be accelerating, because dogs on grain-free diets are now getting older.
If the situation gets much worse, consumers are likely to become even more knowledgeable about the risks. Last year, grain-free foods were already under scrutiny. This year, it’s likely that more veterinarians and pet owners are going to become conscious of the potential dangers. However, it should be emphasized that it isn’t “grain-free” in and of itself that seems to be causing this problem: it’s the fact that grain-free foods are often packed with alternate nutrient sources.
While this study was primarily targeted towards dog food, heart disease has been found in cats on grain free diets as well. It’s important for pet owners to check with their vets about their pet foods moving forward. For investors, investors should be aware that this is an extremely large finding, and it may radically change the way pet food is made and sold. But, it may take some time until the general public is fully aware.