You may have heard reports of a connection between grain-free dog food and heart disease. Our pet foods are safe—here's why.
First, a bit of background:
In July, 2018, the FDA made an announcement regarding a potential connection between diet and cases of canine heart disease, summarized below:
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting pet owners and veterinary professionals about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients. ... Early reports from the veterinary cardiology community indicate that the dogs consistently ate these foods as their primary source of nutrition for time periods ranging from months to years. High levels of legumes or potatoes appear to be more common in diets labeled as 'grain-free.'"
Symptoms include "including decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing and episodes of collapse."
"Taurine deficiency is well-documented as potentially leading to DCM."
There is no conclusive information available. Note that this is an "early report." After reading the FDA announcement closely, you'll realize there is little hard evidence about what connection the ingredients might have to DCM—if there is any connection at all. There is evidence suggesting diets low in meat can lead to heart disease, but there is no conclusive evidence that legumes or grain-free diets play any role.
There are millions of dogs eating grain-free diets in the U.S. without ill effects.
Daniel Schulof, author of "Dogs, Dog Food, and Dogma," submitted retraction demands to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) that were co-signed by more than 200 veterinarians. He lists 10 reasons to dispute the connection between grain-free food and DCM in his article, Bad Science and Big Business are Behind the Biggest Pet Food Story in a Decade, including:
Grain-free dog foods have become popular in recent years. These diets include legumes in lieu of grains; legumes have many dietary benefits: they're high in protein, dietary fiber, soluble fiber, B-group vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, magnesium, a good source of folate and carbohydrates, have a low glycemic index, are gluten-free, low fat, and low sodium. Whew! Legumes are obviously an extremely beneficial food that should be part of our pets' diet!
However, legumes are high in phytic acid. Phytic acid, or phytate, is found in all plant seeds, nuts, legumes, and grains. It serves as the main storage form of phosphorus in the seeds. When seeds sprout, phytate is degraded and the phosphorus released to be used by the young plant. Phytic acid tends to impair the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium, but it is also an antioxidant and may protect against kidney stones and cancer! When fed in a balanced diet, these benefits outweigh any negative effects on mineral absorption.
Pinto Canyon foods are not on the FDA list. On June 27, 2019 the FDA provided a list of foods the affected pets were eating. View the list here.
Animal protein (meat, poultry, or fish) is the primary ingredient in our foods. Phytic acid is not an issue when eating a balanced diet, especially a diet including a significant source of meat. For example, in humans, zinc is well-absorbed from meat, even in the presence of phytic acid. We think many of the foods in the FDA list above do not contain meat as the primary ingredient by weight, even though it is listed first. This is called "splitting the ingredients."
We do not split ingredients. Splitting ingredients is a deceptive practice of subdividing a more abundant ingredient into smaller portions to artificially raise a meat item to the first ingredient, or to make it appear that there's less of a low-quality ingredient. Unfortunately, it's common in the pet food industry and it's important to recognize it. The reason it's important in this discussion is so you're aware of the amount of legumes and potatoes in your dog's diet, and if it's higher than expected due to this misleading tactic.
The FDA requires that ingredients be listed in descending order of predominance by weight; the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last. The foods we reviewed on the FDA list exhibit this tactic. For example, the ingredients in one of the foods is "Venison, Green Lentils, Red Lentils, Peas, ... " If you add up the amount of green lentils, red lentils, and peas, there are likely more legumes than venison!
Our recipes have varieties of distinct ingredients, each with its own nutritional significance, and together supplying a broad variety of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients. A quality animal protein is the first and primary ingredient in all our pet foods, as it should be. The next ingredients are either chickpea, tapioca, and green lentils (in our grain-free recipe) or brown rice, oatmeal, barley, and flaxseed (in our non-grain-free recipes). These ingredients are distinct, and none are in higher amounts than the primary animal protein.
We always suggest a rotated diet. It's no surprise that eating the same thing at every meal can contribute to health problems. Pinto Canyon dog foods are designed to be fed on a rotating basis—not only so that your dog enjoys an exciting variety of flavors, but also so they enjoy a variety of meat, poultry, and fish, and some days they eat brown rice, oatmeal, barley, and flaxseed, and some days chickpeas, tapioca, and green lentils. It's a perfect diet rotation!
Our foods are slowly and gently oven baked. Most pet food is extruded under intense heat and pressure. Our slow baking process maintains the natural nutrients in the food, such as taurine, cysteine and methionine (used to synthesize taurine), while neutralizing most of the phytates. Our grains and legumes are ground minutes before baking to minimize oxidation and maximize nutrient content.
Pinto Canyon pet food is complete and balanced. All pet food sold in the U.S. as a complete and balanced meal must meet the nutritional guidelines established by AAFCO, regardless the company size; Pinto Canyon Pet Foods meet the same nutritional requirements as other makers such as Purina and Hills foods. The claim that "boutique" dog foods are riskier is misleading at best. In fact, unlike larger companies, you can be certain our foods meet the nutritional requirements because we test our foods and publish the results. If other companies tested their foods they wouldn't be issuing recalls!
We formulated our grain-free recipe from the ground up. We started with salmon and herring, which are excellent sources of taurine and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. We selected human-grade chickpeas as the primary legume because of their remarkable antioxidant composition. We added green lentils because of their outstanding richness in both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Studies show that both legumes and grains are part of a heart-healthy diet, and a great source of proteins, carbohydrates, and fiber.
Our recipes provide healthy amounts of taurine naturally. Because taurine deficiency is well-documented as potentially leading to DCM, the FDA is investigating whether the amount of taurine in dogs' diets plays a role. It's important to note that neither grains nor legumes provide taurine; therefore, taurine deficiency is not linked to a grain-free diet; however, it may play a role in the increased reports of DCM and its treatment. There is no minimum requirement of the amount of taurine in dog foods sold in the U.S.
Nutrients are considered "essential" when the body is unable to synthesize them; they're essential because they're required in our diets. Taurine is not considered an essential nutrient for dogs (as it is for cats) because dogs synthesize it in their bodies from the amino acids cysteine and methionine. Fish is an excellent source of taurine, especially cold-water varieties such as salmon and herring. The healthy ingredients in our foods provide taurine, cysteine, and methionine naturally. We test the amounts and provide the results here.
We rely on quality ingredients and time-consuming old-fashioned baking instead of marketing ploys that promote food with cheap ingredients and the cheapest manufacturing process: extrusion.
Grains are nutritious for dogs. Grain-free dog foods became popular due to the idea that dogs originated from wolves, are carnivores, and are not built to digest and process grains. However, it's also known that, unless they have a specific allergy, dogs have no problem digesting grains and benefitting from their nutritional value. Even wolves in the wild derive nutrition from both plant and animal sources. However, to avoid grains, pet owners turned to legumes and potatoes. Now the FDA is concerned about legumes and potatoes. The truth is both grains and legumes have significant health benefits.
Our whole grains are freshly ground and high-quality. The concern with feeding grains began when pet parents realized low-quality "filler" grains such as wheat, corn, and grain by-products are commonly used. None of our recipes have wheat or corn. We start with whole grains (not by-products) and grind them literally minutes before baking, imparting the maximum nutrition and freshness to your pet's meal. Read more about the benefits of freshly-ground grain.
Food sensitivities are another reason some dogs require a grain-free recipe. Symptoms of a food allergy are anything from licking or chewing paws, ear inflammation, gastrointestinal problems, gas, or itchy rear end. The best way to determine the cause of a sensitivity is an elimination diet. Our recipes are designed to help with this process! Typically, allergies are to proteins, because the relatively large protein molecules are mistaken for pathogens and trigger a response from their immune system. That's why we offer a single animal protein in each recipe. And our recipes are "clean"; we don't include supplements, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and yucca schidigera extract. We think supplements should be fed separately from food for many reasons.
In February, 2019, the FDA provided an update that states:
"The agency has not identified specific recommendations about diet changes for dogs who are not displaying DCM symptoms, but encourages pet owners to consult directly with their veterinarians for their animal's dietary advice."
Finally, our recommendations:
We hope you found this information helpful and informative! We sincerely want to provide the best food for pets, and want you to know everything about it! If you have any questions at all about our food, please ask!
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