Top Pet Food Trends of 2020

This year’s Global Pet Expo, a convention hosted by the American Pet Products Association and the Pet Industry Distributors Association, highlighted some new product trends that are driving the pet food market this year.

A Switch from Grain-Free to Grain-Friendly Diets

The grain-free pet food trend, which was growing in popularity over the past few years, has faced a setback as an increased number of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) cases in certain dog breeds have been linked to ingredients found in grain-free diets.

The pet food industry is now focused on “grain-friendly” diets featuring healthy and wholesome grains such as barley, oatmeal, and brown rice.

Pet Foods that Target a Specific Health Issue

Solutions-based pet foods that are designed for a particular life stage or health condition are continuing to gain in popularity.  Some of the most popular address issues like obesity and skin, coat, and joint health.

Foods that Address “Rotational Feeding”

Rotational feeding is a growing trend among pet owners who like to feed their animals different formats of the same dietary formula.  Examples of this include wet, dry, and treat options that address a particular concern or contain the same combination of animal proteins.

Whole-Animal Nutrition

It used to be that pet foods containing animal by-products like organs, bone, and cartilage were frowned on.  Today’s quality pet food manufacturers are returning to “whole-animal nutrition” by adding some of these ingredients to their high-end diets.

Lickable Food and Treats

Pet owners are increasingly turning to pet foods and treats that have a very soft mousse or gel texture.  They can be served out of containers or tubes and include meaty broths and frozen, ice cream-like treats.

 

March is Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month

An important animal awareness holiday happens in March:  Pet Poison Prevention Month.

The ASPCA urges pet owners to be mindful of the following common pet poison hazards:

  • Household cleaning products
  • Pesticides (insect and rodent)
  • Certain people foods
  • Automotive products (like antifreeze)
  • Medicines (human and pet, Rx and OTC)
  • House and yard plants
  • Certain flea and tick products

Feeling overwhelmed about what’s safe and what’s not?  The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center has created a free mobile app that covers the toxicity of hundreds of items.  It includes pictures and other tools to help you identify what’s harmful to your pet.

Download the app HERE!

 

CDC Investigates Salmonella in Pig Ear Dog Treats

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the US Food and Drug Administration, recently issued a health warning to pet owners who feed their dogs pig ear treats.

They are advising people not to buy pig ear treats for their pets, and not to feed your dog any you might already have in the home.

There have been many cases of multi-drug resistant Salmonella, a bacterial infection, associated with these treats.  The Salmonella can affect both dogs and people who handle the treats.

The latest numbers from the CDC show that 127 people in 33 states have become infected.  26 people have been hospitalized, and 24 of the infections have occurred in children under 5 years of age.

While some companies have recalled their pig ear dog treats, the CDC and FDA advise pet owners to avoid all pig ears while the Salmonella outbreak is being investigated.

Here is a brief summary of their advice to dog owners.  Be sure to check out the CDC website for the full story.

  • Avoid buying pig ear treats.
  • Throw away any pig ear treats you might already have (make sure your dog can’t get to them in the trash).
  • Wash areas where pig ear treats were stored.
  • Signs of Salmonella in people include diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps.
  • Signs in dogs include tiredness, vomiting, fever, bloody diarrhea.
  • Report any suspected Salmonella infections to the FDA here.

 

FDA Updates Findings on Link Between Grain Free Dog Food and Heart Disease

The US Food and Drug Administration has been investigating a possible connection between grain free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs.

DCM is a heart condition that is most commonly seen in certain medium to large breed dogs.  The heart becomes enlarged and loses its ability to pump blood to the body.

Veterinarians began noticing an uptick of DCM cases in dogs not normally known to suffer from this disease.  In many of these cases, the dogs were eating grain freed dog food that contained different kinds of potatoes, peas, or lentils instead of wheat.

The FDA updated its findings at the end of June.  What does the latest research say?

  • The most reported breeds among all the cases are Golden Retrievers, mixed breeds, and Labrador Retrievers.
  • The mean age of affected dogs is 6.6 years, and the weight is 67.8 pounds.
  • The vast majority of reported cases were fed a dry dog food diet.
  • 90% of reported food products were labeled as grain free and 93% of reported products contained peas and/or lentils.
  • No one source of animal protein stood out more than others.
  • The most reported pet food brands are Acana, Zignature, and Taste of the Wild.

What are the next steps in this ongoing research?

The FDA is still investigating a possible connection between taurine (an amino acid) and DCM.

Taurine deficiency is associated with DCM in dogs.  Certain breeds are especially susceptible, and researchers are currently looking at taurine deficiency and DCM in Golden Retrievers.

The FDA reports that it continues to work with pet food manufacturers, veterinarians, and pet owners to understand more about this issue.

They encourage vets and owners to report any possible diet related cases of DCM.  You can find more information on reporting HERE.

Be sure to talk to your vet about the best diet for your individual dog.

DCM can be life-threatening.  If your dog is showing unusual signs of weakness, tiredness, difficulty breathing, or collapse, seek veterinary care right away.

 

How to Find Quality Pet Nutrition Information Online

Pet owners commonly seek out dog and cat food information online, whether it’s product reviews, advice on alternative diets, or how to manage your pet’s weight.

But how do you know if the information you are looking at is trustworthy and accurate?

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has created two helpful guides for finding quality dog and cat nutrition information online.

 

Here are a few important tips (be sure to check out the full guides and other great pet resources on the WSAVA website):

  • Research the credentials of authors of the materials you are reading.  Advice from a certified veterinary nutritionist is more reliable than information put out by pet owners and pet food companies.
  • Be aware if a website’s address is a .com (commercial), .edu (educational), or .org (non-profit).  This can make a difference in the quality of the information.
  • Check to see if any statements or claims are backed up by legitimate sources.  Does the article link to any references, and are they quality references?  Research studies are better sources than promotional materials.

  • Make sure the information you are reading is recent and up to date, as veterinary medicine is always changing.
  • Be especially careful of any anecdotal information, such as pet owners stating that their pets were “cured” by a particular product.

  • Many articles about the “best” pet foods or ones that rate pet foods come from websites that get financial compensation if you click on a product link (such as Amazon affiliate websites).  View these sites with plenty of caution.
  • When in doubt about any information about pet nutrition you find online…ask your veterinarian for guidance and advice!