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Dog Food Drama and what does "Complete and Balanced” really mean? 

If you're on social media, you've seen reports from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about dogs being fed certain grain free foods appearing to have higher incidents of a heart condition called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). 

As a result of this most recent dog food scandal, we have seen several new customers who want to switch to raw because they’re feeding brands that were named in the report and are not comfortable with some of the products they’re being told to switch to. 

WE WELCOME new customers and encourage people to feed raw. We (and our dogs, and customer’s dogs) think it’s absolutely the best. But, we also want to clarify a few things. 

If you’re feeding a brand that’s been named, first of all, there is no need to panic. Be aware, don’t panic. There are many formulas made by the named brands, and not every formula is implicated.  Even if your formula is one of the named ones, you may not need to fully change to something else.

This issue has been investigated by the FDA since 2014 (and in the 1980s when heart disease related to taurine deficiencies in cats was studied), but there is not a definitive reason why it’s happening (and there may never be). Just speculation and ongoing research. 

Nutrition is not a complete science, we are always learning. Deficiencies can be linked to a lot of things, nutrients not present in the food, but also individual metabolisms and one dog not being able to break down certain nutrients that another dog can. So jumping from the food you’re feeding to another, or even raw, could be going from the fat to the fire.

Aside from all the speculations WHY this is happening, it’s also clear that foods named in the DCM scandal are “Complete and Balanced” formulas. They are also products approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) - a US pet industry based body which ensures MINIMUM nutrient profiles are met. So, what this has shown us, is that each and every “Complete and Balanced” diet, even if meeting AAFCO requirements, CAN be deficient, in other words, a dog CAN develop deficiencies no matter what it eats. And no food is 100% safe all the time. 

And it’s also complicated because nutritional data can be different for different feed animals of the same species (and even the similar cuts of meat in the same animal), so all chicken is not the same. Their food, their environment, and location can all significantly impact the nutrient count of their meat. So, the formulas used to come up for “Complete and Balanced” are only relevant if every morsel of food is independently tested for it’s full nutritional value…. And that would be cost prohibitive. 

Health Mutts is proud to say our products are NOT “Complete and Balanced.”  We will never tell you they are, because, while we make damn good pet food, we’re honest. Our ingredients include local, farm raised whole animals and human quality cuts destined for restaurants and grocery stores, formulated using knowledge gained from formal study of canine nutrition, informal research, nutrition spreadsheets, life experience, trial and error with our own dogs and advice from other nutrition experts, vets and pet industry colleagues. and, they’re pretty ‘balanced’ products. We advise variety in protein sources and quality proteins, some supplementation based on the base diet, as well as using your pet safe food scraps as part of your pet’s diet. Variety does not guarantee 100% balance, neither does supplementation. Or “Complete and Balanced” foods. And by focusing on complete and balanced do we risk not seeing the forest for the trees?

So what to do if your brand of food was named? We obviously recommend switching to good quality raw foods. But supplementing what you're already feeding with taurine rich products (mussels, heart meat etc), adding raw to your kibble, rotation of kibble formulas and sometimes brands and adding in cooked food are all ways to diversify your pet’s diet, and make up for possible nutrition gaps found in feeding only one thing or another. We recommend the addition of sardines, eggs, raw milk, kefir, veggies and your table scraps to whatever you’re feeding. Grains? We don't see grains OR legumes as essential parts of your dog's diet. They are discretionary carnivores, and most of their nutrition is acquired from meat, but if your dog tolerates grains (and doesn't have yeast issues), by all means, add some. Steel cut oats tend to be a favorite treat for our dogs. And ultimately we should keep up on vet checks and go to the vet if our pets aren't acting normally - no matter what it's fed.

Concerns about your pet’s diet? Switching to raw? Feel free to contact us. We are always happy to provide advice. If you’re looking for specific diet plans, Selena, who is certified  in canine nutrition, is able to do consultations to help you learn how to identify and prevent deficiencies in your pet’s diet, formulate recipes and more.

(Spock is completely balanced on this chair 😀 )