Morgan’s VMX Recap

I recently attended the 2023 Veterinary Meeting & Expo (VMX) in Orlando, Fl. and came back with a treasure…

How to Pick the Best Food for Your Pet

Ever wonder how to help determine what food is best for your pets? Packaging and marketing can make it difficult to make choices. Did you ever wish for a guide to help you evaluate the quality and nutrition of products available? Good news! We did just that. Read on….

What if I told you that it’s highly likely that the pet food you are feeding your cat or dog has never been tested to ensure it is nutritionally adequate? Or, maybe it’s been tested, but your pet food company claims the results are ‘proprietary’. What if I told you that some of the most recent pet food recalls and scandals likely could have been prevented if companies were testing to prove nutritional adequacy? The fact is that pet foods are allowed to come to market and be sold without ever being tested to prove nutritional adequacy– leaving your pets exposed to significant risks. Most companies will only perform a palatability study – just to ensure pets like the food. Surprised? …read on.

Lack of accountability

It’s no secret that the pet industry has more than its fair share of problems, and to be honest most of these are self-inflicted wounds. Recalls, contamination issues, formulation errors, and deceptive marketing tactics are numerous. As a ‘retailer’ or ‘shopkeeper’, it’s exhausting to keep on top of issues and communicate them to customers – but it’s way more exhausting to even get pet food companies to answer simple questions – never mind hold them accountable. The more I learn, the more questions I ask – and unfortunately, I keep uncovering holes that many retailers and consumers are woefully unaware of.

We’re starting to change the industry

There are a small number of retailers across the country that have been asking many small and large pet food companies some very pointed questions centering around transparency, formulation, nutrition adequacy testing, safety, and ingredient sourcing. I can count on one hand the number of pet food companies that are truly transparent and provide adequate nutritional and scientific data to back their product. There are several more who are making positive changes. However – most companies are not and to be honest, they really don’t have any incentive to change. They have been getting by doing the bare minimum for years, if not decades. Advertising budgets continue to boom – to keep the consumer largely in the dark, exactly where they want you. But this is where you can help create significant change.

Who’s asking the tough questions?

The problem is that consumers aren’t asking tough questions because many companies have trained consumers to read ingredient labels. This is because the label is something that is easily controlled and manipulated. The consumer’s perception of that label is further distorted through various product claims and marketing ‘puffery’ that alludes even seasoned retailers. Most pet food companies know this and target their marketing efforts, product claims, and packaging design to appeal to the customers (and retailers) desire for certain ingredients. And that is exactly what pet food companies want you to continue to focus on – questions that they can control. They don’t want you to ask the tough questions.

Believe it or not, most companies are not nearly as transparent, or thorough in their manufacturing and formulation processes as they advertise – or would like you to believe. In fact – in asking many of the following questions some companies have actually had the audacity to call me ‘suspicious’ or ‘uneducated’ when I have asked certain questions. You see, when companies start to figure out that you know more than they want you to, they get really uncomfortable. Some will go as far as trying to discredit your experience, education, and reputation to try and scare you from seeking answers. This would not be the case if consumers and even veterinarians started to ask these questions and put pressure on them to change.

How you can help make your pet’s food safer and healthier?

All things considered, I strongly suggest that you reach out to your pet food company and ask the below questions. If consumers begin to put enough pressure on the industry there will inevitably be a positive change. So how can you help hold pet food companies accountable? How can you improve the pet industry and the quality of products on the market?

1. Who formulates your food, and what are their qualifications?

An answer of ‘a team of veterinarians’ or ‘a formulator with 20 years’ of experience’ is not a good enough answer. One thing I’ve learned is that the list of board-certified veterinary nutritionists and board-certified Ph.D. nutritionists who are actually qualified to formulate, evaluate pet food is very short. This is because the science of nutrition is very complex and takes years of schooling and experience – not something many people have done. In short, the company should be willing to provide you the name(s) and qualifications of those formulating – whether they work for the pet food company themselves or on a contract.

2. Do your products meet an AAFCO nutrition profile as verified by a 3rd party nutrition analysis on all of your finished products?

If yes, are they willing to provide a copy of that analysis? A nutrient profile is different from the Guaranteed Analysis on the pet food package and puts the focus on nutrients and not ingredients. Essentially, you’re asking the company to show you the proof that their ingredients are superior. The nutrient profile will display a range of amino acids, essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Pay close attention, because most companies are deceptive and will instead provide a ‘Target’ analysis, which is a prediction and NOT representative of the final product. If a company tells you that this information is proprietary, or that they do not perform a nutrient analysis I would highly recommend finding another company that is more transparent and does their due diligence.

3. Do you conduct 3rd party digestibility studies for each of your formulas?

If yes, are they willing to make those publicly available? A digestibility study is important because it tells you what amount of each of the nutrients listed in the nutrition analysis the animal is able to absorb. Some companies will say they do not conduct these studies and claim it is because they don’t test on animals or believe in invasive testing. However – this answer is simply ‘crap’ since digestibility testing is a very simple, non-invasive process that involves feeding the food to a group of dogs or cats over several days, collecting feces, and analyzing the feces. In fact, one could argue that a company that does not perform these tests is using your animal for the experiment – not good! If anyone or any company attempts to tell you otherwise they are simply ignorant to reality.

Ideally, companies should be willing to provide a total percentage of digestibility for fat, protein, energy, and total digestibility. A ‘high quality’ pet food should be in the high-80% range and above. Foods less than this may put your pet at risk for nutritional deficiencies.

4. Do you test your final product to ensure the formulation is correct and ensure there are not any contamination issues?

If so, do they hold those products from the market until all testing comes back clear? You may be surprised to learn how many companies (yes, even raw pet foods) that do not conduct pathogen testing on their final product. We also know that some kibble companies do not conduct nutritional adequacy or even contamination testing prior to products leaving their facilities. This is a significant issue.

5. Does the manufacturing facility where your food is made have 3rd party safety certifications in place?

For reference, these include a Global Food Safety Initiative recognized 3rd party food safety certification (i.e. SQF, BRC) to verify your facility follows adequate manufacturing, food handling, and safety procedures. For many pet food manufacturers, the answer should be yes, mostly because many use the same co-manufacturing facilities (i.e. one manufacturer makes several brands of food). However, there is still a fair share of companies that do not have safety certifications in place, which again put your pet and you at risk for health and nutrition issues. If you ask this question and the answer is no, or they seem confused by the question then the pet food companies ‘transparency’ is likely smoke and mirrors.


Publications: Cammack, N.R., Yamka, R.M., and Adams, V.J. (2021). Low Number of Owner-Reported Suspected Transmission of Foodborne Pathogens From Raw Meat-Based Diets Fed to Dogs and/or Cats. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 8. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2021.741575.

Contact Nicci:

Won’t my dog (or my family) get sick if I feed a raw diet?

We, as humans, have always been told to cook our meat to eliminate pathogens like Salmonella, E. Coli, or Campylobacter. The truth is, there are very little documented cases linking raw feeding to enteric pathogens. In a study by DogRisk1, stool samples were tested in dogs who were fed raw diets and some who were fed kibble-based diets. It was discovered that “Zoonotic meat-borne bacteria—such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, and enteropathogenic Yersinia—were only sporadically detected in RMBD (raw meat-based diets) by PCR.”1 This means that there is no consistency with raw diets and enteric pathogens.

As long as basic, safe handling occurs (we do this for our own meat to prevent getting sick) — good hand hygiene, disinfecting surfaces after prepping, and not feeding meat that has gone bad, enteric pathogens should be prevented.

It’s also important to note that some of the largest and most significant pet food recalls in the U.S. have been linked to dry food. This means that heat-treated foods also come with significant risk of pathogens, and research tells us that most pet owners feed their pets and do not wash their hands or clean their pet food bowls regularly. In other words, it is important to practice proper hygiene regardless of the type of food you feed your pet!REFERENCES:

  1. Anturaniemi (o.s. Roine), J., Barrouin-Melo, S., Zaldivar-López, S., Sinkko, H., & Hielm-Björkman, A. (2019). Owners perception of acquiring infections through raw pet food: a comprehensive internet-based survey. Veterinary Record185(21).

Signs Your Dog has Heartworm and What to Do About It

By now we’ve all been made aware of the risks related to heartworm. Recently, we realized that some information on heartworm was biased or incomplete. So, we decided to take a deeper dive into exactly what heartworm is, after one of our own dogs was diagnosed and we were left with some unanswered questions ourselves. Luckily, we have a close network of incredible veterinarians here and throughout the U.S. that helped to create an individualized plan. We wanted to share some of what we learned through our experience as well as touch on why we see an increasing prevalence of heartworm in the Northeast US and what we can do about it.Heartworm is a mosquito-borne illness caused by Dirofilaria immitis. The Dirofilaria immitis or “heartworm” is a parasite which is described as foot-long worms. These worms reside in the heart, lungs and blood vessels, most commonly in our beloved dogs. But why do they choose to mature and replicate in our furry friends? Well, dogs are considered a “natural host,” which makes growing and living quite easy.1 A dog’s body is the perfect climate for the heartworm to live. Although heartworm is most common in dogs, it can also be found in cats—but it is quite rare. Contrary to popular belief, cats are not natural hosts for these worms, and the worms often don’t mature as they do in dogs.1 Cats could have heartworm, but only have 1-3 worms in their system. This definitely makes detection difficult.

Heartworm: How the infection happens

When a mosquito bites a heartworm-infected animal, the mosquito ingests larvae, or immature worms. After some maturation within the mosquito, the mosquito is able to deposit the larvae into the skin of another animal. The larvae then make their way into the subcutaneous tissue (or fatty/connective tissue layer) which is deeper within the skin. The subcutaneous tissue has a bunch of small blood vessels that lead to larger blood vessels. The larvae travel through the blood vessels and eventually make their way to the vessels within the lungs. Here, at about 6 months after the mosquito bite, they are able to reproduce microscopic larvae, called “microfilaria.” 1 The microfilaria, since so small, are able to travel through the heart and through the blood stream. The microfilariae are always present in the blood once adult worms are mature enough to reproduce. They will continue to be present as long as the worms are still reproducing.5 The immature worms that reside in the smaller blood vessels cause inflammation and thickening of the blood vessel walls. As these worms grow, they are unable to fit through the smaller vessels and are forced into the larger vessels, which are the main arteries in the dog’s lungs. This is where complications can arise, and where dogs can start showing symptoms.

Signs: What do I look for?

Symptoms and signs of heartworm in dogs can vary in severity. In the early stages of heartworm infection, dogs may show minimal to no symptoms at all. As the infection progresses, the symptoms typically become more severe and non-specific. Dogs with preexisting health conditions or dogs who are heavily infected with worms are more likely to show symptoms.  Most commonly, dogs will develop a cough, reluctancy to exercise, loss of appetite, and increasing fatigue. As the disease continues to advance, dogs can develop fluid overload secondary to heart failure.5

How is heartworm infection diagnosed?

 Due to microfilaria taking approximately 6 months to manifest, heartworm testing is typically done at an annual exam by your vet. Unfortunately, this means that usually our rescues aren’t tested if they are under 1 year, and even if they are, they may not test positive until at least 6-8 months of age. This is unfortunate because dogs are often rescued from southern U.S.—where mosquitos and heartworm are more prevalent. Rescue dogs are occasionally given heartworm preventative medication, but this doesn’t mean they are guaranteed heartworm free.3 That said, it is our responsibility, as dog parents, to ensure our pets are tested appropriately.


Heartworm testing is done by blood sampling. The first test performed is typically testing for antigens. Antigens are proteins that are released into the dog’s bloodstream by female heartworms. These commercial tests are very specific, but the accuracy of this test is based on how many female worms are present within the dog’s body. The rapid, in-clinic antigen testing that is performed can detect “46%-76.2% of patients infected with a single female worm, and 84%-100% of patients with 3 or more female worms.”2 This means that the more worms present, the more accurate the antigen test is. However, it is recommended that both antigen and microfilariae testing are performed to confirm the diagnosis. The microfilariae can also be detected via blood sampling.

But why exercise restriction?

Personally, when I first heard the term ‘exercise restriction’ I was crushed. Immediately, I began to think about our usual long hikes and lengthy play dates were going to be a thing of the past. More importantly, I began thinking about how we were possibly going to burn all that pent-up energy. As I explored treatment options, I learned this doesn’t have to be the case. Instead, we chose a treatment option that allows for monitored exercise—so maybe we’ll just skip the weighted pack on our walks.


There are multiple treatment options available for heartworm infection, and it is important to weigh these options with your vet. The protocol is decided based on the severity of the disease, whether the dog has a pre-existing condition, and cost for pet parents. Heartworm treatment can be expensive and both mentally and physically taxing on you and your dog. It is recommended by the American Heartworm Society (AHS) to begin restricting exercise once the diagnosis is confirmed, regardless of which protocol is followed. However, not all veterinarians may recommend exercise restriction—this is based on the treatment option, your pet’s individual situation and health status. It is important to consult with your vet about what they think is best.


When exercise restriction is recommended, it is because it may increase the rate at which the heartworms damage the heart and lung tissue. The AHS makes a blanket strict exercise restriction recommendation that means no short walks, full crate rest during treatment, and leashed potty breaks. That said, AHS also states, “the more severe the symptoms, the less activity your dog should have.”1 In other words, a heartworm diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean your dog must live in a crate for the duration of treatment.

Heartworm Treatment: The traditional ways

Upon a heartworm diagnosis, it is important to confirm your dog is in tip-top shape before beginning treatment. Usually, initial bloodwork will be performed which includes assessing the dog’s immune system, electrolytes, and liver function. Basically, baseline lab values are checked to ensure the dog can handle whatever treatment prescribed.


There are two types of traditional treatments—a series of injections or the use of a topical medication. The injection, although costly, is highly recommended as it has a 95% success rate, according to the American Heartworm Society. The medication, called Melarsomine, “is an arsenic-containing drug that is FDA-approved to kill adult heartworms in dogs.”4 This medication is injected into the deep tissue of a dog’s gluteal muscles, near their tail, on either side of their spine. The injection is often painful and can require pain medication and occasionally an overnight stay at the vet. The course is typically an injection, followed by 30 days of rest, another injection, then 24 hours later, the last injection. After the last injection, there is 4-8 weeks of continued exercise restriction, prior to being retested to see if the pup is still heartworm positive. Alongside the injections, an antibiotic (doxycycline) and a steroid (prednisone) are administered. Sounds exhausting on the body, right?


The other treatment option is known as “the slow kill” method. This is frequently the treatment of choice for shelters due to its price point. This option is less expensive than the injections—as the injections require frequent visits to the vet for check-ups. The slow-kill method uses a heartworm preventative medication over many months. This method also involves the use of doxycycline. This option is not highly recommended as it does not kill all life stages, it only prevents maturation of microfilariae.


Therefore, the most recommended traditional route, according to AHS, is the use of Melarsomine, in conjunction with an antibiotic and steroid, as prescribed by your vet. However, a potentially fatal complication of the use of the injections is the chance for blood vessel blockages. Said differently, as the treatment progresses the worms die and break up, they can block some of the various blood vessels and cause pulmonary emboli (blood clots in the lung). This is the reason AHS recommends strict exercise restriction and crate rest with this option.

Are ‘natural’ treatments an option?

My first thought as a pet parent— “Do I REALLY need to give our dog all these medications?” This was bothersome to me because, to us, Susie isn’t sick. She has plenty of energy, no coughing, and has a beautiful black coat. We wanted to find a way to kill the heartworms without compromising Susie’s loving (and sometimes annoying) personality. We didn’t want her to be in pain.


Like humans, a healthy diet generally supports a strong immune system and it’s important to consider this when choosing a traditional verses holistic treatment. As far as ‘natural’ treatments go, many have caught a bad name – and rightfully so. There are multiple blogs and opinions stating that one supplement is the magic bullet, but there is no science to support it. Obviously, there is no magic bullet – but there are alternative options to explore. Some include a combination of traditional and alternative treatments, and some may only include alternative options. In discussing the options with our veterinarians, we know that there is not a specific medication or protocol that all alternative practice veterinarians follow. That said, most have their preferences based on personal experience and most assert they can be successful with compliance, patience and supporting the immune system. Some examples include black walnut—said to expel and weaken worms, alongside the heart, circulatory, and immune supplementation.5


When our dog was diagnosed, we reached out to a vet who had plenty of experience treating dogs with heartworm. She had suggested a specific protocol for us to follow, which includes both traditional medications as well as supplementation that supports the immune system and heart. Our protocol also involves frequent check-ups—mostly to listen to heart and lung sounds to ensure the heartworms are not advancing.

Our best advice? Ask questions.

Questions like:

  1. What are all the options?
  2. What experience do you have with each of these options?
  3. Are there side effects I should be aware of?
  4. What health conditions does my pet have that can complicate treatment or outcome?
  5. How can I keep my pet comfortable?
  6. How and can we implement exercise?
  7. Are there ways I can help support my pet’s immune system?

These are just a few, but it is important to consider these, alongside the treatment options, with your family and your vet. Certain treatments may be beneficial for some dogs, but not other dogs. This depends on a workup that is performed—usually including bloodwork, x-rays, and other heart imaging. Regardless, just like with human health, obtaining a second opinion on treatment, and alternative options is never a bad idea! Believe it or not, most vets are happy to refer out for a second opinion – or offer one!

The MOST important question: WHY?

 Always ask why. Whether it be human medicine or animal medicine, it is important to know what (e.g. supplement, medication) you are giving and WHY. No one should take supplements, medicines, or any treatment without asking what they are for. It is also important to understand the side effects associated with the medications or supplements. If you take nothing else from this let it be the lesson: Never be afraid to ask questions.

Susie has started her treatment and is doing just fine! 🙂

[vc_single_image image=”4994″]*This article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to provide medical advice or replace the advice of a qualified veterinarian. If you think your pet has heartworm or any medical condition please seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian.

About the Author:

Michelle Yaglowski

Michelle is a Registered Nurse, holding her bachelor’s degree in Nursing with both Emergency and ICU experience. It goes without saying that she has incredible attention to detail, the ability to see past the obvious and a knack for research. Like many in this industry, she had a sick pet which developed her keen interest in animal nutrition, and her experience in human medicine and the ability to think critically serve her well in this space. Her quest for knowledge drives her to dive into topics that may be considered controversial, or that don’t have much research in animal nutrition. This allows her to provide a unique perspective to other pet owners which also encourages them to ask the tough questions and challenge the status quo. When she is not working in the hospital or researching and contributing to the NPP Journal she can be found spending time with her Dog Susie and cats Stout and Archer. If you have a topic or a question you would like an evidence-based research answer to you can email Michelle here.


  1. org. 2020. Heartworm Basics – American Heartworm Society. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 October 2020].
  2. Little S, Saleh M, Wohltjen M, Nagamori Y. Prime detection of Dirofilaria immitis: understanding the influence of blocked antigen on heartworm test performance. Parasites & Vectors. 2018;11(1):186. doi:1186/s13071-018-2736-5
  3. Managing Heartworm Disease in Shelter Animals | Today’s Veterinary Practice. Accessed October 13, 2020.
  4. Medicine C for V. Keep the Worms Out of Your Pet’s Heart! The Facts about Heartworm Disease. FDA. Published online July 29, 2020. Accessed October 13, 2020.
  5. Treating Heartworm Holistically – Whole Dog Journal. Accessed October 13, 2020.

Everything You Need to Know About Aflatoxin and Your Pet’s Food

Hundreds of thousands of pounds of pet food have been recalled for contamination with aflatoxin. Such recalls have been responsible for hundreds, and maybe thousands of pet deaths – and you may be wondering why such recalls keep happening. The truth is that recalls for contaminants like aflatoxin contamination are preventable. When pets become ill or die it is very frustrating for pet parents and anyone in the pet industry. Illness from aflatoxin is called aflatoxicosis. It can be hard to diagnose since signs associated with it are called ‘non-specific’. In other words, they are vague and can be the same for many diseases and conditions. So, what do you need to know as a pet owner? Let’s tackle the basics:

What are Aflatoxins?

Aflatoxins are a family of toxins that are produced by certain fungi (Aspergillus flavus and aspergillus parasiticus) that can be found on agricultural crops such as corn, rice, wheat, oats, peanuts, cottonseed, and tree nuts – just to name a few. Aflatoxins are abundant in warm and humid regions of the world and are actually allowed in both human and pet food at very low levels. The risk and level of contamination go up in certain environmental temperatures and moisture conditions.There are four different aflatoxins that are capable of contaminating foods: B1, B2, G1, and G2. The most worrisome aflatoxin is B1. B1 is referred to as ‘hepatotoxic’, meaning that it is toxic to the liver and can make pets very ill and lead to death. Often, aflatoxicosis is a result of an accumulative effect, meaning that it gets worse the more a contaminated pet food is consumed. This also means that contaminated foods may circulate in the market for weeks, and even months before the source is discovered and a recall can be announced.

In 2005 and 2012 there were multiple recalls of Aflatoxin contaminated pet food in the marketplace. As a result, several pets became extremely ill and many died from eating these foods. Two more recent incidents from Sunshine Mills (2020) and now Midwestern Pet Foods in 2021 have triggered large recalls due to deadly aflatoxin contamination.

What signs should I look for in my pet?

If you suspect your pet has consumed pet food contaminated with aflatoxin there are several signs you should watch for. Be sure to alert your veterinarian and seek medical attention for your pet should any of these signs develop.

Common Clinical Signs with Aflatoxicosis:

  • Lethargy (sluggishness, tiredness, lack of excitement)
  • Food Aversion or Anorexia (not wanting to eat)
  • Vomiting, or vomiting blood
  • Jaundice (yellow discoloration of the eyes, gums, or skin)
  • Diarrhea or Melena (dark bloody stool, sometimes looks like coffee grounds)

What will my veterinarian check for?

Your veterinarian or emergency clinic will likely run several tests to determine the health status of your pet. Often times, one of the clues for aflatoxicosis is in the results of liver function tests, which are part of a general blood chemistry panel. After running these tests results of elevated liver values (ALT-alanine transaminase and AST- aspartate transaminase) are often present. These are often in addition to increased total bilirubin concentrations, and prolonged prothrombin time (PPT).Often times pet owners report the pets having an aversion to their food around the time that these symptoms start to develop – so it’s important to tell your veterinarian about any behavioral, food intake, or energy changes. Sometimes small clues can help connect the dots to the bigger picture. When it comes to pet food, remember that unlike humans, pets eat the same diet continuously which means the toxins accumulate in their system quicker. This also means that the body may also have less time, or a lessened ability to detoxify itself in such situations.

How does Aflatoxin get in pet food – and how do I avoid it?

We know that corn is one of the most common culprits of aflatoxin contamination in pet food. This is also a reason that grain free pet foods have risen in popularity in recent years. Regardless of the type of pet food you feed, or the ingredients contained within it – aflatoxin contamination is still a potential risk and is not isolated to just corn. This means that pet food manufacturers should test all of their ingredients and final product to ensure aflatoxin and other contaminants are not a problem.Some manufacturers do not do this, and as a result, contaminated products end up in the marketplace. As a pet owner, you can call your pet food company or ask the store you purchase your pets’ food from if the manufacturer has adequate safety checks in place. The reality is that such safety checks are not required by law – but contamination with aflatoxin would trigger a recall. It would be in any manufacturer’s best interest to ensure they have safety checks in place.

Is there anything else I should know?

Keep in mind that all pets, and people, are different. This means that there are multiple factors that can influence a pet’s susceptibility to aflatoxicosis – or anything else. For example, genetics, age, hormonal status, nutritional status, exercise and other types of illness present can influence the severity of aflatoxicosis. In other words, pets may react differently even if they are eating the same food.

What do I do with my food if I think it may be recalled?

If you are feeding a currently recalled food, or if you suspect your pet may be exhibiting signs of aflatoxicosis:

  • Contact your veterinarian immediately
  • Save any remaining pet food you have
  • Save pet food packaging and take pictures to document date and lot codes
  • Bring the packaging and pet food to your veterinarian who can help you file a complaint with the FDA and send samples out for laboratory testing if needed

If you want to know more about the types of questions you should ask your pet food company you can click here.

About the Authors:

Morgan Hunt

Meet Morgan,  a Veterinary Assistant/Technician at Branford Veterinary Hospital and a Pet Problem Solver at NorthPoint Pets & Company! She is currently enrolled in a veterinary technician program at San Juan College and will one day be a Certified Technician. Her interests in the animal world are mainly behavior & nutrition.  She has a Pit Mix named Tyson and a Dalmatian named Pongo who keep her on her toes learning more and more every day.Nicole Cammack

Nicole is the founder & owner of award-winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut. She is also the Founder & CEO of Undogmatic Inc. Her undergraduate and graduate education includes biology, chemistry, business and nutrition. She has worked in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading international figures in the human and pet health industry. She regularly lectures at national conferences, including federal, state, and municipal K9 events. Her current research involves identifying pathogenic risk factors and transmission among raw fed pets through a comprehensive worldwide survey.

Recalled Pet Food: Aflatoxin

Must Read: Aflatoxin Pet Food Recalls

The recall of SportMix dog and cat foods may impact you even if you’re not feeding the food being recalled.


The FDA released an update which indicated the recall has expanded internationally. Further, based on the number of reported deaths and illnesses as of this date this is likely the largest documented aflatoxin recall within the pet industry.


The FDA released an update on the original recall announcement adding over 1,000 lots of pet food manufactured by Midwestern pet. Affected foods were made in their Oklahoma facility. More than seventy deaths have been reported with an additional 80+ pets ill.

This recall indicates there are some clear quality control issues within Midwestern Pet’s manufacturing operations. As foreshadowed in the original article below, it likely meant that they were not inbound testing their ingredients for safety and adequacy. Midwestern was likely not outbound testing their final product for safety and nutritional adequacy either. The recall expansion supports this and we can expect the number of reports of ill pets to increase, as well as further expansion of this recall.



Recently a recall of SportMix dog and cat foods due to ‘potentially fatal levels of aflatoxin’ was announced by the FDA & Midwestern Pet Foods. SportMix is manufactured by Midwestern Pet Foods who also makes well-known brands Earthborn, ProPac, Venture, Wholesomes, CanineX and most recently their ancient grain food Unrefined. The first FDA update indicated 28 dogs reported dead, and at least 8 more ill, with 70+ ill and 80+ dead as of the second announcement. It’s likely the FDA announcements will result in more reported cases.

If you are feeding SportMix, you can check the most recent FDA announcement for lot and date codes to see if your food has been recalled. If your pet is ill, be sure to contact your veterinarian right away. You can learn more about filing a Pet Food Complaint with the FDA here: Report A Complaint.

The recall was prompted when the Missouri Department of Agriculture tested multiple SportMix products which contained very high levels of aflatoxin. Currently, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the FDA are investigating the incident to determine how and why the foods contained such high levels of aflatoxin.


What Is Aflatoxin?

Aflatoxin is produced by a mold Aspergillus flavus. Aflatoxin is dangerous at high levels, although low levels exist in common foods we and pets eat. These foods include nuts and grains (including ancient grains!) such as peanuts, and corn. In pet food, the most common culprit is corn, however numerous recalls have been announced over the years for a variety of human and pet products.

The FDA states that pets are more at risk of aflatoxin poisoning because they do not eat a varied diet like humans do. In other words, the cumulative effect of eating food with already high levels of aflatoxin makes the situation worse.


What symptoms should I look for?

The FDA States:

Pets with aflatoxin poisoning may experience symptoms such as sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice (yellowish tint to the eyes, gums or skin due to liver damage), and/or diarrhea. In some cases, this toxicity can cause long-term liver issues and/or death. Some pets suffer liver damage without showing any symptoms. Pet owners whose pets have been eating the recalled products should contact their veterinarians, especially if they are showing signs of illness.


Why this recall should concern you:

Aflatoxin at dangerously high levels in pet food is preventable from a manufacturing standpoint. If a manufacturer is testing their inbound ingredients and outbound testing their final product, dangerously high levels of aflatoxin should never make it to the marketplace. The fact that it has been found in 9 different lots of pet food is concerning and raises several questions:

  • Was Midwestern inbound testing their raw ingredients to ensure that they were safe? In this case, it is likely that the ingredient containing the aflatoxin was corn.
    • Note: The past year there were agricultural reports indicating high levels of aflatoxin in some crops, meaning that if Midwestern was purchasing from these regions they should have been testing for aflatoxin, and other contaminants more frequently.
  • Was Midwestern outbound testing their final products to ensure that they were safe and nutritionally adequate?
  • What types of quality control does Midwestern have in place to prevent problems like this from occurring?
  • What steps does Midwestern take to clean machinery and storage containers in an effort to prevent cross contamination to other products made in the same facility?
  • What other products were made in this facility during and after the recalled product was made?
  • Does Midwestern hold a sample of each lot of food produced so that it may be tested if issues arise such as this?


Another Lesson?

The recall of SportMix dog and cat foods is another lesson to both retailers and pet owners that it is important to ask questions of the brand of food you feed your pets. You can learn more about those questions here. I am well aware of many who think that I’m being unreasonable when asking the questions I ask, or pushing for changes in regard to food safety and nutrition adequacy testing – but the reason why I do it is because things like this are PREVENTABLE. Sure, implementing nutritional adequacy testing is inconvienent if you’re a manufacturer – but it’s worse when pets get sick or die because you didn’t implement that testing.  As a retailer it’s inconvenient to have to constantly reach out to pet food companies – but it’s worse when a pet experiences a problem because I didn’t do my homework. It’s clear that many companies do not check all the boxes, but I can do my best to support companies that are doing their best to improve. I can also educate my clients and customers on who does and does not have certain safety/nutritional adequacy measures in place. I can also tell them who refuses to answer questions!

Simply said, knowing what quality control measures a manufacturer has or does not have can make a world of difference. While we don’t know if this recall will be expanded to other lots, or even brands – it is not out of the realm of possibility. For example, if Midwestern truly did have one batch of a contaminated ingredient such as corn, and does have proper quality control measures in place (e.g. proper cleaning of machinery and storage containers to prevent cross contamination) then other products may not be affected. If they do not have adequate measures in place (or failed to follow them) it is possible other products will be affected.

In either case, the question still remains: how did the contaminated food end up in the marketplace to begin with? Was it because they were not inbound testing raw ingredients, or outbound testing the final product or both?  We’ll have to wait and see.[vc_single_image image=”4225″ img_size=”large”]Original Recalled Products: Date accessed: 11 January 2021[vc_single_image image=”4226″ img_size=”large”]Second Recall (January 11, 2021) Date accessed: 11 January 2021[vc_single_image image=”4227″ img_size=”large”]Date code example: Date accessed 11 January 2021 the Author

Nicole is the founder & owner of award winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut. She is also the Founder & CEO of Undogmatic Inc. Her undergraduate and graduate education includes biology, chemistry, business and nutrition. She has worked in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading international figures in the human and pet health industry. She regularly lectures at national conferences, including federal, state, and municipal K9 events. Her current research involves identifying pathogenic risk factors and transmission among raw fed pets through a comprehensive worldwide survey.

Why You Can’t Rely on the Guaranteed Analysis of Pet Food

Pet owners, veterinarians and retailers often rely on the guaranteed analysis (GA) of pet foods to help determine if the food provides adequate nutrition and to assess quality. Is this a good way to evaluate foods? The GA provides percentages – but does it tell us anything about the grams of protein, fat or other amount of other nutrients like calcium?

The short answer is no. The long answer is more concerning because the percentages listed on the GA are listed in terms of minimums and maximum which really just means that the GA provides an estimate of 4 main nutrients – protein, fat, moisture and crude fiber (not total fiber) which is misleading at best. It doesn’t even tell you the amount of animal or plant-based protein. In fact, a carefully crafted GA can make some of the worst pet foods look better than they are and be used as a tool to charge a high price tag despite low quality. Some GA’s will provide more information, but those values are usually optional and equally deceptive.

So how are pet owners and others supposed to evaluate pet food if the GA doesn’t provide the whole picture? The answer is: as a consumer or pet food retailer you have to ask questions.

But first, a little bit of background:

We’ve established that the GA doesn’t tell you anything about the actual content of the food, but why is that? For example, looking at the GA of ‘Kibble A’ stating 24% protein and ‘Canned Food B’ stating 8.5% protein (table 1) – which food has a higher protein per serving? If you take the time to either do the nutrition math or contact the company for answers you’ll find that kibble A has 6.64 grams of protein per 100 calories and Canned Food B has 6.78 grams of protein per 100 calories (table 2).

Are you surprised to learn that the wet food has higher protein despite the large difference in percentage in protein? So are most pet owners, retailers and even some veterinarians. This is why advice to feed foods under or over a certain fat and protein percentage is severely flawed. It becomes even more problematic if you contact the company only to determine that they are unable to provide you with a full nutrient analysis of their food which would more accurately describe protein, fat and carbohydrate levels, but also vitamins and minerals.

Guaranteed Analysis Kibble A Canned Food B
Crude Protein % 24% Min. 8.5% Min.
Crude Fat % 14% Min. 5.5% Min.
Crude Fiber % 5% Max. 1.5% Max.
Moisture % 10% Max. 78% Max.
Calories/Cup 378 451

Table 1

Nutrients in Grams

(per 100 calories)

Kibble A Canned Food B
Crude Protein 6.62 grams 6.78 grams
Crude Fat 3.86 grams 4.39 grams
Crude Fiber 1.38 grams 1.2 grams

Table 2

Looking at these tables you’ll see that even though the canned food has a lower percentage of protein and fat, it is higher in grams of protein and fat per 100/calories.

For crude fiber, this is percentage is not representative of the total fiber within the diet. In fact, this is a small portion of the total dietary fiber. Don’t believe me? A 2019 FDA report shows that Total Dietary Fiber (TDF) can be as much as 3-4 times higher than the crude fiber listed on the GA. So is crude fiber on the GA misleading? You bet!

What about the minimums (min.) and maximums (max.) listed on food labels?

Even more confusing is that you’ll often see ‘min’ or ‘max’ following protein, fat, fiber or moisture – meaning that the value could be higher or lower than the number you actually see. This number could actually vary quite a bit, which also means that the calorie content of said food could also vary widely from what is listed on the label. This also means that our example above is also a guestimate – at best. This is why asking for the ‘typical nutrient analysis’ is so important!


Understanding Moistures Role in Pet Food

To put this into context, you may have heard that protein should be below a certain percent value for growing puppies, for pets with kidney disease or for some dogs with behavioral issues. Or, you may have been told to find a food with a low percentage of fat for pets with pancreatitis or liver disease. The fact is that the percentage of protein or fat tells you nothing about the actual grams of protein that is within the food. Remember when I said that a canned food with 8.5% protein can have more protein than a dry food with 24%? This is simply because the water content makes canned foods appear lower in protein, fat or other nutrients because water makes up a greater proportion of the food. Canned foods can be comprised of 70-80% moisture where dry foods typically sit around 10%. Said differently, if you adjust the moisture level of any pet food you can shift the percentages of protein, fat and fiber significantly while the grams of those nutrients stay the same.


A Bit About Protein

The percentage of protein or the grams of protein still does not tell you if the protein is able to be used by your pet. There are two distinct types of protein: plant, and animal. Proteins are made up of amino acids, think of these as building blocks. Amino acids are used for countless processes within the body and are necessary for life. They can be broken down into two main categories: essential and non-essential.

The body is able to make non-essential amino acids itself, but it MUST obtain essential amino acids from the diet. Plant-based foods typically lack or have inadequate levels of essential amino acids and therefore simply replacing animal protein with plant-based protein is not an even trade. Given the cost of animal protein, pet food companies will commonly formulate foods with higher plant-based levels of protein and supplement essential amino acids either with complementary animal sources or with the addition of a supplement. This is one of the reasons why poorly formulated plant-based diets (especially with a lack of testing) for cats and dogs could be so detrimental. Therefore, if a pet food doesn’t have adequate levels of essential amino acids then it can lead to deficiencies and serious health problems. Additionally, some non-essential amino acids may become conditionally-essential in the case of certain diseases – an example would be taurine in dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

Label Update

What the above example shows is that the nutrition label is in need of a serious update. We now see that the GA based on percentages is a flawed model leading to a lot of misconceptions which are arguably detrimental to the pet. The GA also allows pet food companies to engage in deceptive marketing practices. A better option would be to present nutrition information in grams and milligrams for easy comparison – similar to the format of Table 2. Better yet, if companies made a full nutrition analysis (such as amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals) of their food readily available (e.g. on the company website) for consumers and veterinarians then the public would be better able to make educated decisions for their pet’s needs.

Owners, veterinarians and retailers need to ask all manufacturers for detailed information regarding the nutrient content of their formulas as well as the digestibility of the nutrients contained within it. Without evaluating these two factors there is no true way to know what the quality of the food is, regardless of how pretty the packaging is, how good the claims sound or what the company tells you. Proprietary is not an excuse for not providing these numbers either since anyone can send out a food for nutrient analysis and digestibility testing. While these conversations take time for all parties, they are necessary in order to improve the pet industry. Pets are ultimately paying the price of untested pet food we we’ve seen in the Hill’s Vitamin D recalls, aflatoxin recalls and the DCM scare. The point is that if companies were doing their due diligence, testing these foods appropriately, each of these incidents could have been prevented.


In summary, the GA only provides scant information at best, as it supplies the estimated percentage (proportion of the food) of protein, fat, moisture and insoluble fiber. And as we learned above – it does not quantify the grams of protein, fat or carbohydrates in the food – or provide insight into the levels of vitamins or minerals. Pet food companies should be conducting full nutrient analysis of all of their formulas in order to ensure their food meets minimum nutrient requirements for the pet, but also to provide you with detailed to nutritional information so that you can make educated decisions based on your pet’s individual needs. 

About the Author:

Nicole is the founder & owner of award winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut. She is also the Founder & CEO of Undogmatic Inc. Her undergraduate and graduate education includes biology, chemistry, business and nutrition. She has worked in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading international figures in the human and pet health industry. She regularly lectures at national conferences, including federal, state, and municipal K9 events. Her current research involves identifying pathogenic risk factors and transmission among raw fed pets through a comprehensive worldwide survey.

FDA Finds No Evidence that Grain-Free Diets Are Causing Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Evidence shows that risk factors for DCM is multi-faceted and is not related to a grain-free diet.



Since 2018, Canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) has been a hot topic in the pet food industry, the veterinary community, the press and among pet owners. Although some veterinarians hypothesized there may be a potential association, there has never been a proven direct link (i.e., cause and effect) to grain-free foods (both over the counter or therapeutic) causing DCM in dogs including the FDA investigation. Unfortunately, the FDA’s original request was for cases involving grain-free pet food only, and that is what people keep sending in (which has resulted in a biased and polluted data pool). Perhaps if the FDA asked veterinarians and the public to send in all cases, regardless of diet, we may have seen something else, like the whole picture or a specific nutrient or lack thereof could be the issue.



In late September 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) quietly issued an update on the grain-free pet food and canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) investigation that was a far cry from – and far less publicized than – the initial FDA reports and updates back in 2018 and 2019. In other words, the FDA walked back their initial reports implying a causation between grain-free foods and DCM. Unfortunately, this did not make the headlines.

Since the initial reports, Vet-LIRN (the veterinary laboratory network that FDA partnered with for the investigation) closely examined a subset of approximately 150 dogs diagnosed with DCM to identify potential causative and recovery factors. The results show that DCM is indeed a multifactorial issue with potential variables including, but not limited to, breed, age, weight, gastrointestinal disease, atopy, infection (Lyme and Chagas disease) and more. These results are not surprising. Recently, McCauley et al (2020) reviewed over 150 studies which found no cause-and-effect link of grain-free food to DCM (see figure below). In fact, their review found similar variables related to DCM like infections and concurrent diseases.

Dr. Steven Solomon, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, acknowledged that the “complex scientific messaging” on DCM and diet has contributed to misinterpretation about the safety of a grain-free diet. Dr. Solomon encouraged dog owners to select the diet that works best for their pet’s nutritional needs and previewed more multidisciplinary, scientific collaboration between the industry, veterinarians, scientists, and other researchers that will further the understanding of DCM.

Solomon also acknowledged:

“This is one of our ongoing struggles: choosing terminology that is scientifically accurate, understandable to pet owners and that does not cast a shadow over products that are otherwise known to be healthful and safe. I appreciate the fact that FDA’s voice is the voice veterinarians and pet owners listen to, yet too often our messages have been repeated inaccurately by third parties. The result is that in the internet age of phenomenally fast sound bites, complex scientific messaging is often lost in translation. We have tried to be careful in our messaging, and we recognize going forward not to speak on this topic publicly unless we are clarifying information or have something substantive to share.”

In addition to acknowledging the lack of connection of grain-free foods with DCM and the miscommunication because of oversimplified sound bites, the FDA provided and a new Question and Answer page on November 3rd which reinforced that grain-free diets were not inherently dangerous and that there has been no link between DCM and grain-free diets established. The FDA still recognizes the incidence of DCM and will continue their investigation into non-hereditary factors to better understand the disease. The FDA also acknowledges that they have received reports of non-hereditary DCM associated with BOTH grain-free and grain-containing diets (Q&A #8).



If your veterinarian wants to convert you from your current food to their recommended food, it is important to discuss the science behind the “why?”. In fact, the field of nutrition is evolving and advancing, and consumers and veterinarians can benefit from these conversations and by asking questions that help evaluate true quality of pet foods. The truth is that much of the information available for ALL pet foods revolves around marketing rather than nutrient inclusion and availability, but the good news is that you can help change that. Asking the following questions about the food(s) veterinarians recommend and all pet foods in the marketplace can help raise standards and encourage knowledge sharing based on science rather than marketing:

  1. Who formulated the food you are recommending in the marketplace?
  2. Do they perform 3rd party nutrient analysis, and do you have a copy of the data?
  3. Do they perform 3rd party digestibility studies, and do you have a copy of the results?
  4. Does their manufacturing facility (owned or not) have a third certification for quality control and food safety?
  5. Where do the calories in their food come from?

Asking the veterinarian these key questions, will challenge them to think differently about the food they are recommending and come to the realization that the foods they are recommending may be missing this key critical information. Knowing the answers to these questions will enable you to have an open dialogue and make a more informed decision for your pet. This is no different than human medicine. Keep in mind the DCM debacle was started by lack of information tied to nutrient content and availability of the nutrients. Therefore, asking questions #2 and #3 are critical when choosing the right food for your pet. Additionally, when veterinarians started recommending and moving people to Hill’s, likely they were embarrassed, angry and lost credibility with their clients following one of largest recalls in history tied to Vitamin D toxicity which killed and sickened hundreds of pets (question #4).



DCM is not caused by grain-free foods, regardless what a news headline says – as the data does not support this statement. Rather than blaming an ingredient or set of ingredients for any health concern we should instead be focusing on the nutrient analysis and digestibility of all foods in the marketplace to prevent future problems (including grains and ancient grains). For many of us that have studied nutrition, we know that the nutrient content and availability of those nutrients can be significantly impacted by processing conditions.

Using these questions when choosing a food for your pet you should be able to get answers from the manufacturer or from the veterinarian recommending that food. This will enable both of you to have an open discussion about the nutrition of your pet and more importantly help you become an advocate for what you feed your pet. As always if your pet has any health-related issues you should seek veterinary medical advice immediately.



Dr. Solomon’s Full Statement

Questions and Answers: FDA’s Work on Potential Causes of Non-Hereditary DCM in Dogs

DCM and grain-free pet food: September 2020 FDA update

‘BEG’ pet food and DCM, part 2: Is veterinary bias at play?

‘BEG’ pet food does not equal DCM

McCauley et al. 2020: Review of canine dilated cardiomyopathy in the wake of diet-associated concerns

Weird science: Published pet food studies not always sound

WSAVA pet food recommendations: Useful or useless?

Pet Nutrition Alliance provides false sense of security


Evidence shows that risk factors for DCM is multi-faceted and is not related to a grain-free diet.

McCauley et al., 2020. Review of canine dilated cardiomyopathy in the wake of diet-associated concerns. Journal of Animal Science. 98, No. 6: 1-20




Ryan Yamka, PhD, MS, MBA, FACN, PAS, Dipl. ACAS is founder and an independent consultant with Luna Science and Nutrition, and co-Founder of Guardian Pet Food Company. He is board certified in companion animal nutrition by the American College of Animal Sciences and a fellow with the American College of Nutrition. Yamka calls on his extensive background in pet nutrition, and 20+ years developing, formulating and launching dog and cat foods as a senior executive with leading pet food companies. Yamka has received the 2020 Rogue Pet Science Pet Industry Disruptor Award, the 2019 Pet Age ICON Award and the 2011 ASAS Corbin Companion Animal Biology Award. Dr. Yamka writes a series of blogs Debunking Pet Food Myths and Misconceptions for Pet Food Industry and has been featured in numerous podcasts and seminars.

To learn more about Ryan, check his background credentials on LinkedIn (

Grain-Free Pet Food Diets | What to Know Before Switching

The benefit and necessity of grain-free pet food have come under scrutiny in recent years due to an FDA investigation due to a potential association with a canine heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). As a result of this potential association, many have been told there is no scientific evidence to support the use of grain-free foods in canines and felines, or that these foods do not provide any benefit over grain-inclusive foods. For the most part, grain-free refers to kibble, although some have also categorized various canned, freeze-dried, and raw diets under the ‘grain-free’ umbrella. But are these claims accurate? Let’s find out:


Grain-free foods don’t provide benefits?

The pet food industry’s switch to grain-free was not fueled by a problem with the grains themselves or grain allergies like most believe. The largest pet food recalls in history was due to melamine and cyanuric acid contamination of ingredients coming from China. The short version of the 2007 recall is that wheat gluten and rice protein were intentionally combined with melamine for its high nitrogen content. Higher amounts of nitrogen can cause the protein content of an ingredient to test higher than it actually is. Since cyanuric acid was present, and the combination of melamine and cyanuric acid is likely the reason the recall was so deadly – not the melamine on its own. This series of events fueled the consumer trend of wanting grain-free pet food.

Another major factor absent from the discussion on grain-free vs. grain inclusive diets for people – and pets – is the contamination of grains with herbicides, pesticides, mycotoxins, and fertilizers. This has become an increasingly large concern since the mid-’90s in both the human and animal food supply. Numerous peer-reviewed articles are detailing the disruption many of these agricultural contaminants have on normal gut bacteria function.1,2 In fact, available literature suggests that humans are becoming increasingly intolerant to grain and grain products for exactly these reasons (e.g. wheat & gluten sensitivity & celiac disease in humans). We are learning that disruption of vital gut bacteria balance can have devastating effects on the health of the host, including diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disease, cancers, GI issues, and even DCM.3–5 Could the contamination of grains in pet food be one reason why many pets experience improvement of various issues with the change from grain-inclusive to grain-free? Could be.

Ultimately the phrase ‘there is no evidence to support the use of grain-free foods’ doesn’t mean there is not a benefit. It simply means that we have a major gap in research into companion animal nutrition and that we easily forget our recent history. On the contrary, we don’t have evidence to support that feeding grains to canines or felines are any more healthful than feeding grain-free diets. Evidence only shows that it meets minimal (known) nutritional standards, not that pets thrive on these processed diets. In short, canine and feline nutrition fields are far behind the knowledge we have in livestock and human nutrition.


Are ALL grain-free foods the same?

Many veterinarians and pet owners automatically lump grain-free cans, fresh food, raw food, and freeze-dried products as ‘grain-free’. While this is technically correct – there are stark differences that make these foods different from their kibble counterparts.

Regardless of whether we are feeding grain-free or not, we need to consider the high temps kibble and canned foods are heated to during the manufacturing process. This high heat creates Maillard Reaction Products (MRP) which is the name for a series of reactions that is the product of sugar (carbohydrate) and protein when heated. These are also known as AGE’s or Advanced Glycation End Products.

MRP’s are responsible for the nutrient loss and associated with diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, loss of cognitive function, allergies, periodontal disease, and chronic inflammation.6–12 This can mean things like arthritis, skin, and ear issues, an old injury that keeps resurfacing, bloating, IBS, etc. Also, there is a large amount of research to suggest that they are carcinogenic and accelerate aging.13,14

  • Heterocyclic amines are MRPs from cooking protein that increases with elevated cooking temperature. This phenomenon is more pronounced in meat than fish – and these increase with temperature and dryness of meat or meat products15.
  • Acrylamides are a chemical that forms naturally from starchy foods during high-temperature cooking. According to the European Food Safety Authority evidence from animal studies shows that acrylamides are genotoxic and carcinogenic: they damage DNA and cause cancer. And since we know so little about animal nutrition is it possible that much of the disease we’re seeing – including DCM – has at least something to do with the MRP’s that are in dry and/or canned pet food? Is it a coincidence that freeze-dried, fresh, and raw options do not have as many associated issues as their processed counterparts? Maybe.


Allergic to Grains? Probably Not (sorry, not sorry)

Pet food can be made of everything from rendered unfit foods for human consumption to ingredients that are 100% organic and probably better than the food we feed ourselves. I’m not necessarily here to split hairs on ingredients and in the types of ingredients that are in our pet’s food. Because is it these ingredients that are causing the problem? Or is it something else? – These are the questions that the experts seem to avoid entirely. When a dog experiences issues related to food, we are quick as a society to turn over the bag and blame an ingredient or set of ingredients. However, those ingredients as listed are likely not the problem – rather the quality, processing agents, AGE’s and contamination of these ingredients (e.g. herbicides, pesticides, etc.); something you will never find listed on a label.


More Important: Nutrient Availability & Digestibility

The digestibility of food is altered as it is processed, mixed with other ingredients, and heated. That said, canned and kibble foods by definition will have varying levels of nutrient availability and digestibility than their lesser processed counterparts. The ingredients (or set of ingredients) that make up a food could be the most nutrient-dense food available – but if they are not digestible by the cat or dog then those ingredients are irrelevant. In short, this means that it is important to ask your pet food company for their digestibility and nutrient analysis to determine if their food is adequate for your pet. Learn more about what questions to ask and why here.


About the author: Nicole Cammack

Nicci is the owner of award-winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut. She is also the Founder & CEO of Undogmatic Inc. Her undergraduate and graduate education includes biology, chemistry, business, and nutrition. She has worked in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading international figures in the human and pet health industry. She regularly lectures at national conferences, including federal, state, and municipal K9 events. Her current research involves identifying pathogenic risk factors and transmission among raw fed pets through a comprehensive worldwide survey.




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