While having a pet may not carry quite as much responsibility as having a human child, keeping them safe and healthy still involves doing a lot of research and making a lot of choices on a regular basis. Even the most basic decision you make for your furry friend—what to feed them every day— can be a nightmare.
One debate that’s raged on for years is whether grain-free food is better for dogs or if it will actually do more harm than good.
Veterinarian Andrew Woods made his stance clear in a series of videos about things he believes the pet food industry wants to keep secret.
“Over the past few years, the FDA started an investigation and is discovering a link between people feeding their dogs grain-free dog food and dogs developing dilated cardiomyopathy, a horrible heart condition where the heart valves get too big and they can’t pump blood effectively,” he told viewers.
Woods’ video is from the summer but sparked interest this week when Yahoo blogged it. These days, Woods is still explaining concerns around products like Seresto flea collars, which were recently linked to pet deaths.
The FDA’s investigation began back in 2018, after reports that dogs without a genetic predisposition to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) were developing the condition while eating certain brands of grain-free food.
According to Woods, cause for concern doesn’t end with grain-free dog food, either. In his video, he says that products that are considered “boutique” or “exotic” may also have some sort of link to this condition.
Pets are basically members of the family for many people, and nobody wants to accidentally feed their precious pups something that may accidentally make them really sick or lead to their deaths. So it’s no surprise that Woods’ TikTok was filled with concerned commenters.
“I’ve been feeding my dog grain free for 2 1/2 years,” @litebritetattoos wrote. “I’m literally having a panic attack.”
One TikTok user even alleged that feeding her dog grain-free food harmed her own dog, writing: “He had a murmur but then the food change totally sped up the process.”
But some people pushed back at his claims, suggesting that dog food giants that make cheaper, grain-filled foods fund studies that scare people away from buying competitors’ brands on purpose.
“Who sponsors the study/research? Who sponsors vet schools?” @oh0305 asked. “The big leading pet food companies which is why y’all push their horrible products.”
“Correlation does not equal causation,” another user pointed out.
The FDA has been unable to definitively link DCM in dogs to grain-free diets over several years of investigating the matter. As WSB-TV noted recently:
The FDA is looking closely at legumes like dried beans, chickpeas, lentils, and peas as a possible culprit.
“Legumes are in grain and grain-free diet. But there appear to be more legumes in grain-free diets,” said Dr. Andrew Empel the co-owner of Vernon Woods Animal Hospital and a veterinarian. “Unfortunately, they don’t contain taurine which is essential for heart health,” said Dr. Morgan.
The FDA has not requested any recalls and it is not taking any compliance or enforcement action. Instead, it’s asking for patience, time for more study.
The bad news is that there’s still a slew of contradictory information, hypotheses, and anecdotes when it comes to which foods are best for your dogs, and which ones might end up being dangerous.
If you are considering changing up what your dog eats, be prepared to do a lot more research than just watching a TikTok video—and you still may never come to a conclusion you’re completely satisfied with.
Or as @mystic.and.artisticc interpreted after taking in Woods’ video and the resulting discourse: “So what I’m reading in all these comments is that no dog food brand is good and that I should never get a dog.”
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