Hello Friends, well, after a long absence from this blog here’s a new entry out of the blue – I’m finding myself answering the same questions over and over on social media, so decided it would be quicker and more thorough to simply write a few lines here about the Purina scare, and hopefully add a voice of reason and balance to the (as usual) dreadfully polarized opinions from both Purina reps and kibble bashers.
Not to be flippant, this is a serious issue and as I’ve said repeatedly on my group and Page, absolutely needs further investigation. I expect most of my Readers have heard the allegations – that Purina dog foods, as well as a few other brands, are making dogs seriously ill and sometimes, these dogs are actually dying, with no veterinary explanation whatsoever – leaving owners to conclude the food is responsible.
What Do We Know So Far?
The issue began a few weeks ago, with numerous online allegations that dogs who were eating Purina Pro Plan became sick and even died, while the vet could not find any identifiable toxin, and many just said “This looks like poisoning”. Naturally, owners became alarmed and called for an investigation – with much social media outcry, the list of foods alleged to be “killing dogs” grew and expanded to include several more, including Hill’s, Royal Canin, Origen/Acana, Taste of the Wild and more.
To date, there has not been a single identifiable toxin related to the illnesses and deaths.
And yet, complaints continue to pour in. We have a real mystery going on, and it needs to be taken seriously. At this time there have been around 250 complaints regarding dogs (and some cats) getting sick (mostly digestive) after eating a Purina product.
What Holistic Influencers Claim
Primarily what I hear is, that this is a cover-up, Purina is garbage, KIBBLE is garbage, please don’t feed any kibble – but if you must, don’t use any from The List (which grows daily). Most owners are encouraged to feed a generic recipe developed by a prominent Vet Influencer or just make the switch to homemade – anything but kibble. I’m comfortable with that, am just concerned that the safe brands – brands not yet reported to have killed or sickened anyone – will soon be on the list.
What the Company is Saying
Purina categorically denies that ANYTHING is wrong with their products at all.
“There is absolutely no data showing us that there is a pattern of problems with any Purina product. Purina has a comprehensive quality and safety program in place that is designed to catch any potential issues long before a product would ever make it to a pet owner.”– Lorie Westhoff, spokesperson for Purina, a Nestlé-owned company
“Across our factory network, we conduct more than 100,000 quality checks DAILY — from testing as ingredients come in, throughout the production process, and finished product,” she added, noting that this information will soon be on Purina’s website in an updated statement.
What Independent Findings Show
Some holistic vets have had independent tests run, and the last one I saw – released yesterday – showed nothing. Heavy metals not elevated…pathogenic bacteria not detected….no melamine….no aflatoxin… To date, no tests have been run on any of the suspected foods, and no super high selenium or Vitamin D showed any actionable level of ANYTHING usually linked to toxicity.
…which doesn’t mean there IS nothing, simply that standard tests have not shown us anything.
I like to bear in mind the relatively small sample of reported illness, alongside the lack of any evidence yet, to help keep everyone calm.
Kibble is never ideal, but 90% of dog owners still feed it. Many Influencers are conflating the specific reports about the Purina Pro Plan with a larger dislike of kibble, period. It’s a bit of a stretch…IMO.
I would avoid hysteria, consider all the facts, and if possible switch to home-prepared (raw or cooked) if not permanently, then till this issue is sorted.
One last word – it’s been my consistent experience that no matter how clear you aim to be, someone is going to misunderstand you – often with an agenda to do so but other times, not. I am not, at all, anywhere in this blog entry, saying that I support feeding Purina (I don’t and I never have) nor am I denying there seems to be something going on – simply that we don’t have facts yet, so let’s address this issue as objectively as possible.
Some things you can do include:
- Switching from Purina to a brand that has not been implicated – Open Farm, for example (which is what I am personally feeding for the 25% of Gabriel’s food that is commercial) – AND, are also well formulated, AAFCO compliant, established products.
- Wherever possible, make your own, but as always don’t “just do it” – make sure your homemade recipes are balanced and appropriate for your dog.
- Be extra vigilant about checking stool, and if your dog refuses his usual food, LISTEN to HIM!
- Don’t doctor food to encourage eating, with many unanswered questions right now, if your dog suddenly refuses kibble (and by that I mean any kind) get another brand or start home feeding.
- The ideal way to do this is to purchase a balanced recipe from a nutritionist. I’ll be adding a Professional Directory here and at my group over the next few days, too – people whose work I know and will endorse 100%.
- I’ll take 15% off my own Proactive and 25% off Therapeutic, Herb, and Nutrition protocols for anyone whose dog has been ill after eating one of the foods.
And if professional help is not an option, a few basic points to remember when trying to DIY.
- Start with calories, not the amount of food.
There are two methods to ascertaining caloric range, one is detailed here: https://thepossiblecanine.com/calculating-energy-needs-guest-post, and the simplest is to use a Calculator Tool, but it is very simple to calculate as Ellyn describes in her Guest Post above.
- Don’t just eliminate carbs.
If you are putting together a recipe or using a generic one you found online, think about 15-20% carbs. Any recipe you decide to use should provide caloric content, and the breakdown of fat, protein, and carbs.
- Don’t take this on for a puppy.
Many professionals, myself included, can formulate growth recipes and monitor your little one’s growth rate/intake through that critical first year.
- Keep organ meats in the recipe low.
They are very concentrated sources of various nutrients and too much will almost certainly go over the dietary requirements. Read more here: https://thepossiblecanine.com/all-about-liver
- Essential fatty acids for the dog won’t be supplied by coconut oil, olive oil, or fish oils.
You need poultry fat, or sunflower/safflower oil, to ensure the NECESSARY Omega 6 (linoleic acid) is met. I emphasize necessary because too many people believe all Omega 6 should be avoided – not so.
- Unless you are feeding nutritional bones like turkey necks, you always need to add calcium.
To find your dog’s daily requirement for calcium (yes it is higher than yours), the formula is Body Weight to the power of 0.75 x 130. Or more fully explained here: https://thepossiblecanine.com/a-few-words-on-calcium-and-supplements-in-general
- Main proteins are not interchangeable – be wary of any recipe that says you can use “turkey, beef, or fish” as the main protein.
Look up the nutrient content of these foods – even how much it differs from dark to light meat, salmon to cod etc., – and you will see that proteins all have varying levels of vitamins and minerals and should not be just swapped out willy-nilly.
- Vegetables are great to feed, but don’t over-rely on them for the essentials.
Iron from spinach is nowhere near as bioavailable as iron from chicken liver. Additionally, many are high oxalate and should be restricted with dogs prone to calcium oxalate bladder stones, and never used if the dog has them already. Know your ingredients! Read more here: https://thepossiblecanine.com/veggies-dog
- Dogs can have different reactions to fiber – type and amount.
If you use some oatmeal in the recipe and your dog has loose stool, don’t just assume he “can’t tolerate grains”. Use less, and if that doesn’t help, replace with quinoa. Finding optimal fiber for a given dog is one of the most consistent frustrations I see with my students, but just because a dog has an issue with one source, doesn’t mean she will have trouble with all. If using a starchy carb, ALL have pros and cons, so start moderate, start with mostly insoluble fiber, and adjust as needed. I have several articles on carbs in the diet; this one may be useful: https://thepossiblecanine.com/carbs-part-two
- Check my article for the most common myths about home-feeding dogs – myths like “variety covers all needs” or “just add a multivitamin”.
One more link: https://thepossiblecanine.com/last-article-for-the-bark-myths-and-misperceptions-about-home-feeding
These suggestions are not intended to replace using a well-formulated home-made diet – raw or cooked – but to help those who are going to just plunge in without the help of a specialist. On my FB group we provide detailed info in our Getting Started Guide and will always be there to help with questions.
I’ll add more on the situation as new info comes in.