In response to Catherine Ashe’s letter to the editor in the April 10 issue of Mountain Xpress [“Beware of Canine Diet Trend”], which is riddled with inaccuracies: I am the owner of Patton Avenue Pet Co. We have been serving tens of thousands of pets in the WNC area for the last eight years. I started my business after getting a degree in animal science from the University of Vermont, with a concentration in companion animals. I have a comprehensive background in companion animal nutrition, and I ensure that all my staff undergo extensive training on pet nutrition before consulting customers on diets. I do what I do because I care deeply about pets and their health; the insinuation that pet stores like mine are only in it for the money is incredibly insulting.
We offer a wide range of foods, including diets with and without grains, and including proteins ranging from chicken to kangaroo. All of the diets we sell are AAFCO [Association of American Feed Control Officials] approved, as are almost all commercially available pet foods; the presumption that we or any other local pet store would sell untested and unapproved diets is intentionally misleading and absolutely false. And, to our knowledge, only one of our thousands of customers’ pets has been diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, which is to be expected in a sample size this large.
DCM is a real issue. But, as the prior letter writer expressed, the cause is currently unknown. The FDA is investigating, and I, as a pet parent and lover of all dogs, am following all reports and studies closely. The initial report that blamed it on “BEG” diets (read: non-Purina or Hills brands) showed that 236 dogs had been diagnosed with possible diet-related DCM, out of a total of 22 million dogs in the United States being fed a grain-free diet. That is an occurrence of 0.001%.
Coincidentally, many of the articles that have been shared about DCM have been written by vets with a monetary connection to, or directly working for, Purina, which has lost a large amount of market share to these diets as consumers become more educated about proper pet nutrition. Meanwhile, the rates of canine cancer, diabetes and urinary issues have seen a huge rise in recent decades, but no fingers are pointed at high-carbohydrate diets that contribute to these issues.
We do not specifically advocate for grain-free foods but, rather, for high-meat content foods. These diets provide dogs, which descended from carnivores, with the nutrients that they thrive on. We promote these low-carbohydrate diets not because it’s a fad, but because dogs’ bodies are not designed to digest large amounts of carbohydrates. They lack the intestinal length, enzymes and other biological factors that make humans and other omnivores able to consume both meat and plant matter equally efficiently. In fact, if we were just in this industry for profit, there are a number of very popular, lower-quality brands that we could be selling for much higher margins, but we wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that we were doing a disservice to dogs.
— Jenna Yarosh Wilson