Categories: Small Dog Nutrition-Published On: January 15, 2024-

880 Words: 4 Minute Read; Pet guardians across social media outlets are asking “is dog food making my small dog sick?” Learn the details and what we’re doing in our house after reviewing the growing chatter.

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Or Are These Just Rumors?

Picture of alert terrier dog in arms of smiling female veterinarian

News outlets and the general public are just now catching up to a topic those in the dog world have been discussing for a while. This conversation centers around the following dog food brands

Acana

Hill’s

Instinct

Merrick

Organix

Orijen

Pure Balance

Purina

Royal Canin

Stella & Chewy’s

Taste of the Wild

Dog and Cat Pet Parents on Social Media

Is Your Dog Food Making Your Dog Sick? Insights on the Latest Chatter

Depressed looking Yorkie laying down and staring unhappily at his stainless steel bowl with kibble

Oftentimes, worries about pet food explode on social media into unfounded claims against good companies. Some TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram pages become bloated with uninformed or downright fraudulent claims, and the very well-meaning people who began those sites can’t sort through the avalanche of postings to determine the truth behind what’s posted.

I usually refrain from sharing dog food concerns due to the panic and misinformation that often accompany such news. But, I have two exceptions here: when a company issues a formal brand recall or I have a personal experience, such as related in my post on Vital Essentials Contaminated dog food.

However, my hesitation in fueling rumors doesn’t mean I’m not closely monitoring what’s happening in our dog food chain. What small dog guardians put in our pups’ bodies requires special vigilance. Our little dogs are especially at risk, because their size means anything they ingest can reach toxicity much more quickly than it would in large dogs.

In a way, they’re like the canary in the coal mine: they’re often the ones to experience harm first.

And so, when I saw the list of companies–and heard owners testifying to eerily similar symptoms after their pups ate these particular brands–well, I admit I became concerned. These incidents raise a vital question: is dog food making my dogs sick?

My worry arises for two reasons:

1. Phoebe and Scout Recently Dealt with Tummy Troubles

Photo of the top halves of two freeze-dried dog food brands: Stella & Chewy's and Instint

Right now, Phoebe and Scout eat two of the brands listed–Instinct and Stella & Chewy’s– several times a week. And in the past two weeks, Scouty experienced one terrible night of clear intestinal pain – she couldn’t sleep unless she was on my chest and I was rubbing her belly. She was in a world of hurt.

And then just three days ago, Phoebe suddenly refused to eat her evening meal (Stella & Chewy’s), and she, too, couldn’t get comfortable. She spent most of the night on her belly, legs spread out in front and behind, as if seeking tummy relief. At the time, I assumed (and could still be correct) that they’d enjoyed a rabbit poop buffet when I wasn’t looking. But now, I’m not sure. Considering the recent reports, I can’t help but wonder if the dog food is making my dogs sick.

2. The pattern of cross-brand problems points to a supply-chain issue

Those temporary bouts with GI upset don’t equate to the violent symptoms 729 pet owners report on the Facebook group SavingPetsOnePet@ATime: diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting, and some reports of death.

Purina responded with a press release denying any safety issues. In response to reports of illness across multiple brands, Purina claims some rumormongers on social media “may be trying to create chaos and distrust of certain brands as an opportunity to sell their own products.”

Exploring Possible Causes: Food Additives and Sourcing

In exploring these potential causes, we must confront a critical query: are some dog foods making our dogs sick? Purina and other companies may well be correct that these unusual and severe GI illnesses in dogs have nothing to do with their food. Presumably, they are correct.

But with the pattern across brands and the similarity of symptoms, it’s imperative the companies compare notes on their suppliers. Many companies use synthetic vitamins and preservatives they don’t manufacture themselves–and those brands often source them from the same manufacturers. What if, like the lead-tainted cinnamon recently found in three different applesauce brands, these dog foods contain a commonly sourced additive? Why can’t they (or the FDA) require the companies cooperate with an immediate independent review of their ingredients and sourcing? When the health of our canine family members is involved, it seems paramount.

What We’re Doing While We Wait

Havanese leaning down from upholstered chair to sniff bag of Small Batch Dog food

I reached out to several family members who, like I do, feed Stella & Chewy’s as part of their pups’ meal rotation. Unlike me, they’ve seen no potential red flags with upset stomachs or other GI issues.

So, they’re holding tight, feeding Stella, and continuing to monitor closely. That makes sense.

Me? Well, because the girls DID experience some symptoms, and because we rotate food all the time anyway, it’s not a big deal for me to omit Stella’s and Instinct from our rotation until I know more.

We love Small Batch, and we also began supplementing weeknight dinners with Raised Right, a frozen, fresh-cooked brand that comes highly recommended by several of my favorite experts.

Whether or not you continue to feed the foods on the social media list while we await more answers probably isn’t a dire decision. It’s about being aware and vigilantly watching for any signs of an issue.

Staying Informed: Updates on Dog Food Safety

Hopefully, this cluster of symptoms tied to dog food is simply a coincidence. Either way, I’ll update this post as I see significant news develop.  If you haven’t already, subscribe to my newsletter so you don’t miss a post. 

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