Danger with Farmer's Dog sponsorship

Hey y'all,

I just wanted to reach out because I know you love your dogs as I love mine, so I ask that you please stop recommending and working with Farmer’s Dog. There has recently been a growing body of evidence that a lot of these newer boutique, grain-free dog foods are causing nutritionally mitigated DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy), also known as heart failure. It is not yet known what is in these foods that are causing DCM, but only that there is a correlation with BEG diets (boutique, exotic ingredients, grain-free). Dog food is already incredibly unregulated, but these newer dog foods are using ‘natural’ marketing fads to make it seem like their foods are safe when in reality they have no real evidence that they are. What is currently recommended is feeding grain inclusive dog foods that meet WSAVA guidelines as a safety precaution as the research continues, which Farmer’s Dog does not. Although they claim their food is formulated by nutritionists*, they do not perform feeding trials and do not meet WSAVA guidelines. The only feeding trials that they are preforming are on -your dogs-.  It’s been a struggle in the community to compile accurate numbers and cases of nmDCM in dogs and with particular dog food brands, because dogs generally appear fine and won’t present symptoms until it’s too late. There may be many people who's dogs passed away from DCM whose families don't know the cause, so it's believed that the number of cases is under reported. More and more dogs are getting ill and/or dying from nutritionally mitigated DCM, and if these dog food brands were actually more concerned about your dogs health and safety than their profits, they would pull their foods until they have scientific evidence that their foods are safe. This isn’t meant as a judgement, we all do what we think is best for our dogs. I’m not asking that you take my word for it, but please look into DCM and talk to your vet and/or consult with a nutritionist. Ending your sponsorship with Farmer’s Dog could potentially save lives.

*a qualified nutritionist is a phD animal nutritionist or a board certified veterinary nutritionist. Many brands will label a ‘nutritionist’ as someone with insufficient qualifications.  

A lot of questions (and defensiveness) can come up when people first start a conversation about nmDCM. Which I understand! I was there myself. But the reality is we all were doing what was best for our dog with the information we were given. I personally was feeding a food with a high number of DCM reports (earthborn holistic) because I was told I needed to feed grain-free and high protein. A lot of the marketing for these boutique dog foods is very smart, and they know how to target people who want safe, natural foods, and who might be skeptical of larger corporations. If they don't have the resources to manufacture a safe, researched dog food, then they need to go into another field, because it’s irresponsible, negligent, and in many cases fatal to continue working as they are. 

I, like a lot of folks, wanted to feed food that was 'natural' and healthy, so I made a great target for the kind of marketing these smaller companies employ (using words like ‘human grade’ and providing flashy ingredients lists, both of which have no real bearing on the actual nutrition of the food). There’s virtually no regulation with dog food, and these smaller companies obviously have very big competitors, so it makes sense that their marketing would depend on being ‘different’ and ‘more caring’ and ‘more natural’ than those competitors, even if they had no evidence that their foods are safe. Unfortunately the difference here feels more like trusting a doctor about your health versus a pharmaceutical company. They have drastically different incentives. 

In terms of foods that meet WSAVA guidelines, unfortunately right now the only companies that do are the ones that seem to have the financial resources to do so. So the big 4: Purina, Royan Canin, Eukanuba, and Iams. I'd love to be able to not buy from these larger companies, but as long as these boutique brands are not able to meet safety measures, it feels necessary to me. 

Feeding from the big 4 often scares people away from this conversation about DCM, which I get, but personally I’d rather be safe than sorry with my dog and feed a brand I know isn’t going to harm or potentially kill her. It's hard to know who trust when it comes to this stuff, and it's ultimately up to dog parents what level of risk they are comfortable with. For me personally, the only thing I know is the safest is foods that meet WSAVA guidelines, so that's what I'm comfortable with for the time being as research continues. I switched immediately to Purina Pro Plan after my vet recommended it and I did a little research, and did a follow up echocardiagram with a veterinary cardiologist that didn't find any signs of DCM (thankfully!). 

I'm not an expert, I'm just passing on information and research from experts. I don't want to say that all grain-inclusive foods that meet WSAVA guidelines will guarantee that your dog won't get nutritionally mitigated DCM, but right now research is showing those foods as the safest possible option. In terms of my own personal IRL experience, my regular vet, my holistic vet who often supports non-western approaches to veterinary medicine, and the veterinary cardiologist who performed the echo to look for signs of DCM all shared and supported my concerns about DCM and diet change.

If you want more information or have questions for a community of vets, nutritionists, cardiologists, pet parents, pet parents who have lost their pets there’s a facebook group called Taurine-Deficient (Nutritional) Dilated Cardiomyopathy. There are also a number of studies coming out from Tufts and UC Davis about this issue, as well as a recently issued report from the FDA. Also, lot of veterinary nutritionists do phone consultations also if you don't have a specialist in your area--they'd know more about DCM and what food is best for your needs than the average vet would.

Much love to you and your doggies <3
Arkansas and Ellie (Smelly)


In Defense of Grains


By products

Judging foods by ingredient lists


It’s not just grain-free

Most recent FDA article naming the dog food brands with the highest nmDCM cases reported to the FDA. Again, just because a food isn't listed doesn't necessarily mean it's safe, as there is a problem with under-reporting with nmDCM

WSAVA guidelines

WSAVA recommendations

Addressing the myth that dogs are wolves and should be fed the same diets

Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association commentary on DCM (thorough)

It may not just be taurine

Directory for finding vet cardiologist if you don’t live in an area where you can find one

Pet allergies: myth and realities about food allergies specifically with grain

Another source on judging a food by an ingredients list