The FDA recently released a report linking grain-free dog food to a rare heart condition in dogs. Some people on Twitter have suggested the real problem is the pea protein in grain-free dog food.
Frankly, I doubt pea proteins are worse than grains for dogs. This is just another lousy observational study (if you can even call it a study) with a huge confounder, as I explain in the video below. The Save The Grains Campaign of course insists this proves dogs need grains – just like people! My dog Misha comments on that in the video a well. Transcript below.
Hello, I’m Tom Naughton, and this is the Fat Head Report.
Well, it looks like the save the grains campaign is expanding into new markets.
As we’ve seen before, the save the grains campaign is the grain industry’s ongoing PR effort to convince us if we don’t eat grains, we’ll get sick and die.
Since human beings didn’t eat grains for more than 99 percent of our time on earth, the idea that we need grains to be healthy is, of course, ridiculous.
But you know what’s even more ridiculous? The idea that our dogs need grains to be healthy too. But that’s what some scientists are trying to tell us.
According to the New York Times, the FDA has reported that 560 dogs have been diagnosed with a rare heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. And wouldn’t you know it, a high proportion of those dogs were fed grain-free dog food.
Well, if grain-free dog food is correlated with a rare heart condition, then these dogs must have developed heart disease because they didn’t eat grains, right?
No. Of course not. This is another example of why we shouldn’t jump to conclusions based on observational studies. Because there’s a perfectly logical explanation for this correlation.
People with high disposable incomes are much more likely to go to a vet and pay for an expensive test to find out Fido has a rare heart condition. Which is exactly what happened here. The heart condition was reported to the FDA by people who own the dogs.
People with high disposable incomes are also more likely to feed their dogs grain-free dog food. Because it’s expensive.
So when a rare heart condition is diagnosed in 560 dogs, out of 70 million dogs by the way, it’s no surprise that more of those dogs were eating expensive dog food.
And yet the perfectly logical explanation didn’t seem to occur to the expert the New York Times quoted for the article. He seems to think dogs actually need grains. And here’s his explanation:
“If they look at the dogs’ relatives in the wild, like coyotes, wolves and hyenas, they live on their prey. Those animals they prey on are typically herbivores, so they are ingesting grains anyway.”
First off, that’s like saying since I eat cows and the cows eat grass, I should just eat the grass myself and cut out the middleman. Or middle moo.
And second, it’s just not true. And here to explain is my own expert: my dog Misha, who’s almost eight years old, and his been living her entire life on a diet that consists mostly of raw meat. Misha, what about this idea that coyotes and wolves live on animals that eat grains?
Misha: I looked up what my relatives in the wild eat. They eat deer, bison, moose, elk, caribou and small animals like rabbits and rodents. Then I look up what those animals eat. They eat grass, twigs, roots, tree buds, flowers and insects. None of these yummy animals live on grains.
Now, as I’ve already explained, we don’t feed you any grains at all. What would you say is the biggest health problem you’ve experienced because of that diet?
Misha: Nothing. I feel great.
And so what would you say about this whole notion that dogs need grains to be healthy?
Misha: It’s a pile of dog poop.
Couldn’t have said it better myself.