This article first appeared on petfoodindustry.com.
While 2021 remains unpredictable, these ten articles offer 2020 hindsight about what held pet food producers’ and suppliers’ attention in an unprecedented year.
Two acronyms, DCM and COVID-19, dominated the attention of the global pet food industry in 2020, as measured by the amount of reader attention to Petfood Industry news, feature articles, blogs and other reporting.
One top concern of dog food companies last year started in mid-2018, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration alerted the public about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients, which were more common in diets labeled as grain-free. In June 2020, Petfood Industry readers learned about a review of existing scientific research on dog nutrition and its relationship to DCM, published in the Journal of Animal Science. Then later last year, FDA released an update on their investigation, which consultant and entrepreneur Ryan Yamka, PhD, discussed in his Petfood Industry blog.
However, a more serious disease overshadowed DCM. Like pretty much everyone else, the COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions were a prime concern of Petfood Industry readers last year. As the pandemic began, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reported a few cases of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 infection in cats, dogs, tigers, mink and other animals. Most of these animals proved resistant to the disease and unlikely to become a common vector for spreading infections among humans.
“Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare,” according to the OIE Questions and Answers on the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). “There is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick… While there is no evidence of a COVID-19 infection spreading from one animal to another, keeping animals that test positive for COVID-19 away from unexposed animals should be considered best practice.”
The pandemic spared pets, but did affect the dog, cat and other pet food industries. Although supply chains were disrupted and some outbreaks occurred in pet food production facilities, for the most part the pandemic also spared pet food companies from the devastation caused in travel, entertainment and similar industries. Overall, a massive spike in sales accompanied the onset of the pandemic, as pet owners stocked up on pet food, especially large bags of kibble. After that spike, e-commerce saw strong growth in pet food sales.
The pandemic continues, compounded by civil unrest in the United States. While 2021 remains unpredictable, these ten articles offer hindsight on 2020 about what held pet food producers’ and suppliers’ attention in an unprecedented year. The articles are ranked by unique pageviews, a measure of how many times individual computers, and ostensibly individual humans, viewed a particular website page. Google Analytics provided the unique pageview data from Jan. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020.
Top 10 Petfood Industry articles 2020
March 19, 2020 – Tim Wall
Health officials analyzed oral and nasal swabs from the dog, a 2-year-old German Shepherd, and another dog from the same home in Pok Fu Lam, a residential district of Hong Kong.
June 18, 2020 – Tim Wall
More than 150 published studies didn’t reveal to researchers any firm connection between cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and grain-free dog food.
June 17, 2020 – Tim Wall (adapted from press release)
A group of veterinarians, veterinary cardiologists, and animal nutritionists from BSM Partners, a pet care research and consulting firm, published their first study on dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs.
March 16, 2020 – Tim Wall
As of March 16, no other dogs and no cats have appeared on the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) list of animal disease outbreaks worldwide.
January 30, 2020 -- Debbie Phillips-Donaldson
FDA is not planning any public updates on its DCM and grain-free pet food investigation, yet many questions and concerns remain for the industry and owners.
March 9, 2020 – Tim Wall
The World Organization for Animal Health published a report of the emerging disease, listing this case as the first in dogs.
October 30, 2020 – Ryan Yamka
FDA’s recent, very quiet update on its grain-free pet food-DCM investigation showed that, no surprise, it’s a complex issue that can’t be pinned to one cause.
April 7, 2020 – Tim Wall
Pet food industry analysts observed U.S. retail sales dramatically increase during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly of dry kibble, as pet owners changed buying habits to build stockpiles.
October 26, 2020 – Tim Wall
In April 2017, PetSmart acquired online pet food, treat and other product retailer Chewy, but the two companies will now split again.
March 18, 2020 –Debbie Phillips-Donaldson
The global coronavirus pandemic is affecting everyone, including our pets, pet food businesses and related industries. What are your experiences?