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FAQs

Food & Health

What is your nutritional philosophy? What guidelines do you follow?

We take an evidence-based approach to formulating diets. That includes referencing the standards established by other expert nutritionists that participate in the annual review process for the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Refereed journals and evaluations of new research are ongoing, and we discuss how the findings may change our guidance on optimal nutritional profiles.


Petaluma's lead formulator, Dr. Blake Hawley, also draws from his extensive personal experience formulating diets and evaluating test results. It is possible to derive a similar nutrient profile using millions of different combinations of ingredients, but ingredients may interact with each other in unforeseen ways. By tracking the performance of hundreds of formulas through digestibility, palatability, and nutritional testing, Dr. Hawley has developed deep insights into how different nutrient sources and ingredient combinations work together. We apply these learnings to produce an ingredient combination that achieves our desired nutritional profiles and delivers your dog optimal nutrition for a healthy life.


In addition, Dr. Hawley work with many pet food and treats companies to define the target canine consumers and tailor formulations to meet the unique nutritional requirements of that life stage and health condition. It is not possible to design a “one size fits all” diet that truly optimizes the nutritional requirements of all dogs.  We know your dog is special, so we want you to feed her that way.

Should I talk to my veterinarian before switching to Petaluma?

Proper nutrition is a pillar of health and your veterinarian should be aware of your dog’s diet on your next routine visit. We recommend that you consult with your veterinarian when making significant changes to your dog’s diet, as you would with other decisions that may influence your dog’s health.


The most important aspect is to transition your pet from one food to Petaluma over a 4-7 day period, slowly introducing Petaluma over that time period as you decrease the amount of old food. If your dog has known health issues and/or your veterinarian has recommended therapeutic dog food for a specific health condition, it is particularly critical that you discuss any intended changes to their diet in detail. Our first Petaluma recipe is not for every dog, and we do not recommend transitioning from a veterinarian-prescribed therapeutic diet without your veterinarian’s approval.

Is your food organic?

We support organic agriculture and the benefits it brings to the environment, farmworkers, and consumers by sourcing organic ingredients when feasible. Our adult dog formula contains over 50% organic-certified ingredients from farms and processors that engage in (and are audited for) organic farming practices. We will continue to add organic versions of ingredients to our recipe as we grow and exert more influence over the ingredient supply chain.


Our packaged food product is not certified organic because it is not made in an organic-certified facility and we have chosen to supplement it with a synthetic form of the amino acid taurine, which is not an exempt nutrient approved by the National Organic Program.


In light of the recent investigation into the heart condition dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and the possible link to taurine deficiency, we believe that offering a bio-available form of synthesized taurine in our diet is critical. The National Organic Program allows supplementation with many vitamins and minerals but has not added taurine to its approved list for adult dogs as the FDA’s animal feed organization continues to debates whether taurine is an essential supplement for adult dogs as it is for cats.

Is your food human-grade?

No, our dog food is not prepared in a facility that is certified for human consumption. The ‘human grade’ term in pet food marketing is not an official regulatory distinction but is often used for goods the FDA defines as “edible” for humans. This requires that all ingredients are handled in “food grade” certified facilities and storage containers across the entire supply chain.

Our food is not intended for human consumption (and it’s a bit bland for most human preferences) and is produced in a pet food bakery. Pet food facilities are subject to FDA and USDA safety regulations and inspected annually, but follow a different set of standards than commercial kitchens. We do not believe that the additional handling requirements established for human food production offer enough benefits for our plant-based and animal-free foods to justify the increased cost to our customers.

The biggest concern with “feed grade” dog food is usually the meat quality, and particularly the use of animal by-products that are deemed inherently unfit for human consumption (i.e. not just because they were handled in a facility that isn’t a certified commercial kitchen). This includes “4D” (dead, dying, diseased, or down
) livestock animals as well as other animals like horses and even euthanized dogs and cats, which can be mixed in with other animal parts, rendered into a soup-like substance, and dried into an ingredient that appears as “meat meal” or “meat by-product” on a pet food label. By avoiding animal ingredients entirely, we also eliminate the risks from some of the most unsavory parts of traditional pet food processing.

Can I mix Petaluma with wet or homemade food?

Feel free to mix Petaluma with any complete and balanced dog food without limitation. Petaluma can be a great base for any topper, and any portion of Petaluma improves your pup’s environmental pawprint and animal welfare impact. The main consideration is calories - make sure you are properly accounting for the mixture to avoid over-feeding your dog. Overweight dogs live 5-10% shorter on average than healthy weight dogs.


If you mix in table scraps or homemade food, we do not recommend exceeding 10% of the total caloric value. We’ve carefully planned this diet to achieve the right balance of nutrients, and diluting it with nutritionally unbalanced foods can result in nutritional deficiencies.

How is your food made?

Our food is baked for over 10 minutes in a convection oven. All ingredients are mixed into a dough, molded into small bites, and slowly travel through a 100+ ft. oven on a conveyor belt. They are allowed to cool and then filled and sealed into our bags. The production date is stamped onto the bag to ensure you know when your pup’s food was made.


This approach is significantly different from traditional pet food, which is rapidly pressure-cooked in an extruder. The high pressure - usually 400 - 600 psi (or ~40x our atmospheric pressure) - allows for faster cooking and more efficient production, but compromises some of the taste and nutritional quality. Extruded food is often sprayed with fat and flavoring powder after cooking to make up for the loss of flavor during steam-cooking.


Baked food preserves a lower glycemic index, reduces oxidation of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, and preserves the natural flavor and aroma of the ingredients. We are proud to smell and see the difference, and most pups love the roasted flavors.

Why are my pup’s poops larger after we switched to Petaluma? Is that normal?

As many human vegetarians will tell you, plant-based foods are rich in natural forms of fiber, whereas primarily animal-derived foods have very little fiber. There are two types of fiber that both provide benefits to your dog's digestion process as well as what passes through. 


The soluble fiber in Petaluma slows the digestive process through your pet's GI system, which actually improves the efficiency of nutrient absorption, creates firmer (and easier to pick up) stool by giving the intestines more time to absorb water, and feeds beneficial gut bacteria (your dog's microbiome).  


Petaluma's insoluble fiber increases the bulk of the stool, which prevents straining and helps dogs naturally clear their anal glands and alleviate painful (and very unpleasant) leaks. 

When you see slightly larger poops, you can know our food is working to make your dog even more healthy!

How digestible is your food?

The digestibility of our food has been validated through an in vitro digestibility test performed by a university laboratory. The test found that dogs digest ~80% of nutrients in our diet, including protein-specific digestibility of 80%. This digestibility result is similar to meat-inclusive formulas and provides peace of mind that dogs are able to derive more than enough protein and essential amino acids from our diet.


Digestibility is not a stand-alone metric of nutrient quality, but an important factor to consider when formulating a diet to ensure you are providing enough bio-available forms of every nutrient.


Factors like fiber levels can decrease protein digestibility, but that does not make diets with more fiber (like Petaluma) less healthy as long as the dog is still absorbing sufficient amounts of protein. In fact, the additional dietary fiber brings a number of important metabolic benefits. 

Plant-Based Nutrition

Can dogs safely eat a vegan or vegetarian diet?

Yes, as long as they are formulated to be nutritionally complete and supplemented to account for any gaps in typical plant-based ingredients. 


Dogs (and humans) require nutrients rather than specific ingredients. There are many possible ingredient combinations that provide a healthy nutrient profile, and there are no essential nutrients provided by meat and animal-derived products that can’t be replaced by a plant-, fungi-, or synthesized version.


Where do dogs get protein if they don’t eat meat?

Each cup of Petaluma has as much protein as a serving of steak.

Plants create most of the world’s protein, and an entirely plant-based ingredient list can provide more than enough protein to meet a dog’s nutritional needs. Diets designed for adult dogs without health issues should have 20-30% protein as a percentage of dry matter weight (i.e., if the food was fully dehydrated), or ~50-70 grams per 1000 kcal of food energy. For reference, 1000 kcal of chickpeas contains ~53 grams of protein and peanut butter is ~25% protein by dry matter weight.


Adding additional protein beyond a dog’s metabolic requirement is not healthier, as protein cannot be stored for later use. Excess protein is stripped of the amino acids, converted into energy (glycogen), and stored as fat tissue in the same way that energy from carbohydrates and fat is.


Amino acids are the fundamental ‘building blocks’ of proteins, and a dog’s diet also requires specific, “essential” amino acids that their bodies do not synthesize. Plants also create and provide all the essential amino acids in different ratios. We use a variety of plant-based protein sources in Petaluma, including brown rice, peas, chickpeas, and oats, to create a balanced amino acid profile that aligns with and complements a dog’s nutritional needs.

I thought dogs were carnivores. How can they eat a meatless diet?

This is a common misconception, partially due to the confusing similarity of language used to describe species classification terminology (taxonomy) and descriptors of an animal’s nutritional requirements.


The dog species (Canis familiaris) is classified as part of the taxonomical order Carnivora, which includes 280 species (all called carivorans vs. carnivores) that have a broad range of dietary preferences. The carnivorans includes animals with diets described as obligate carnivores like wolves and domestic cats, omnivores like raccoons, and even herbivores like the Giant Panda. So the giant panda is a carnivoran with a primarily herbivorous diet.

Dogs’ nutritional requirements are omnivorous, meaning they can eat and derive nutrients from both plants and animals, and their nutritional requirements can be met without the need for animal-derived products. 


The feeding behavior of free-ranging dogs is classified as omnivorous opportunistic scavenging as they spend more time scavenging for scraps of plant, animal, and insect foods in trash piles than hunting down prey (i.e. more like a raccoon than a wolf). This is also supported by dogs’ physiology, including their genetic adaptation to produce enzymes that digest carbohydrates more efficiently and the development of molar teeth that have a flat surface for grinding.


Safety & Quality

Who formulates your diet?

Our diet is formulated by Dr. Blake Hawley, a veterinarian who has spent over 25 years developing scientific diets and pharmaceutical delivery products for dogs and cats, including formulas for many veterinary-prescribed foods.


He received his doctorate in veterinary medicine from NC State University and conducted postdoctoral studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He has developed deep nutritional expertise while designing hundreds of unique canine diets.


Our formula and nutritional profile has also been reviewed by board-certified veterinary nutritionists that are accredited diplomats of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN).

Where is your food manufactured?

Our food is manufactured at a pet food bakery in Wisconsin. The facility has a long history of baking high-quality food and treats and bakes products for a number of pet food brands with decades-long safety records.

How do you test your products?

We are committed to testing protocols that treat dogs like family members rather than lab equipment. We do not perform any animal testing or contract other companies to test our products on animals. We also preferentially source ingredients from suppliers that do not test their products on animals.


Our expert-designed formulas are first validated with software to ensure the estimated nutritional profile meets the nutritional standards of the life stage the diet is intended for. We then produce a small batch of the food at the manufacturer and perform complete laboratory analysis to measure the levels of every essential nutrient. After we determine the diet meets our nutritional standards, we send food to over 50 beta testers who feed the diet to their companion dogs for at least 30 days and report back about how their dog liked the taste and how it is impacting their poops.


For tests that are harder to perform with volunteer companion dogs, such as digestibility testing, we partnered with a university laboratory that developed and validated a cutting-edge in vitro technique that accurately models the digestive system of a dog without the need for laboratory animals.


Most pet food companies test their diets using corporate- or laboratory-owned dogs living in shelter-like environments. While many company-owned kennels provide high standards of care, we believe dogs belong in homes and are happy to invest additional time and money to conduct more compassionate testing.

How are you addressing the FDA’s warning about heart disease (dilated cardiomyopathy / DCM) that may be linked to diet?

There are many unanswered questions about both the prevalence and the causes of diet-related DCM in dogs. However, we have formulated our food to proactively address the suspected risk factors. That includes providing most of our protein from plants that are not legumes, including grains (brown rice and whole oats) and yeast. We also supplement the food with the amino acids (i.e. protein building blocks) taurine and methionine from sources that are easily digestible by dogs. We conducted protein digestibility testing to ensure dogs can absorb the essential amino acids in the food. 


For context, the FDA announced a perceived increase in cases of DCM and a potential link to “grain-free” foods - specifically those that contained a high proportion of peas, lentils, and other legume seeds (pulses) and/or potatoes. In the FDA’s own words, the current data does not enable them to determine “whether or how these case reports are linked to diet” and “the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors.”


While there is significant debate about the underlying causes and the meaning of the case data, deficient levels of the amino acid taurine is a known cause of DCM. The causes of taurine deficiency are not well understood, as most dogs can synthesize their own taurine from other amino acids rather than relying on taurine in their food. However, taurine is involved in maintaining heart muscle and studies have shown that providing taurine-deficient dogs with supplemental taurine in their food alleviated the signs of DCM in many cases.


As a result, most veterinary nutritionists are recommending taurine supplementation in dog food,  as we have done with Petaluma. Methionine is an essential amino acid that is a precursor to taurine (i.e. it can be converted into taurine by the dog’s metabolism), and we have added additional methionine in an easily digestible form (DL-methionine) as an added precaution.


It’s important to note that DCM is a serious but rare condition that impacts <1% of dogs, and disproportionately impacts certain pure-breed dogs, including Doberman Pinchers, Great Danes, Boxers, and Cocker Spaniels, which suggests a significant genetic component. We will continue to monitor additional research findings closely as they are released and are applying cutting-edge knowledge to alleviate risks with Petaluma recipes.


Orders & Subscription

What if my dog doesn’t like Petaluma food?

While it might hurt the chef’s feelings, we understand that tastes differ. We offer a full refund on your first order of Petaluma if you or your dog aren’t satisfied for any reason. Just let us know within 30 days of your first order. No need to return the food - just dispose of it (compost is best!), donate it to another pup, or use it as a high-nitrogen fertilizer in your garden!

How do I cancel my subscription?

You can manage your subscription, including cancellation, within our customer portal. You can also email our support team at hello@feedpetaluma.com

1) Login to your Petaluma account and click your next order from the home tab


2) Click the box with your subscription details


2) Click the 'Cancel subscription' link at the bottom of the menu

4) Select the appropriate reason for cancellation and click 'Next'

I have too much food. How do I delay my next food shipment date or adjust my delivery schedule?

You can manage your subscription, including adjusting your subscription frequency or pushing back your next shipment date, within our customer portal.

DELAYING OR SKIPPING NEXT SHIPMENT

1) Login to your Petaluma account and click your next order from the home tab

2) Click the 'Order Date' box


3) Select the date you'd like your next order to ship and click "update next order date." If you'd like to skip the shipment entirely, click 'Skip this order." Your next scheduled shipment will continue without change. Note that it will take 2-4 days from the order date to arrive at your address. 


CHANGE SUBSCRIPTION FREQUENCY

1) Login to your Petaluma account and click your next order from the home tab


2) Click the box with your subscription details


2) Click the 'Order Frequency' box