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DCM – Message From the President – July 2019

July 4, 2019

July 2019

To Our Valued Customers,

FirstMate Pet Foods has been in business for 30 years.  We have been producing quality pet foods since the beginning.  It was our intention, right from the start, to develop diets that were formulated for quality, health and safety. This is our mission statement.  We have maintained a business philosophy that is fundamental to achieving this goal, pets before profits.

First, we produced and tested through time diets that have proven to contain all of the elements of our mission statement.  FirstMate and Kasiks products are high quality, healthy and safe.

Second, we invested in our own production facilities in order to have complete control of what we create and produce for our customers.

Third, rather than producing faddish diets, we stayed and stood by our principles to create long lasting healthy formulations so that pets eating FirstMate pet food will have long and healthy lives.

Fourth, during the time when the market was attracted to fresh meat-first diets which often resulted in the dilution of the amount of animal sourced protein in the diet, FirstMate stayed and stood by our nutritional philosophy of using concentrated dehydrated animal protein sources such as chicken meal, fish meal and lamb meal. Formulating with dehydrated animal meals results in high levels of animal sourced proteins in the diet mitigating any risk of diet related DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) should there be conclusive findings of correlation of DCM to low levels of taurine.

Lastly, given the current concern with DCM and grain free diets, FirstMate is reassuring our customers that our continued use of dehydrated animal protein ingredients, as well as the historic inclusion of taurine, methionine and the inclusion of the co-factor choline, will provide all the nutritional requirements for a healthy and safe diet.

In closing, we will continue to provide healthy options to our pet parents and their pets.  We will follow our mission statement.  The tincture of time has proven that following basic, good and honest management and science-based practices is fundamental to bringing products to market.  FirstMate Pet Foods proudly stands by what we have produced and continue to produce for our customers.

Michael Florian
President & Founder

19 responses to “DCM – Message From the President – July 2019”

  1. Alison Nahanee says:

    Mike, I work for Shar Kare Parksville I’ve been with the company for 20 years your products have always been of the highest I recommend them daily. FirstMate is a great local b.c. company. So happy I’ve been around to see FirstMate and Shar Kare grow. Your reps are friendly and knowledgeable. And always treat and train my staff, thank you
    Alison Diane Nahanee shar kare parksville. Manager

    • FirstMate says:

      Hi Alison,

      Thank you for the years of ongoing brand support and kind message. Shar Kare has always been a wonderful, local partner and we also enjoy growing alongside you.

      Please never hesitate to reach out with any questions!

      – FirstMate

  2. Marina Hildebrand says:

    We have been proud supporters of FirstMate for 5yrs+, our two dogs, cat & foster pets all eat this product. However this week I look more closely at the ingredients on the large breed bag & noticed while the first ingredient is fish meal, both the second & third ingredients are varietals of a russet potato.
    To me, an everyday consumer, this marketing strategy resonates as deceptive. I am disappointed.
    If FirstMate had not used two different varietals of the russet potato, I would have recognized that less than 50% of the ingredients are fish meal (I’d say it was more like 35%) The labeling on the bag indicates that 76% of the protein is from fish meal (I was a dumb, dumb, thinking that this meant it was primarily fish meal) & 24% protein from veggies (primarily russet potato).
    How much fish meal is it?
    This is all so disappointing & in my opinion not very Canadian.
    If FirstMate is proud of their products, why the deceptive marketing approach?

    • FirstMate says:

      Hello Marina,

      Thank you for the years of ongoing brand loyalty. We are happy to provide clarity on the order of ingredients.

      We identify the types of the potato because this information is important to our customers when making decisions for pets with sensitivities. This also results in potatoes being the second and third ingredient, which is also may lead to the concern you mentioned about the amount of potato in the diet. We are criticized for both approaches, but we also need to meet the regulations governing labels. Sorry for any confusion this might have caused.

      The order of ingredients became important to pet parents as a way to evaluate the quality of protein in a particular diet. If a company referenced 25% protein as an example, you’re not sure if the protein is primarily derived from meat or vegetables. Therefore customers would guess that most of the protein was derived from meat if meat was the first ingredient.

      However, there are many ways to modify an ingredient panel to read differently. On our packaging, we outline the quantity of the protein from meat vs. vegetable. In each instance, a minimum of 70% of the protein is provided by the meat source. These percentages are more important than the order of ingredients, as the order only identifies inclusions by weight.

      FirstMate products use dehydrated meals instead of water-inclusive meats because they provide nearly 4 times more protein than the fresh/water-inclusive equivalent. And it is the amino acids in proteins from meat products that are most suitable for dogs and cats. Including the required amino acids (methionine, cysteine and taurine) which are required to prevent the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

      If we used water-inclusive meat, which dilutes the protein, because of the water weight, it automatically jumps to the front of the line, but it does not mean that it is the primary source of protein.

      We hope this information helps to ensure your continued confidence in the quality of our products and encourage any additional questions.

      – FM

  3. Kathy says:

    After the DCM “panic” that set in last fall, I researched many pet foods and options including First Mate. I have always fed the canned First Mate and Kasiks food with Acana dry food. The only thing that stopped me from switching completely to First Mate (fish and oats) was the high calorie content of the food. I cannot feed almost 500 calories a cup to my dogs and if I cut them down, they act like it’s the end of the world! Otherwise than the calories, I like the ingredients. I ended up switching then to Farmina Ancestral Grains formula but continue to feed the First Mate / Kasiks canned food.

    • FirstMate says:

      Hi Kathy,

      We appreciate you taking the time to share your feedback and are happy to learn that FirstMate cans are an important part of Merlin’s diet.

      – FM

    • Janine says:

      As a trainer and Labrador Retriever owner (is there any breed that likes food more than a Lab?), I have found that the way that we present food to our dogs can help them feel more satisfied when reducing the quantity.

      Here are some ideas:

      1. Soak the food for more than an hour so that the dog gets the satisfaction of eating a larger meal and his stomach will feel fuller.

      2. Set several bowls of food around the house and divide the meal between them. The dog will need to change his focus from inhaling the food to finding the food.

      3. Hand feed your dog little bits at a time. Stroke and let him learn to settle between each handful.

      4. Use parts of the meal as rewards for training session. The dog will set more focus on his task than his food.

      5. Use food-dispensing or food-stuffable toys.

      6. Don’t talk to your dog when he is through eating. If he comes up to you soliciting for more, grab a leash or a toy and share a gentle activity with him.

      • Lori says:

        I would like to try First Mate fish and oats formula also but at such a high calorie amount that worries me. My girl gains weight easily. She also can’t have chicken. I don’t want the weight management formula due to potatoes

        • Wendy Vandersteen says:

          Hello Lori,

          Thank you for your interest in our FirstMate pet food for your dog. We are happy to provide some feeding guidelines for you if you want to try out the Wild Ocean Fish and Oats formula. The suggestions from Janine also sound like great options to help your dog feel satiated with her allotted feed amount.

          Best wishes,

          Wendy Vandersteen, PhD
          Director of Research and Development
 Tel: (778) 628-9179

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I am a new customer in that I have just started using the grain friendly dog foods, specifically the lamb, chicken and the fish. I was alerted to nutritional DCM by my breeder when we went to pick up our new mini Aussie pup, Merlin. I tried a couple different brands that were on the “ acceptable” diet list but found that with one in particular he started to itch so I needed something else. I went to my local Global pet food store and she recommended FirstMate. We are on our fourth small bag and I am happy with the results. I like the fruit and limited grain aspect of the diets and feel confident that he is getting what he needs nutritionally. I am also glad this is a Canadian company.

    • FirstMate says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you for sharing your feedback. As a family owned and operated company, we take a great deal of pride in the quality, safety, and performance of our diets. It is always great to receive feedback!

      Please never hesitate to contact us with any questions.

      – FM

  5. Elisa Winsa says:

    I brought home a 3 week old puppy that was not expected to survive the night. At 6 months old I started her on First Mate while searching for a food that would work for a dog with protein and other allergies and numerous health concerns. She has been on it ever since.
    Thanks in no small part to the quality of her food, I am thrilled to say that she will be 9 years old in a few short months and is going strong. The customer support is unparalleled and I am happy to be able to support a fantastic Canadian company.

    From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
    Lee and Shadow

  6. Diane says:

    I have recently switched my 2 papillons to your grain friendly lamb formula with good results so far. Have you considered making a grain friendly small breed formula with smaller kibble like you do for your grain free variety.? My 3 year old is fine with the regular size kibble, but my 15 year old doesn’t have many teeth. I have been using a rolling pin to make the kibble smaller for him.

    • FirstMate says:

      Hello Diane,

      Thank you for sharing your positive feedback.

      Currently, we do not have a small bite option available within our Grain Friendly category, although we do expect it will be in the future.

      We do have several customers that feed a mix of our products to dogs who have fewer teeth or are of a smaller breed, successfully. Our suggestion is a warm water “pre-soak” for 2-4 minutes before serving. This will soften our kibble and help to increase the water intake for your dogs, as well as aid with digestibility.

      We hope the above suggestion is helpful and encourage any further questions.

      – FM

  7. Robyn says:

    With our pup having skin issues, which we believe was due to a chicken allergy and with the recent DCM news, It was actually a perfect time to research different brands that were Canada local and have him go onto a fish friendly diet. I wanted to ensure that he still got grains and when I saw that FirstMate offered grain friendly and was a local brand, I was relieved as it was difficult finding a brand that has what you have. Its so nice to know that you are a local BC brand, I know where his food is coming from and that you stand by your philosophy. Since switching him over we have noticed he doesn’t itch at his skin or bite his hind legs as much anymore. He goes nuts every time he heads the back open and just LOVES his grain friendly fishmeal kibble. Honestly, every single per store should carry your dog food!

    One question, will you or do you have any grain friendly canned food?

    Thanks again for providing positivity and peace of mind when I feed my dog everyday. 😊

  8. Neal says:

    I lost a 3-year-old golden retriever to DSM in 2017 after feeding her a strict grain-free diet that the clinical team at Tufts would classify as BEG (boutique, exotic, grain-free).
    I am conflicted because I am aware that the Tufts foundation is funded by Hills, Purina, Mars, etc. But I am not convinced these doctors are not qualified and dedicated. A number of vets I have consulted respect the work — trying to trace the factors associated with an increase of DCM: diet, breed etc.

    Can First Mate address the four basic questions the clinical team suggests pet owners pay attention to? Specifically:
    1. Does the manufacturer employ at least one full-time qualified nutritionist? This means a PhD in animal nutrition or board-certification (and, ideally, both).
    2. What are the qualifications of the person who formulates their food (if it’s not the same person as thei nutritionist)? This expert should have the same qualifications as in #1.
    3. Does the manufacturer own the plant(s) where their food is manufactured? (I believe First Mate addresses this question … and do you do own your plant(s).
    4. What quality control measures does the manufacturer practice? Examples include certification of procedures (e.g., Global Food Safety Initiative, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or American Feeding Industry Association); testing ingredients and end products for nutrient content, pathogens, and aflatoxins; materials risk assessments; and supplier audits.

    A detailed question, I realize. But I want to be confident in what I am feeding my current pet.

    • Wendy Vandersteen says:

      Hello Neal,

      We are so sorry to hear about the loss of your Golden Retriever, and we appreciate your interest in our FirstMate pet food to support the health of your current dog.

      In response to your questions:

      1/2. Our Executive Vice-President, Dr. Brad Hicks, is a veterinarian with 18 years of experience in pet nutrition. He oversees all of our pet food formulations. He obtained a BSc and an MSc in Veterinary Pathology from the University of Guelph, and a DVM from the Ontario Veterinary College.

      3. Yes, we own our manufacturing facilities. Our dry products are manufactured in our Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspected and organically certified facility located in Chilliwack, British Columbia. Our canned products are produced in our CFIA inspected, organically certified, human grade cannery located in Port Kells, British Columbia

      4. We have over 130 quality control points during our manufacturing process. We routinely test our ingredients and finished products for salmonella, enterobacteriacea, total coliform, E.Coli, clostridium perfringens, and pesticides. We routinely test for heavy metals to ensure we are within government tolerances. We will also test for mycotoxins including vomitoxin and aflatoxin and will run proximate analyses for nutrient content. Our facilities are organically certified, and meet CFIA, EU, USDA, and BAPHIQ certification, and are operated according to a HACCP-based program.

      Let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.


      Wendy Vandersteen, PhD
      Director of Research and Development

  9. Lori says:

    I’d really like to try your First Mate fish and oats formula with my girl. She can’t have chicken and needs to lose weight. I don’t want to feed potatoes either so not the weight management formula. How many cups/grams would you recommend for a dog that should weigh 57 pounds. Your food is so high calorie so that worries me

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