Contamination scare leads some Kenyan pet owners to spend more on dog food

Kenyan meat processor Farmer’s Choice Ltd. has reported a 30% increase in demand for its wet pet food, which is marketed under the brand names Team and Beef, website Sokodirectory.com reports. This follows media reports of dogs in Nairobi and elsewhere in the country falling ill and dying after consuming pet food contaminated with aflatoxins.

Aflatoxins are carcinogens and mutagens that are produced by certain types of mold that grow in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains. They thrive in improperly stored grains and nuts. Extruded, or dry, pet food, which typically contains significant amounts of cereals and cereal byproducts, is particularly prone to this type of contamination.

Dr Ann Ndeke, a veterinarian at Andy’s Veterinary Clinic in the Nairobi suburb of Loresho, told The Star newspaper: “Most of the cases involved commercial [dry] dog food the owners had bought, which contained maize … Other veterinarians have also encountered cases of aflatoxin poisoning in dogs.”

The Sagaci Research View: Aflatoxins can also kill people, and Kenyans have died in the past after consuming contaminated maize. However, the last such death was recorded more than a decade ago. This suggests that the regulatory regime has improved, at least with regard to humans. However, commercial pet food manufacturing is in its infancy in Kenya and may require greater oversight.

While most Kenyan owners continue to feed their pets table scraps/leftovers, these events show that, like their counterparts in the rest of the world, at least some of them are growing more indulgent towards their pets (even describing themselves as their pet’s “mother” or “father” in some cases) and are prepared to spend more on them.

This is reflected in the growth of Pet Pawfection, which was founded in October 2019 and sells pet food and accessories online and through stores in Nairobi and Naivasha. According to founder Cecelia Mwangi, “I plan to open more outlets in locations such as Nanyuki, Eldoret, and Kisumu. These are the sites where I noticed that our products have demand.”