Is Iams a good or bad pet food?

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I wrote this article because many of my clients were confused about Iams dog and cat food. I personally believe that it is a good quality food. Iams doesn't pay me any money to say that, and in fact, my clinic doesn't even sell Iams so I have no reason to be swayed in my opinion.

I generally find that if an animal has a healthy coat, and solid, reasonably sized stools that they are on a good food. Most animals on Iams meet these criteria.

So what is the controversy about?

Do a search on the Iams company and you will find comments like this:

  • Iams tortures animals
  • Iams does horrible testing on animals
  • Iams was charged with animal cruelty and ordered to shut down

So many people are boycotting Iams because of these accusations. I needed to know the truth because I am recommending Iams to my clients.

What does PETA say?

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have brought forth some serious accusations against Iams. In 2003 PETA launched a website called The site includes a video of dogs being mistreated in a research center. PETA claims that an undercover PETA agent obtained a job at an Iams research facility and found the following:

  • Iams dogs dumped on cold concrete flooring after having huge chunks of muscle cut out of their thighs.
  • Terrified animals forced to live in cramped, unsanitary cages in dungeon-like rooms.
  • Dogs surgically debarked
  • Animals subjected to unregulated temperatures during extreme weather and other forms of cruelty.
  • At least 27 dogs were deliberately killed

This certainly doesn't sound good! So, I started my thorough investigation of these allegations.

What do the newspapers say?

Did you know that you can do a search of newspaper archives dating as far back as the 1800's on Google News? When I discovered this I went to work searching for evidence of Iams being charged with cruelty. I found LOTS of condemning articles. But...there was a pattern. Every single one of these news reports was written by PETA.

I spent a long time looking for independent sources, and that's when I uncovered a news report from ABC Money News. You can read it by following the link, but here are the interesting points:

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - A Callaway County animal research lab has agreed to pay a $33,000 civil penalty after investigators alleged the company committed nearly 40 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture filed the complaint against Sinclair Research Center in October 2006, more than three years after animal rights activists targeted the lab in an undercover sting.

Among the alleged violations found by Agriculture Department inspectors: failing to provide sheep with appropriate pain relief during surgery; inadequate training of employees for animal handling and care; failure to vaccinate research dogs and cats; and keeping animals in cages smaller than the legal limits.

In a Feb. 28 settlement, Sinclair Research agreed to pay the fine and to 'cease and desist' from further violations of federal law.

So there were animal welfare issues after all!

Was it Iams that was charged?

This is where it gets interesting. The charge was against Sinclair Research Facility, a lab that was not owned by Iams, but one of many labs that Iams contracted to do some research.

On my search through the news archives I found a news article from the Columbia Daily Tribune that stated that:

Iams, a unit of Procter & Gamble, said in a news release that Sinclair did not meet its strict guidelines for animal treatment and that it had removed 19 dogs used in nutritional testing.

So Iams had 19 dogs at the 130 000 square foot facility . Once Iams realized that the facility was not treating animals in a manner that was up to their standards they pulled those dogs. Iams was never charged with anything.

A few other perspectives

Here are some quotes from some well known veterinary and animal-related groups regarding this situation:
American Kennel Club (AKC):
On May 27, 2001, a British tabloid paper ran an article making inflammatory and disparaging allegations against The Iams Company. The unsubstantiated piece was apparently sparked by a British animal extremist group that in the past has promoted boycotts against Procter and Gamble, Iams parent company. AKC accepts The Iams Company response to these allegations posted on their web site and we support The Iams Company. Throughout our association with Iams we have found them to be committed to the betterment of dogs and responsible dog ownership, two goals the AKC shares.
American Veterinary Medical Association:
The AVMA recently became aware that on May 27, 2001, a British tabloid published an article that placed nutritional research conducted by Iams in an unfavorable light. We have reviewed the article, Iams' response to that article, and several scientific reports describing the research against which allegations were made and have concluded that the portrayal in the tabloid reflects claims that are sensationalist. Much of what the tabloid relates is misleading and irresponsible when some of the same preventive protocols and diagnostic tests conducted have been used to save and improve the lives of millions of animals.
American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA):
The American Animal Hospital Association has read the article that appeared in the UK Sunday Express regarding research conducted by The Iams Company, and has reviewed Iams' response. We strongly support the need for scientific research in order to meet the health and welfare needs of humans and animals and believe that research carried out under the guidelines and requirements of the Animal Welfare Act is proper and appropriate. Research that has been conducted in the past by The Iams Company has contributed to the body of knowledge that helps veterinarians provide high-quality medical care for animals.
Canadian Federation of Humane Societies:
Since partnering with The Iams Company to launch Canada's first national Be Kind to Animals Week, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies has received a number of questions from our supporters across the country regarding the pet food manufacturer's animal research practices.Many of these concerns arose from reports by various animal rights organizations, which recounted horrifying acts of cruelty in Iams research laboratories: invasive surgical procedures, dogs with no environmental enrichment, and general disregard for the animals. The CFHS believes that this information strongly misleads readers by passing decade-old information as current, or by omitting certain facts, thus distorting the truth. The Iams Company has been open and honest with the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, answering all of our questions and allaying our concerns about their research policy. We are confident that their actions support their words: They are committed to helping dogs and cats live long, healthy lives. In the past, the Iams Company was involved in a broader range of research involving animals. However, their current research policy and its enforcement clearly meet and even exceed USDA guidelines and satisfy the CFHS' expectations for animals in research. The CFHS commends, for example, the fact that The Iams Company does not purposely breed in diseases in animals, nor do they fund or conduct studies that lead to the euthanasia of cats and dogs. Their research is limited to procedures equivalent to nutritional or medical studies acceptable on people. These strict research guidelines are applied not only to their own facilities, but also all of their external facilities. Finally, we believe The Iams Company is leading the way in offering quality environmental enrichment to the animals in their care—standards that they hope to share with other corporations and organizations to create international guidelines for environmental enrichment.

Does Iams test on animals?

Yes, Iams does do research. Here is a link in which Iams describes its Animal Studies Policy. The key points are:

  • The dogs and cats in Iams' studies allow them to create foods that truly improve the health and well-being of millions of cats and dogs.
  • Iams makes sure that the research animals are happy and healthy with plenty of playtime and attention for their entire lives. To that end, respected animal welfare organizations helped them develop this policy.
  • Iams only uses animals in studies if there are no non-animal alternatives.
  • Iams does not fund studies that require the loss of life of cats or dogs.
  • Iams conducts studies in three kinds of locations: pet owners' homes, their Pet Health & Nutrition Center and locations where dogs and cats are already living (e.g. assistance dog organizations, kennels, etc). They test their foods with healthy pet cats or dogs in their homes or with pets who already have specific diseases or conditions.

But, Dr. Marie, Is the food good?

Did you know that it is almost impossible to read a dog food label and decide whether it is a good food or not? A current trend in society now is to brandish certain things such as preservatives or corn as bad. I personally don't believe either are bad. Preservatives are there to preserve the foods from going bad! I have seen many dogs on "holistic" preservative free foods that have gotten sick because of mold in the food. I don't know why we think corn is so awful. Yes, corn is a binder/filler. But, if there was no corn then there would have to be starch or some other non-food substance. I eat corn and I am ok with my dog eating corn.

As stated above, I find that animals fed Iams seem to be healthy and have a good coat. My own dog Joey was fed Iams chunks for his entire 15 year life and was a very healthy boy.


  • PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) accused Iams of cruelty to animals. An undercover PETA agent obtained a job at a research facility and filmed a disturbing video.
  • The research facility (Sinclair Research Center) was eventually fined $33,000 for violations of the animal welfare act.
  • PETA sensationalized these charges making it look like Iams was torturing animals.
  • The Iams company removed the 19 dogs that were at the Sinclair Research Center and cut ties with the facility.
  • Iams does nutritional studies in animals but does them in a safe, and humane manner.
  • The belief that preservatives and corn are bad has stemmed from internet rumor and not fact. I believe this internet rumor was started by PETA, but I have no proof for that belief.

So, in conclusion. I believe that Iams is a good quality food.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

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