Credit: Pixabay

If you’ve been scouring empty shelves for your pet’s favorite kibble and cans of wet food, you’re not alone.

The pandemic supply chain has taken another victim: pet food. While your precious pup or kitten is unlikely to starve, picky pets might have to compromise on their diet, as supply chain disruptions have affected the price and availability of certain pet food.

Pet food makers experienced an increase in the cost and decrease in availability of their ingredients for animal- and plant-based oils and fats, according to The Pet Food Institute, an industry group for the makers of dog and cat food.

Prices for U.S. corn and soybeans — key ingredients in many pet foods — reached eight-year highs this spring, as these ingredients are being used in the push for biofuels-based renewable energies. Reduced truck driver availability and disruption to power generation and distribution also affected pet food makers.

Add that to the increased number of people adopting pandemic pets, and owners have a real issue of pet food supply and demand.

Laci Damon, veterinary assistant at the Brewer Veterinary Clinic, said that she has noticed shortages for certain pet food brands, especially Royal Canin

“We have run into backorder issues on the prescription side,” Damon said.

Sandy Choquet, manager of the Bangor PetSmart, said that the U.S. aluminum can shortage has also reduced the availability of canned cat food.

“We have particular brands that we’ve been having issues with,” Choquet said. “Fancy Feast is one of the brands that there’s still shortages with. There are certain flavors we can’t get.”

Choquet said that stores like hers saw the pandemic-related supply chain issues coming and were able to prepare by stocking up on customer favorites.

The problem then is the cost. Don Hanson, owner of Green Acres Kennel Shop in Bangor, said that while he has been able to get most of his usual stock, “everything is going up in price.”

Expect to pay a little more for your pet food. If you can’t find your favorite brands, Hanson said don’t be afraid to switch.

“One of the biggest myths is that you should feed your pet the same thing their whole life,” he said.

Pet food switches should be done with care, though, especially if your pet has digestive issues. And you should plan ahead if you notice the store is low on your usual pet food, Damon said. When choosing a new pet food, choose one that has most of the same ingredients as the one your pet is used to eating.

“Match those up but do it proactively before they’re completely out of a food,” Damon said. “If you know ahead of time you can’t get the same food, doing a gradual switchover is preferable. Mix 25 percent new with 75 percent old, basically until you run out of the old food.”

Jumping right to homemade pet food if your favorite brands run out or raise their prices is not recommended.

“It takes a lot to try to cook your own food that’s balanced with those vitamins and minerals,” Damon said. “We recommend people using a formula recommended for dogs and cats.”

And there’s a shortage of those pet vitamins, too.

“If a person were to try to supplement with those, they might run into trouble,” Damon said.