Like you, we at Dog Chow are humbled by the bravery and sacrifice of our country’s active military and veterans. Which is why, throughout our nearly 100-year history, we’ve made it our mission to support these heroic men and women and the dogs who love them.
In 1918, Purina founder William H. Danforth took a leave of absence from Ralston Purina to support the U.S. Army during World War I. Danforth supervised the YMCA’s delivery of food, first aid, and comfort items to troops in France. Danforth’s leadership, courage, and organizational skills were lauded by soldiers, officers, and his fellow volunteers.
When Purina created its first dog food in 1926, it was named “Purina Dog Chow” in a nod to the “chow lines” that sustained American service members during the war.
Rear Admiral Richard Byrd was an American naval officer and explorer famous for his polar expeditions during the 1930s. To feed Byrd’s sled teams, nutritionists recommended Purina Dog Chow after testing several brands of dog food to determine which would work best under the “severe Antarctic conditions” his dogs would encounter during the two-year voyage. Byrd and his crew took 100,000 pounds of Purina Dog Chow to feed the expedition’s 160 sled dogs. After the expedition, several of Byrd’s dogs participated in a promotional tour for Purina Dog Chow.
World War II created an enormous demand for food products and increased agricultural production. American farmers had to quickly and significantly increase their productivity to feed the 16 million American soldiers who served during the war. Purina responded with the Food for Victory Crusade, sending its salesmen and dealers to over 500,000 American farms to examine farm conditions and advise farmers on ways to improve efficiency and sanitary conditions, thereby increasing their production of food. Purina research personnel also helped the U.S. military develop rations that fed Allied troops, providing nutritional analysis and expertise to extend the shelf life of rations.
Purina Dog Chow also supported the war effort by funding a series of ads for Dogs for Defense, a volunteer organization that recruited dogs for military service. Dogs were trained for a variety of duties, including work as sentries, coastal patrol, attack dogs, messengers, sled dogs, scouts, and search and rescue helpers. Over 18,000 dogs were “volunteered” for service, joining the millions of American men and women who also served their country.
Dry pet food was not widely accepted by consumers until World War II, when rationing of meat and metal limited the availability of canned food. Purina Dog Chow was a convenient, cost effective, and nutritionally complete solution for feeding dogs. Consumers were advised, “You will be rendering a patriotic service” by feeding Purina Dog Chow.
Since 2018, Purina Dog Chow has supported the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, which will create a pilot program in the Department of Veterans Affairs to give veterans access to treatment derived from working with PTSD service dogs. The bill also includes grants for organizations to help get more service dogs for veterans who want them. Purina helped advise on the new legislation based on our work with service dogs and our understanding of the human-animal bond. Dog Chow has also actively promoted the bill on Capitol Hill. In August 2021, the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act was signed into law after passing in both the House and Senate with broad bipartisan support.
By the end of 2022, Dog Chow will have donated one million dollars to organizations that match veterans with service dogs, allowing more veterans suffering from PTSD and other post-combat injuries to get the help they need.