The Myths and Misconceptions about Commercial Dog Food
Would we as a species be able to survive on canned or processed foods for the entirety of our lives – denying ourselves anything fresh?
If you believe the pet food industry they all claim to provide what your dog or cat’s need – “Optimum Health”, “Complete and Balanced" ,“For Dogs with Skin Irritation” and the list goes on, hundreds of different products and brands all competing for your hard earned dollars.
So what do you choose, who do you believe, are any of them telling the truth? The internet is a buzz with a mountain of information containing the best or worst of commercial pet food, but fast coming into topic is “Raw Feeding or BARF.”
With the ever increasing allergies, food intolerances and cancer statistics rising not just only in humans but our pets, what are we doing wrong?
When you keep getting things wrong, the rule is to go back to basics. We are feeding our dogs and cats wrong so we need to go back to the start, a species appropriate diet that was never meant to be meddled with in the first place.
Domestic dogs evolved from a group of wolves that came into contact with European hunter-gatherers between 18,800 and 32,100 years ago. Humans were no different to the wolf as we hunted and gathered our own food, fresh off the land.
As wolves became smarter and more relaxed around humans, they began to scavenge off man. Man became to realise that the wolf could become an adversary in their hunting and fed the less aggressive wolves, do you think that our predecessors cooked that meat before throwing it to the wolves?
Fast forward to the year 1860, the first processed dog food was introduced by James Spratt, of Cincinnati, Ohio who developed a biscuit made of wheat, beet root, vegetables and beef blood. As he watched stray dogs eat hardtack thrown away by sailors off ships in port, he found his inspiration. It wasn’t long before other companies soon picked up on the idea and the market was flooded with more baked dog products.
The depression in the 1930’s prompted dog owners to look for less expensive methods to feed their pets. Less raw meat was fed, and more grains and cereal products were introduced in home diets. Canned meat products were introduced in the 1940’s and in 1943, dehydrated dog food was introduced, with the instructions of ‘just add water’.
The use of bagged and canned foods became popular in the United States after World War II. Most people born in the last fifty years do not have any memory of feeding dogs in any other manner.
Until commercial dog food grew in popularity, dogs generally ate whatever food was available in their environment. For farm dogs, this could include raw meat scraps, raw milk, eggs and food found scavenging. City dogs probably depended on scraps from the owners’ table, and offal and cheap cuts of raw meat from the butcher. Dogs owned by the very rich and royalty are reported to have had meals specially prepared for them, with great attention to the quality and addition of seasonings to the diet
Man created commercial pet food for man, for the convenience, but mostly for money and not the wellbeing of our pets. They convinced pet owners, this would be the only way, the sure way, to keep their dogs and cats healthy and happy. But are most pets healthy and happy? We can’t ask them, unfortunately, but we cannot deny the statistics that overall most dog and cats' health is on the decline and we are still oblivious as to what’s causing it. Clever marketing and promises keep us in denial that it could be the use of commercial pet food
There are no strict regulations governing the manufacture and labelling of pet foods, so the standard is left up to the manufacturers themselves.
With advertising as far back as the 1930’s saying feeding table scraps was dangerous to our pets and supplements and vitamins were not necessary, we were told feeding commercial pet food would save us “time and money.” Marketing strategies included using celebrity vets to endorse pet foods and making them look natural and pleasing to the pet owner’s eye.
If a vet endorses it, it must be good. Wrong! As far back as the 1860’s vets were endorsing commercial dog food. The only thing to eventuate from this is that the vet gets richer and the dog food company makes a big profit.
However there has been recently an increase in some vets advocating against commercial pet food and suggesting BARF is best. Research is being increased and education into the appropriateness of what our pets should be eating.
Why are there so many companies selling Pet Insurance? Our pets are needing more visits to the vet and with more complex medical care required. We are now seeing vet dentists with an ever increasing dental problems in dogs. Dogs require raw meaty bones and not kibble to clean their teeth. It’s ironic that the vets sell commercial pet food, the exact thing that will eventually bring that pet back through their door. With most stocking many of the top distributor brands in their clinics, they instil a fear in pet owners about preparing their own dog or cats' food. The pet food industry, which writes the nutrition text books for the veterinary colleges, is where vets learn all about Nutrition for Pets. They are encouraged to tell their clients that only processed dog and cat foods are formulated scientifically to meet their pets' nutritional needs. There are very few veterinarians that will encourage owners to feed a fresh food diet.
With more information becoming available on species appropriate diets in the way of books and internet, it takes the courage and diligence of the owner to go against the disapproval of the veterinary community and the advertisements of the pet food industry, to learn more about canine and feline nutrition.
In the 1980’s, consumers were becoming more educated on nutrition for their own diets and reading labels on food products, that led them to start reading their pets food labels as well. Now 35 years later technology and research has suggested that the ingredients in commercial pet foods are causing more harm than good. With this information in hand, pet owners are more than ever reading the food labels and questioning some of the ingredients in pet foods. The ingredients of most concern are the preservatives, artificial flavours and most notably the poorer sources of protein and the high percentages of grain. As pets continue to display more health issues and allergies, consumers are becoming more aware of the ingredients listed in their pets’ food. Labelling will continue to be in great debate as pet owners demand more honesty and clarity of what is in that bag of food.
As I took my own 12 week old puppy to the vet for his first check up I was told, “Just feed him dry food, the same every day. Dogs don’t need variety and this is all he will need for the rest of his life.” – I’m glad I found the truth.