Saturday, August 09, 2008

Dog Food Secrets "They" Don't Want You To Know



This stuff costs $34 for 4 pounds -- more than prime steak. What's in it? A lot of stuff a wolf never ate. Stuff like sweet potato (the #1 ingredient), carrot, apple, barley greens, broccoli, almonds, watercress, alfalfa, etc. etc. Plus something mysteriously listed as "fiber". Is this stuff "better" than Purina? Nope. And it's not nearly as well tested either.



DUMP 60 MILLION POUNDS OF TOXIC PET FOOD on to America's shelves, kill a few thousand dogs and cats, and what do you get out of it? Lawsuits and chest-thumping food fadists.

This piece is not about the lawsuits -- it's about the food fadists.

To tell you the truth, I could care less what anyone feeds their dog. I figured out a long time ago that a lot of people are pretty silly, and there's no stopping them, even if you wanted to.

The good news is that most Americans are pretty sensible and moderate, and give their dogs decent bagged food with perhaps a few low-salt table scraps. In almost all cases, the dogs thrive. How could they not? As Tony Buffington, a veterinary professor at Ohio State University, told The Wall Street Journal back in March when the dog food story was still about fat dogs and price-gouging companies ripping off the rubes:

"The nutritional requirements of neutered, sedentary adult animals are so low that they could be met by anything."


And yet, we DO have a lot of crackpots on either end of the pet food debate, don't we?

On the one hand we have the Vegans who want to raise their cats and dogs on tofu and barley sprouts. Good luck with that.

On the other side we have the folks that lecture everyone that dogs are wolves and should be eating raw meat or some other concoction that they've come up with. Good luck with that too.

Of course, both sides are espousing pure nonsense. A dog is not a wolf any more than it is a cow. A vegan who wants his dog or cat to eat only tofu has not accepted a dog for what it truly is. By the same token, anyone who thinks their dog is a wolf has also not accepted what their animal really is. A dog is not a wolf. A dog is a dog.

As I have noted before, most dogs and most wolves do not have the same estrus cycles, do not have the same pack hierarchies, and do not communicate the same way.

A wolf and a dog will not interbreed except under the most artificial of conditions. When a pack of wolves meets a dog, what occurs next is called lunch, and the dog is served up as the main course.

What seems to confuse people is that a dog is a carnivore, a pack animal and a canid.

But so what? A bear is carnivora too. So too is a raccoon, a skunk and a coatamundi. Not all carnivores live on pure meat diets.

As for being a pack animal, a lot of animals are "pack" animals, from bees and birds, to humans and lions.

Being a canidae does not tell you much either -- most canids are foxes of one kind or another, and a fox is a true omnivore that will readily eat bread, berries, potatoes, and corn, as well as field mice and baby bunny rabbits.

At this point in the conversation someone is sure to point out that dogs are classified by some taxonomists as a type of wolf -- Canis Lupus, familiaris.

But again, so what? Taxonomy is a system invented by humans, and humans are hardly the experts on what an animal is or is not.

A taxonomer, for example, will tell you that a barred owl and a spotted owl are two different species, but in fact these two birds are not very fussy about this distinction, and will readily interbreed and produce fecund young.

Meanwhile, a wolf and a dog are quite certain they do not belong to the same family and will attack each on sight. Who is the expert here?

It is axiomatic, among true dog people, that the dog is the expert and not the theoretician. And a dog will tell you that while it is a canid and a pack animal, it is not a wolf.

It is not Canis lupus familiaris, as some taxonomists would have it, but Canis familiaris -- it's own distinct species that not only looks different, but acts different at the most basic levels of sexual reproduction and communication.

Yet, if you listen to the dog food theorists, they would have you believe that packs of poodles once roamed the earth.

Here's a hint: it never happened.

You can take 200 dogs of all breeds, toss them into a large pen, and let them go at it for 100 years, but what you will get out of the other end is not a wolf, but a dog.

And it will not be a large dog, but a "pyedog" or pariah dog about the size of a jackal, but with a rounder body and face.

Such animals can be found all over the world, scavenging on the edges of dumps, from the Philippines to Oaxaca, from Algeria to Romania, from South Africa to South America.

What do pariah dogs eat?

They eat what dogs have eaten since the beginning of time: whatever it is we put in front of them.

And in most cases, the dogs do quite fine. After all, it's not like a wild dog lives very long.

Pyedogs die at epic rates from starvation -- same as fox and wolves. Fox kit mortality is about 50 percent and wolf cub mortality is about the same. A wolf that manages to make it into adulthood can be expected to be dead by age 7 or 8, a fox by age three or four.

This is one of the great ironies missed by the food fadists: If you feed your dog the cheapest store-bought food you can find, it will eat much better that any wolf in the wild.

But of course food fadists are not really selling common sense and good nutrition, are they? Food fadists are selling "secret knowledge."

In this sense, food fadists are a bit like Kennedy assassination buffs, UFO junkies and convicted felon Kevin Trudeau who constantly pops up on late-night television selling you "health food secrets that the doctors don't want you to know about."

Food fadist are to nutrition what "phrenologists" are to neurologists, "astrologers" are to astronomers, and "aromatherapists" are to psychiatrists -- the quack end of the spectrum.

A food fadist may toss around words like "holistic" and "homeopathy" but these words are meaningless semantic gloss designed to dress up weak philosophies in the trappings of pseudo-science. Go ahead and put rouge on the pig, but don't expect folks not to laugh out loud if you're silly enough to take it to the dance.

Holistic medicine and homeopathy proponents are, for the most part, inventing potions and mixing them with wild claims and leavening the whole mixture with a little common sense. They are offering nothing that a Nigerian witch doctor will not sell you for a packet of cigarettes and a few naira. When push comes to shove, however, if you get sick in Africa, you had better ditch the witch and get a real medical doctor with access to serious antibiotics. Ditto for your dog.

The funny thing about a lot of self-styled holistic food experts is that right after they lecture you about how a dog is really just a wolf, they will often turn around and tell you that they feed their own dog a diet of rice and chicken, or rice and lamb, or a mixture of rice, potatoes, peas and carrots.

What, no mice and rats? No roadkill? Wow -- we sure did leave that "natural" diet behind pretty darn quick.

In fact, rice is not a "natural" food for a wolf any more than a chicken is. Both are products of tropical Asia. What rice and lamb have got going for them is that they are two of the least reactive foods when it comes to skin allergies in dogs.

And so now we come to it: skin allergies in dogs.

Now here's the joker in the deck when it comes to skin allergies: 1) Most skin allergies in dogs have a genetic component, and; 2) The most common type of food allergy is an allergy to beef and milk.

Beef and milk? Woops -- so much for that "wolf diet" stuff.

In fact, the main reason we are seeing such a quick rise in skin allergies in dogs is that the genetic base of most dog breeds is now exceedingly narrow and the result is a weaker immune system. That's what happens when you start off with a very limited number of dogs in a closed registry system like we have in the AKC, and then continue to boil down the stock through dominant sire selection.

This is a topic I have written about before, but it's a topic that the holistic dog folks generally stay away from for fear of alienating their core client base -- folks that are in love with purebred dogs that have skin problems. Shooting the dog is not an option that their client base wants to hear, nor do their clients want to be told that they "bought a lemon" and should have stayed away from the AKC. It's much easier -- and much more lucrative -- to talk about the problems with dog food.
And so, instead of talking about genetics, the holistic food folks say it's all about diet secrets. How very "Kevin Trudeau" of them! You don't have cancer because of your genetic predisposition -- you have cancer because you didn't buy my book or my diet.

The good news here, is that most dogs do not have skin allergies, and most dogs do really well on any kind of commercial food given to them.

The main problem facing dogs in America today is not poor nutrition caused by a lack of calories or essential vitamins and minerals, but obesity caused by too much food and too little exercise.

Rather than too few vitamins and minerals in the dog food, the problem -- especially in large breed dogs -- is too many vitamins and minerals (especial calcium) which produce too rapid a growth pattern which can exacerbate underlying hip dysplasia and other joint issues.

So what should dog owners do when it comes to feeding their dogs?

Whatever they want. That's the point of this post. Read up and look around and use common sense. Billions of dogs have been fed bagged food for more than 100 years, and most seem to have done fine with it.

That said, if you want to cook up a special meal for your dog every night for the rest of your life, go ahead and do that. If you are a vegan and want to feed your dog only seitan and rice, it will probably live as long as any wolf in the wild. Ditto if you want to feed your dog nothing but fresh deer meat shot in your backyard.

For those who REALLY want answers, however, I encourage you to order: "Dog Food Secrets "They" Don't Want You To Know About". Operators are standing by, and all proceeds will be donated to help brain damaged children.

.

21 comments:

Pat said...

Your comments are a breath of fresh air in all this food histaria. My only question that keeps nagging me is what about the fact that the two oldest dogs on record were both fed vegetarian diets?

PBurns said...

Longevity in dogs and humans is partly a matter of race/breed, and overall physical size (larger humans and dogs tend to die sooner), as well as some external factors and a genetic role of the dice which occurs every time an egg and a sperm collide.

Diet plays a factor of course, but *what* you eat seems to matter a great deal less than *how much* you eat. The short story here is that calorie-restrictive diets make you live longer. This appears to be true in all animals from spiders and elephants, to dogs and humans. See >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calorie_restriction for more information, but there is a lot of other data in the science journals and on the web.

Longevity and living are different concepts, of course. There is more to living than longevity, and I am not sure a life of perpetual hunger (whether you are a human or a dog) is a life worth living.

The best plan is probably moderation in all things. Plus, keep your dog away from both cigarettes and chewing tobacco.


P.

dr.hypercube said...

"...the two oldest dogs on record were both fed vegetarian diets?"

My response would be that the plural of anecdote is not data >grin<.

PB - gotta disagree on one point - bees are not pack animals - they're a whole level more social (as in social insects). One can consider the hive as a meta-organism in a way that wouldn't be appropriate for a pack - I know - just more human-originated labels. Neither the bee nor the wolf care all that much!

PBurns said...

I actually fussed a bit with the bee descriptive, but I decided that since they forage as a group (the famous "bee hive dance"), live in a group (the hive), and attack as a group (I've got very comical personal stories that reflect very badly on me here), they qualified.

Birds are another issue, but again my thinking was that large numbers of birds feed as a group, roost as a group, and attack hawks and owls as a group.

As you note, at some point all this is semantics (if interesting semantics).

A while back I suggested a name for whatever it is that Starlings do when they gang up in the fall. It's more than a "flock" when you have 5,000 birds in formation!
See >> http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2005/01/vulgarity-of-starlings.html for a bulleted list of what we call other social groups of animals out there. The poets and absinthe drinkers have clearly been working overtime to come up with a few of these groupw which, I suspect, rarely show up except in lists like this!

P.

Staff of the Mendocino County Library said...

You are partially right. I do not think bagged dog food has been around 100 years and many dogs live long lives without nothing but that and what they themselves find on the side. And most commercial dog foods are not good and is shown by the latest recalls, Ol' Roy being made by the same people making Eurkanuba at 4 times the cost.

I do know from my daughter who is a veterinarian that allergies and cancer in dogs is growing exponentially and is a major problem and that changing to a better dog food does often work.

Alternative medicine and homeopathy work also--sometimes--which is about the same percentage of allopathic medicine. The same way big corporations choose ingredients for dog food based purely on cost, is the way our modern medical industry works. Chemotherapy may or may not keep people alive longer, it sure puts them through hell until they die from its effects.

Other countries integrate homeopathy, herbs, accupuncture into main stream medicine. Why use the most powerful and most dangerous forms when perhaps other forms help without such damage.

PBurns said...

Commercial processed dog food has been around for more than 140 years and in bag form for more than 100. See >> http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2004/09/history-of-dog-food.html for a short history of dog food.

The poison in the recent run of dog food does not speak to nutritional quality at all; it speaks to a weak FDA operating in a multi-source world.

The fact that high-priced dog good and low-cost dog food were made in the same factories and often with the same ingredients was widely known by those who looked into it years ago (as I did), but this information was dismissed by the pet-list folks who believed that how much cash they spent on their dog was a good indication of how much they loved their dog (and how much in the know they were about nutrition).

As for cancer and skin allergies cropping up in dogs, that's not due to food so much as a combination of inbreeding and dogs living longer. The genetic basis of rising canine illness story is told, as well as I can, here >> http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2006/05/inbred-thinking.html

Cancer is "on the increase" in both humans and dogs because we (and they) are living longer -- a function of good modern health care that has nothing to do with herbs, crystals and potions. Cancer is generally a disease of the aged and not the young. As dogs live longer you will see more dogs getting cancers. The alternative to cancer in old age is dying from a minor infection or a disease when you are young. One thing is for sure: nothing lives forever.

As for words like homeopathy, holism, etc, I will let the dictionary define them for what they are.

Of course people are free to use herbs when they have cancer, and to pray when they have pneumonia as well. Morticians always need business and the Darwin Project is always at work.

That said, people are living a lot longer today than they used to, and it's NOT not because of herbs and accupuncture but because of antibiotics, vaccines and surgery. In countries where witch doctors practice, their patients pray fiercely for a visa to a country like the U.S. that has western medicine. Is it OK to brush your teeth with a root? Sure -- it works well. Just don't think a root or herb is going to cure your meningitis.

As someone who was born and raised in African countries where people were (literally) dying for western health care I find the American herb-waivers a somewhat amusing group. That said, it's a free country so carry on!

P.

Jessica said...

Actually, if a vegan were to feed their dog just tofu...I would say they must have not done their research on the nutritional requirements that dogs need. I would hope that a vegan would have common sense to do the research on their pets anyways because their own diet probably required them to do research to see what they should be eating to meet their nutritional needs.

It is possible for dogs and cats to live on a vegetarian/vegan diet. There are many sites you can find on the internet on this subject. People have found that it works, and the dog is healthy, happy, and thriving. I also don't think it's fair to assume that just because someone is vegan that they feed their companion animals just tofu and barley sprouts. Like I said, I believe most vegans would have a little more common sense than that.

PBurns said...

Jessica, why not do a little research on your own before you type? Just go to Google and look for real information from veterinary sources. It's not that hard.

Cats, in fact, cannot live on a vegetarian diet because they cannot live without taurine which only comes from animal sources. A cat without taurine is brain damaged, aborts, has heart failure and goes into seizures. In short, for cats to live God says animals have to die. Get over it.

Cats also cannot get Vitamin A from vegetables and require livers or kidneys of animals to get this essential vitamin. Again, for cats to live, God says animals have to die. This is the natural order of things, and it is a natural order that predates silly vegan nonsense by several million years.

Dogs *can* live on a vegetarian diet, but what's the point? It's not like we are killing animals for dog food; we are feeding dogs and cats animal byproducts (heads, bones, necks, feet, snouts, legs, etc.) of chickens, cows, pigs and fish that are raised, killed and consumed by humans for humans. The alternative to turning offal into dog food is to feed it back to farm animals as protein stock (Mad Cow, anyone?) or tossing it out to rot. Do you think either choice is a better one morally? In fact, turning animal and vegetable byproducts into kibble dog food is the highest and best use for what might otherwise be waste products.

Finally, your notion that vegans and vegetarians know something about nutrition is absolutely precious. Do you also assume that religious prosletyzers have actually studied the world's religions? Do you think Sister Cleo is a psychic? Come on now, I know you cannot be this lazy, hazy or crazy.

Patrick

YesBiscuit! said...

I guess my main frustration with "complete" pet foods is that *if* a food is supposed to be fed as the exclusive food for the life of an animal, it really needs to be made of quality ingredients for me to feel comfortable feeding it. I could choose any food as an example, but here is one endorsed by a celeb Vet (I'm only listing the first part of the ingredients list - it's LONG):
Rice Flour, Chicken By-Product Meal, Meat Broth, Wheat Flour, Glycerin, Corn Gluten Meal, Corn Flour, Vegetable Oil (Source of Omega 6 Fatty Acid), Soy Protein Isolate, Propylene Glycol, Wheat Gluten, Cellulose Powder...

To me, it looks like various powders make up the bulk of the food, then there's chicken by-product meal and meat broth for the animal protein (not too keen on unspecified "meat" broth and would like to see something in addition to by-product meal in the food), toss in some glycerin and propylene glycol - and I'm supposed to say "YAY - I'll feed only this food forever!"?
I'd rather feed foods that at least I know are clean and edible because I bought them off my grocery store shelf. I understand there are no guarantees there either, but it gives me peace of mind.

PBurns said...

As always, people can feed what they want and it hardly matters, but have you read the side of a box of cereal box? Looked at what goes into a slice of pizza? And yet this is the "gold standard" as far as most people are concerned.

What's funny here is that NOTHING you eat or wild animals eat has EVER been deemed to be a complete diet or even a balanced diet. We eat whatever we can, and/or whatwever is put in front of us. Dogs on the other hand, are for the most part eating balanced foods that have been scientifically tested using logitudinal trials designed to ensure that the dogs get all their vitamins, calcium, calories, micronutrients, etc. The idea that choice and diversity equals better is something we wrap ourselves around, but in fact it's not true especially in the world of diet. Do I believe in whole foods? You bet! But I also believe that most dog owners do not know enough about nutrition to do right by their pets. All those raw pieces of chicken, for example, are laoded with salts. That won't harm a human much, but it's not the best thing for a dog.

P.

Caveat said...

I agree completely.

I have some friends, mostly middle-aged women who never married or had kids, who fuss over what their dogs eat to the point of obsession.

They worry if their dogs don't want a meal. At my house, up it comes, maybe you'll be hungry tonight.

They use dried liver sprinkles, like the chocolate jimmies we got on ice cream cones as a kid, to encourage noshing.

They wildly switch foods, hover over the dish cooing every time the dog takes a bite.

The are constantly looking for the lost chord - Urban Wolf, processed raw, you name it, they've wasted their time and money on it. Pills, supplements - it's insane.

Then they wonder why the dogs won't eat!

And a lot of their dogs have allergies - probably just hives from anxiety, imo.

My former vet has her Westies on a Veg Diet because there is a lot of fatty liver disease in terriers, she says.

As for the raw thing, well, if you think about it, humans are designed to eat all of their food raw, too. Whatever.

I feed my guys a good quality kibble (Fromm 4 Star), scraps of stuff that's OK for them, things like cottage cheese, egg yolk, etc from time to time, basic bland cookies like Milk Bones, etc now and then and they seem fine.

I've never had a dog with cancer or allergies, which may just be the luck of the draw.

I believe that dogs are descended from a more jackal-like creature than a wolf, based on appearance and behaviour - especially scavenging and eating anything organic as well as the way they behave in groups.

Anonymous said...

I am just heartbroken to hear that it's NOT true that "packs of poodles once roamed the earth." As I've posted before, I have great memories of growing up with my neighbor's poodles. (sniff)(sniff).

Also, you can't know how BADLY I want to feed my dog (and the cat!) with deer that I shot at the community garden. Unfortunately, it's at a public housing project and we're not allowed to have guns there because it will "encourage" the drug dealers.

That said, I will note the the last few days' blog posts were obviously written by a man who doesn't cook. (;-D) As someone who does cook, it's just not that big a deal for me when I have poultry to toss the liver in one freezer bag, the necks in another and other giblets in a third, and then make my own treats for my pets.

I've always been a food label reader, but post-pet food recall, I've taken the time to read more about pet nutrition and the pet food labels even more carefully than I did before. As someone who grows much of the family food, I only buy food when it does something I can't do at home -- now, I've extended that "value judgement" to my pets' food also.

Regardless of what I do, I have to agree as Gina has posted on Pet Connection many times -- anyone that buys any commerical pet food should be able to feed it to their pet and not have any to worry about any ill effects.

Admittedly, my sample size is one dog that did just fine during the recalls and a cat that had his digestive/urinary system damaged, but it's made me suspicious as hell -- and if enough of us remain suspicious, careful and willing to walk in other directions, hopefully it will clean up the industry so that Gina's comment is the "norm" rather than the "ideal".

Dorene (speaking as someone who was badly burned during the pet food recall, although is very grateful to still have her kitty sitting at her feet as she types.)

PBurns said...

Hey, I cook. I am a master popcorm maker, for example.

Nothing wrong with treats of heart and giblets, but it's hard to feed 3-4 dogs that way, much less a kennel.

A heads up, too: Most of the folks feeding their dogs frozen chicken wings and breasts are overlooking the fact that almost all of them are soaked or injected with salt water and phosphates "to preserve freshness".

As for RAW and fresh foods, look up the rodent feces, maggots, rodent hair, mold, rot, fungus, "insect filth" and "pus-filled sac" counts that are allowed in your FDA-approved human food. I think you will see a benefit to cooking! Lord knows humans and health care workers have!

P

Pai said...

Lately, a lot of the 'Raw Foodists' are even against pre-packaged ground raw dog food! Apparently a dog's food has to be, ideally, served completely unaltered from it's 'natural state'. Yet, I really doubt they're off daily killing and throwing entire wild rabbit, rat or road kill carcasses into their dog's bowls, either. =P

Apparently, 'natural state' means something different to some folks.

Nena said...

Hello!

I love your website, and as a raw feeder, I think you might find it odd that I would agree with you on most counts.

What you feed your dogs is your business, but I think many people benefit from finding out exactly what's in their dog's (or their own) food. It's impossible to make an eductated decision without education. I chose to feed my dog a raw diet based on my own research and willingness to try it. Yes, the USDA allows all kinds of crap, for lack of a better word, to be in our meat. Does my dog care? Her system can handle it plus any extra "goodies" she manages to get into before I can stop her. Dogs are truly adaptable creatures and can do well on just about anything.

You've got a very interesting blog here! I just wanted to point out that while some people who feed their dogs raw or homecooked or premium kibble are a little crazy, we're not all declaring that you and your dogs are rotting for not doing so.

PBurns said...

Exactly Nena -- Well said and well done. I salute you. I feed my dogs raw chicken wings (frozen) a couple of time a week, toss them carrots pretty regularly, and feed kibble too. They thrive, as yours do and most dogs do on almost any diet. If the dog seems to be thriving, it probably is! And there's not a damn thing raw with a RAW diet. Go for it!

Patrick

harmonious1 said...

I tried to read the entire post and all the comments, but I admit, I lost patience.
I am not a hysterical food faddist.
I'm just a person who wants her dogs to live long healthy lives and not stink up the house.
The thing I have against dog food is the fact that the fats used in it's manufacture (manufactured food?) are rancid, and the high amount of corn and other cheap grains it contains is ridiculous.
Rancid fats are not good for anyone, and corn is worse. (Fresh corn is a different story.)
Force feeding cows on corn is the reason for all the antibiotics needed to keep them standing. (The smell from the stockyards here in southern New Mexico and far west Texas is not the smell of good ole cow manure, it is a very sick smell.)
For those reasons I won't feed my dogs dogfood, and cooked bones splinter, so what I am left with is raw meat.
I have seen dogs lap up rancid grease, but I've never seen one grazing in a corn crib.
You haven't convinced me that I'm on the wrong track. Maybe I should go ahead and read the rest of the post and comments, but I don't think it'll make any difference.
I do love your blog.

PBurns said...

Harmonious1, the fat in dog food is not "rancid," nor is the corn in dog food unprocessed (which is why it works so well in dog food).

Why not read more on this blog about corn and dog food -- I have quite a bit of research on here?.

Also, be sure to look up what wolves actually eat in the wild -- the diseased rectums of downer cows. And guess what? They seem to do pretty well on that.

As for dogs eating grain and plants -- they do it all the time. Surely you take your dogs on walks in the fields and notice them chowing down on grass? In the history of the world, no animal has ever been fed better than modern dogs fed modern store-bought bagged kibble.

P

TeamDog said...

What to Feed Your Dog
Many people have strong opinions on this subject, which proves they're insane."
-Dave Barry, "ill Mature When I'm Dead", section "Dog Ownership for Beginners"

Reason's Whore said...

My three Great Pyrenees X dogs all eat goat and sheep poo on the meadow. Preferably fresh but whatever. They also hunt and eat any rodents that happen to pop up in the area. Love goat milk and cheese as well as popcorn. Chicken and goat feed pellets are popular, too, if they can get them. But they'll also eat dog food if there's nothing better on offer.

Mithon Hasan said...

There really is a lot of information on doggie diets, Excellent site! So much great information! Well done, Thanks for Sharing.
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