Consumer Reports asked experts at seven top veterinary schools whether pet owners should be paying a lot for fancy pet food brands, what ingredients they should be looking for, and what common claims on pet-food labels really mean.
The bottom line: Despite the fact that all but one had received some funding from the pet-food industry, they admitted that there isn’t any scientific evidence that pricier foods are better, or that cheap food can make pets sick.
"There's no scientific evidence that any food is better than the next," says Joseph Wakshlag, D.V.M., Ph.D., an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Consumer Reports goes on to note that most of the dog food debate is steeped in meaningless blarney and that "For pet food, there's no official definition of organic, human-grade, premium, no fillers, or gourmet."
In short, almost all the language used in dog food debates is bullshit, to say nothing of the claims themselves.
Finally, while the vet experts had not seen dogs or cats made sick by cheap commercial dog food, half had seen pets become ill from eating homemade pet food, due to contamination, spoilage, and the failure to serve dogs a balanced diet.
Of course, all of this is what I have been saying all along.
No area of canine discussion is steeped in more nonsense than the issue of nutrition.
Read my earlier post, Dog Food Secrets "They" Don't Want You To Know About, to get my send up of the dog food debate.
Of course, dog food instant-experts cannot be contained, can they?
Here is some real and recent correspondence to me from someone with a very elaborate dog food web site.
I had never heard of Sean Green before, or seen in his site, but he spammed me the following note:
Hello, I was checking out your website and I wanted to say great job, it looks real good and has some great information. I would be honored if you would link to my dog food reviews website at: http://dogfoodchat.com I think this would be another factor that benefits your visitors. Please let me know if you are interested.
Hmmm.... I kind of doubted this fellow had taken more than two minutes to read anything I had ever written, but perhaps I was wrong and this was a genuine expert and a real authority on dog food. The web site sure was elaborate! I wrote back:
Are your a nutritionist? What is your background to be rating dog food? Based on what criteria?
Sean Green answered back:
Thanks for your reply back Patrick. I am not going to lie and say I have a bunch of formal education on pet nutrition, I don't.
Basically I started getting into Dog Food when I had a dog pass away and I believed it was from the food my mother was feeding. Over the last two years I have tried to educate not only myself but others on proper dog food nutrition. Its one of the reasons I added the forum to my website at: http://dogfoodchat.com/forum
Am I a nutritionist? No.... Have I done my homework? Yes...
Also I forgot to add in my original email when I find sites I like I add them to my directory at: http://dogfoodchat.com/links and I would love to add your site if it is alright with you.
Hmmmm. OK. Let's try again. I wrote back:
You say corn is crap. Fair enough. Based on what?
What I am looking for here is research by real animal nutritionists working with live dogs who have published research in peer reviewed journals or at least serious academic publications, not put up web sites written by food fadists or holistic philosophers or dog food salesmen.
Why is corn worse than anything else? Based on what research by whom?
No reason for you to have run your own food trials or even have a degree in nutrition, but surely you have experts and specific sources for your recommendations?
I did a little quick looking, and could find no serious citations supporting the notion that "corn is crap." Quite the opposite, actually. See:
>> Journal of Nutrition
>> Science Digest
The number one trigger of allergies in dogs is .... beef.
Sean Green wrote back:
We could go back and fourth, you could provide reliable sources and I could provide reliable sources that say what we want. Its a very controversial subject. Anyways, thanks for the consideration to link to my website. I respect your decision and hope you the best in the future.
Eh? All I asked for was a citation or two to support the core thesis of his web site. Surely he has at least one or two? Let me try again. I wrote Sean:
I'm not looking to argue -- I really am not. I am simply looking for ANY serious scientific work to support your core point that "corn is crap".
Send me a link or two, and your case will be made, and there will be no argument from me. Promise. I am just looking for at least two reputable scientific studies that support the claim which, as far as I can tell, is unsupported by anyone actually doing real science on dog food.
And, of course, I got silence back.
And you know why? Because, as far as I can tell, there is no scientific evidence to support the much-repeated notion that "corn is crap" in dog food.
As Consumer Reports and the veterinary nutritionists at Cornell University note: "There's no scientific evidence that any [dog] food is better than the next."
Finally, a word about how all commercial bagged dog food is made: It is extruded and baked.
It seems that some dog food salesmen and dog food faddists are saying "baked dog food is better than extruded dog food."
Eh? Do these folks even know what the words they are tossing about mean?
Extruded means that a product is rammed through a small opening to form a shape. And it means nothing else.
Spaghetti is extruded, and so too are pretzels, butter sticks, fish sticks, most candies, the dough used to make loaves of bread, french fries, copper wire, nails and plastic pipe.
Extrusion is simply how something is made into a shape. It has nothing do with ingredients, cooking, or digestibility.
As for baking, all dry dog food is baked. All of it.
Baking is simply the process of cooking with dry heat, especially in an oven.
Bread is baked, pretzels are baked, bricks are baked, and dry dog food is baked as the video, below, makes clear.
To conclude, as I always do: Serve your dog whatever food you want, but recognize that paying more money and spending more time on your dog's food is not necessarily helping your dog.
Dog food obsessions are not about the dog; they are about the owners and their need to assuage guilt, become more involved, or demonstrate expertise or a heightened degree of caring for their pets. If folks want to waste time and money on that, they are certainly free to do so. But it's not about the dog.