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"Corn is crap."
That's a line you won't hear from the winners of the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race.
The Iditarod is a 1,161 miles long, stretching from Willow to Nome, Alaska, and it is usually run in 8-15 days (depending on weather) by teams of 12-16 dogs who are almost all cross-breed huskies.
The key to winning the Iditarod is not just having good dogs, good luck, and a good musher who makes few (if any) mistakes: It's also having dogs that are top shape and which can routinely run hundred-mile days.
Someone who knows what it takes to win the Iditarod is Lance Mackey. Lance won the 2007 and 2008 Iditarods back-to-back, and he was also a top-10 finisher in 2005 and 2006.
In 2007 and 2008, Lance also won the Yukon Gold race (1,000 miles from Whitehorse, Yukon to Fairbanks, Alaska), a race he also won in 2005 and 2006.
To top it all off Lance Mackey has also won the Copper Basin 300 Championship this year (a repeat win from 2006), and had previous wins in the Kobuk 440 Championship, and the Knik 200 Championship.
Lance Mackey, Iditarod, 2006. Photo by Carl Auer.
So what does Lance Mackey feed his dogs while they are in training and running 3-4 times a week ?
He feeds them a dog food that contains CORN.
And Lance Mackey is not alone.
Eddy Streeper and his wife Amy also feed their dogs in training a food that contains corn.
Eddy has won the Canadian Open Championships 11 times, the Anchorage Fur Rondy twice, and the Open North American Championship in Fairbanks. His wife, Amy is a two-time Open North American Champion.
And, of course, these world-class working dog men and women are not alone.
Most of the working gun dogs, bear hounds, working terriers, pig dogs, and racing greyhounds in this country are fed dog food that has corn in it as well.
In fact almost all working dogs eat bagged kibble, and most of that kibble has corn in it.
For example Martin Buser, who has won the Iditarod four times (including the fastest time ever) powers his dogs with Eagle Pack Power Formula, which is a dog food made with corn.
Hans Gatt, the 2002, 2003, and 2004 Yukon Quest winner uses the same food.
Four-time Iditarod chamption Susan Butcher powered her teams to victory on Purina Pro Plan's HiPro --a dog food containing corn.
As for Lance MacKey and the other top mushers named in this post, they train their dogs on Redpaw Poweredge 32K a dog food that lists corn as the #2 ingredient, and which is "designed for competitive training."
Putting corn in dog food is NOT a mistake, says Eric Morris. Morris is a competitive long-distance musher who created RedPaw dog food specifically for the training of long-haul endurance dogs.
In a post entitled "Is Corn Really Bad for my Dog," Morris notes that much of the "information" about corn and dog food found on the Internet today is simply wrong, and has been wrong for many decades.
When feed manufacturers first began making dry pet foods decades ago little was known about how these diets would affect a dog. Based on the industries experience with making animal feeds, corn was a primary ingredient. Due to the industries lack of knowledge on canine nutrition and how to properly process the grains these dog foods did not perform well and often resulted in poor stools. Corn was given the blame for all of this and that stigma is still persisting to this day and is often used as a marketing tool.
Over time the industry has learned more about canine metabolism and how corn can affect digestion and the production methods have progressed significantly. This new knowledge has given the pet food manufacturers the ability to use corn and various other grains in their formulations without any dietary complications provided the feed is formulated and processed correctly. In some cases the use of corn is a significant advantage in dog foods.
A great example of this is Redpaw Poweredge 32K dog food. This is a dry kibble dog food with the primary ingredient being fish complimented with poultry and pork. Since Redpaw bases all of it’s formulations on the overall performance of dogs in real working conditions the company did not base their formulations on the marketing and ingredient list. The formulations are based solely on performance so all potential ingredients were considered.
In the case of this one dog food, corn was the absolute best grain source to compliment the other ingredients. Using corn as the grain component resulted in a final formulation the yielded a high protein dog food with complete and balanced amino acid and fatty acid profiles. This synergy was not possible using any other grain. Redpaw also understands that if the grain is ground properly and then cooked under the ideal conditions that the starches in corn can be completely digestible allowing them to take advantage of the protein and fat portion of the corn. The cooking process that Redpaw uses allows for the complete unfolding of the starches. It is very similar to the process of making popcorn. Under the proper temperature and pressure the starches from the corn are encouraged to completely unfold and pop up like a piece of popcorn. As we all know popcorn will begin to breakdown in water. In a dog, these starches begin to breakdown as soon as they enter the dogs digestive system and do not contribute to any digestive problems.
An interesting note is that the Redpaw Poweredge 32K mentioned above is the top performance dog food in the sleddog racing circles. This one dog food has has more top ten victories the past two years running than any other dog food on the market. This feed was even responsible for the unprecedented back to back victories in the Yukon Quest and Iditarod sleddog races two years running. So when someone tells you that corn is bad for your dog, simply look at the results of Redpaw, it speaks for itself.
Is this more puffery from another dog food manufacturer?
Well, as Morris notes, look at the records of Lance Mackey, Marin Buser, Eddy and Amy Streeper, and all the rest who are winning in competitive sled dog trials after training their dogs with Redpaw Poweredge 32K, Eagle Pack Super Premium, or Purina HiPro.
Could it be -- just maybe --that they know something about corn that hyper-ventilating food-faddist on doggie list-servs do not?
Which is not to say that I would recommend a couch-potato dog start chowing down on Redpaw 32K or Eagle Pack Super Premium.
These two dog foods have a 20 percent fat content, which is probably the minimum needed for dogs running several hundred miles a week, but which is too rich for dogs not engaged in such competitive training.
Feeding the average suburban dog a 20-30 percent fat diet (most mushers add fatty meat to their dog kibble during really heavy training days and during the race itself) is a bit like a suburan homeowner chowing down on the same high-energy foods as olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.
Remember: If a dog (or a human) eats like an athlete, but does not work out like an athlete, the result is predictable -- FAT.
So what should your dog be eating?
In my book, most dog owners cannot go wrong with any grocery-store bought Purina or Pedigree product with a fat content of about 10 to 12 percent, and a protein content of about 25 percent.
And, of course, it will do your dog no harm if you supplement this diet with an occasional frozen chicken wing, fried egg, or handful of snap beans.
Of course, for the average couch-potato, agility-dog, or ball-chaser, almost any dog food will be fine.
The main thing, is simply to not feed your dog too much.
Veterinarians and human doctors rarely see dogs or humans in trouble from nutritional deficits.
On the other hand, both see dogs and humans every day that are dying from obesity.
With food (both human and canine), quality is generally less important than quantity, and less food is almost always a better health choice than too much.
And as for the folks who are busy lecturing the world about the evils of corn-based dog food, be advised that these people are full of hot air.
There is not one long-term, peer-reviewed, double-blind study which shows that corn in dog food is bad. Not one.
But there is the track record of Lance McKey, Martin Buser, Buddy Streeper, and all the rest, which suggests the exact opposite.
The lesson here is that corn is NOT crap, even if some of the advice to be gleaned from list-servs and dog food faddists is.
- Related Links:** Let's Try Science!
** No Evidence One Dog Food Is Better Than Another
** Feed Me Like a Wolf
** Canned Beaver as Dog Food?
** A Brief History of Dog Food
** Dog Food Secrets "They" Don't Want You To Know** Alaska: Made by Special Dogs of No Special Breed
** God Himself Tips His Hat for Governor's Last Run** Poodles In the Iditarod?
** The Genetics of Iditarod and Crufts