Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Right Feed Cannot Cure Wrong Breed

Brennen McKenzie, a California veterinarian, has taken an unblinking look at the "RAW" versus commercial dog food debate.

McKenize has found a lot of puffery, bloviating, conspiracy, philosophy, and paranoia from the the RAW folks, but not much science to support their claims and quite a bit of evidence that commercial dog foods are more than just fine -- they are probably safer and more nutritious as well.

The argument that dogs are designed by their evolutionary history to eat raw meat based diets is riddled with errors and fallacies and ignores the impact of tens of thousands of years of domestication and cohabitation with humans ... The accusations that commercial dog foods are nutritionally inadequate or unsafe are not supported by any objective or scientific evidence, only anecdotes, intuition, and conspiracy theories. There is, in contrast, significant evidence that commercial dog foods are nutritious and healthy and that they have contributed to greater longevity and reduced nutritional and infectious disease morbidity of dogs fed these diets.

The benefits promised by advocates of BARF diets for dogs are numerous... However, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support these claims. BARF proponents have no shortage of opinions and anecdotes to demonstrate the benefits of their diets, but they have a severe shortage of data.

The risks of raw meat based diets, however, are well-documented. Homemade diets and commercial BARF diets are often demonstrable unbalanced and have severe nutritional deficiencies or excesses. Dogs have been shown to acquire and shed parasitic organisms and potentially lethal infectious diseases associated with raw meat, including pathogenic strains of E. coli and Salmonella...

So with a dodgy theory behind it, no sound evidence of benefits, and clear risks, there is no justification for recommending raw meat based diets for dogs.

Of course not everyone agrees! You will hear cautions from some people. No problem there, but be sure to down the leash before listening too closely.

Do they own a cancer-prone breed like a Bernese Mountain Dog, a Scottish Terrier, an Irish Wolfhound, or a Flatcoated Retriever?

Do they own a giant breed like a Great Dane or a Scottish Deerhound, which is likely to die from gastric torsion or heart disease?

Do they own a toy breed whose jaws are too crowded to hold its teeth, or do they own a heavily inbred rare breed with a gene pool that was closed with less than 50 dogs?

Now ask yourself this: are you really going to listen to these people when it comes to the health risks associated with dog food when the same people so clearly ignored the more obvious and well-documented risks associated with breed selection?!

Do you also ask ask bankrupts for their business plans, three-time divorcees for marital advice, and the obese for dieting tips?

If a person does not know enough about dogs to stay away from a famously unhealthy breed, why would you think they know enough about dog food (or relative risk) to give advice?

If a person does not have enough common sense to read the label on the DOG -- the most important decision they will make when it comes to owning, raising, training or living with the animal -- why would you pay any attention to what they have to say about dog food?


Marie said...

Patrick, something dog food related we can agree on lol.

Gaylan's Golden Retrievers said...

Patrick, I love your blog and am so glad to see you are still writing. We agree on many things but, alas, not dog food. Before I switched to raw, I spent time talking to the late Dr David Kronfeld and his wife, Dr Sue Donaghue, both veterinary nutritionists. David was considered one of the greats in the field. You can check him out on Google, UPenn and VaTech websites.

David told me that there is no independent dog food research happening anywhere in the world. All research is paid for by the dog food companies. He gave me names of trustworthy canine nutritionists but it was only a handful.

You can certainly ignore me because I have goldens at the end of my leashes but at least they are hunting dogs ;-). I am well aware of the problems facing my breed andim further aware that this trend has happened in the thirty years I've been in the breed. However, I'm not willing to give up without a fight. To that end, I started a charity for canine health research. We are small now but our ultimate end is to fund independent dog food research. Once we are there, I'll let you know how it all turns out. May the best person win ;-).

PBurns said...

Yes, a 60% cancer rate in Goldens (40% in the UK) which suggests a problem with the knowledge base of both breeders and buyers in this breed... and especially those in this country. Caveat emptor if you are looking to get a Golden!

Having said that, the notion that there is no "independent" research going on in the field of dog nutrition is pure nonsense. It goes on every day and has for 100 years. And what does it show? Simple: that the dogs kept lean (very important) and fed commericial diets are living longer lives because they are getting better nutrition than at any time in world history. That is what the research shows! Research has also show that diets too high in calcium and vitamins can harm large breeds which grow too fast and can lead to exacerbated dypslastic conditions -- a major issue in Goldens. No research? There's actually quite a lot of dog food research. There's just no research that shows RAW is better -- and quite a lot of data that shows many made-up diet plans are actually pretty bad unless they are actually put together by someone paying attention to fats, proteins, vitamins, micronutrients, roughage, and likely contimination and storage problems. But, to be clear, I am fine with people feeding their dogs anything they want.

But an AKC breeder with a 60% cancer rate in their breed spending too much time obsessing about diet? Yes, I would suggest that might be a misplaced priority. If you are serious about breed health, Job One is to walk away from the closed registry system of the AKC -- and to speak out LOUDLY about what the closed registry system has done to the dogs. Cancer is not an "accident" or an "act of God" in this breed, nor can it be cured or prevented by better nutrition. It can only be cured by walking away from the AKC and the 50-cents ribbons that the people (not the dogs) are retrieving.


seeker said...

All I will say is that just because people buy a 50 lb bag of Old Roy does not mean they are are feeding their dogs properly. If a person feeds kibble they should read the label,know what they ARE feeding and where the food is manufactured. China has killed more American Pets than you can count.

Debi and the TX JRTs.

Gaylan's Golden Retrievers said...


I would love to see the research, not anecdotal evidence but research, that shows any comparison between kibble and raw fed dogs. Please share the hundreds of research projects being done every day. My anecdotal evidence conflicts greatly with yours--I see many more kibble-fed than raw-fed dogs, both mixed bred and purebred, with diabetes, CHE, ED, allergies, CANCER, and tons of other issues. But I know that anecdotal evidence is just that. So bring on the papers that are not funded or published by the dog food companies.

As for my over focus on diet, I have only responded after reading your many posts on this topic. I spend very little time worrying about my dogs' diets and post on it far less than you :-). I went to the independent experts in the field to design my dogs' food and have been very happy with the results. I simply thought you and your readers might be interested in their input.

All the best,


PBurns said...

Actually, Ol' Roy is no worse, and no better, than any other dog food out there. Consumer's Report gave it a top mark a few years ago, and it's made in the same factories (literally) that make many other higher-cost "boutique" dog foods -- same ingregients on the same production line and in the same storage sheds. For the record, Ol' Roy also makes several brands, and their High Performance stuff is as good as you will find on any shelf. Of course, because it's sold at WalMart and the big box stores, some people sniff at it. They believe you get what you pay for -- the biggest lie ever told by a marketer. Sure it's true sometimes, but mostly it's a come-on by a sales barker rationalizing his (or her) price gouging. I will tell you one thing: Sam Walton loved his pointer dogs, and if you have ever see pictures of those dogs in the field, you would feed your dogs whatever they ate!

As for resesarch on dog food and hip dysplasia (for a start), try >>

Google Schoolar will find you more!


bestuvall said...

costco is the way to go... if you cannot get it.. use old roy..remember kenl biscuit.. raised many a champion on it..

Thea said...

As I see it, the RAW stuff is simply another erroneous belief to come out of the fallacy that dogs are wolves. Dogs became man's best friend by hanging around early humans' cook sites and munching up the scraps. Anyone who claims that dogs aren't "meant" to eat cooked food (or grains) should put themselves on a diet of twigs and berries, because that is what our own primate evolutionary ancestors ate.

Raw fruits and vegetables generally ARE healthier and easier to digest, but raw meat? yikes. Maybe I'd let my dog get at a freshly slaughtered chicken, but after it sits around in packing and storage facilities and travels 100's of miles in the back of a truck? that's just gross. Especially given the disgusting conditions in which nearly all meat is raised and killed, which is why I plan to switch my little dog to vegetarian kibble after our bottomless 30lb bag runs out.

Thea Anderson

Fran said...

Not scientific, but this is from the Greyhound Racing Association of America Inc. website:

"All attempts to replicate the diets of racing dogs with cooked food have resulted in failure. Racing greyhounds simply do not perform as well on a commercial diet as on one partially composed of raw meat. Many pet owners of a variety of breeds have converted to a B.A.R.F. (Bones and Raw Food) diet similar to typical racing greyhound fare."

If commercial dog food was so good, why is it not used by performance-driven greyhound trainers?

PBurns said...

Fran you seem a bit confused about the relationship between work and diet, or perhaps you have not given a second's thought to the issue. Think about if for a second, eh? RACING dogs are racing and burning calories at a phenomenal rate, same as dogs during running the Iditarod sled dog races are burning many thousands of calories a day. But what's a racing Greyhound live on when he's retired? Bagged kibble and not too much of it at that -- talk to any owner of a retired racer (there are thousands of them everywhere). What's an Iditarod dog live on in the summer? Bagged kibble; they simply do not need to put in thousands of calories a day if they are not running. To put a point on it, most of the true working dogs in the world are only working a day or two a week at most, and most are living on bagged kibble and nothing more. But yes, if you are running racing dogs or pulling dogs, you need a higher class of feed with more fat in it. And YES they do make that feed -- RedPaw cranks it out for sled dogs as I have noted on this blog (they sponsor the Iditarod along with Purina and others). But do the greyhound folks want to feed RedPaw? Why would they feed a more expensive food when disease downer cows can be had for a song. That's what gets fed to the racing greyhounds, as the link you supply notes, and most of the time they seem to do OK with it since eating a tumor or a broken bone or a pile of roundworms, or bruised flesh does not actually create disease in the dog. If you want to feed uncooked raw downer cows to your dog, go right ahead. In fact, as I have noted in the past on this blog, the disease rectums of downer cows is the prefered diet of most predators! But, of course, none of this has a thing to with what this post is about, which is that " "Right Feed Cannot Cure Wrong Breed". I notice you do not tell us your breed or what kind of massively strenuous excercise you are doing with it that requires a high-fat custom diet. Care to share?