Thursday, August 25, 2016

Dog Food: Are You Focused on the Right Thing?

As I have noted in the past, there is NO research anywhere that shows one dog food is better than another.

That said, I recommend a couple of "filters against folly":.

  • Big, Old Companies Are Better:  Buy from a large and established dog food maker that has its own kennels and invests in research, such as Purina. These dog food makers have established feed stock suppliers, have canine nutritionists on staff, and make their own food rather than contract it out.
  • AAFCO Feed Trials Are a Minimum:  Buy dog food that has been subjected to an AAFCO feed trial. No, these are not breathtakingly arduous trials to pass, but what's it say if your dog food maker has not even done this minimal level of testing?
  • Grocery Stores Have Fresher Foods:  Grocery stores sell a lot of everything, including pet food, and as a consequence, packaged goods move from factory to store house to store, and to home in record time. That's important for dry kibble, as the larger the store and the more volume moved, the more likely the food has been properly stored in an air-conditioned warehouse and moved quickly before spoilage.
  • Focus on Keeping Your Dog Slim:  If you are the kind of person who reads articles about dog food, then how much you feed your dog is generally more important than what you feed your dog. So long as the food is from a major AAFCO-feed trial tested brand, and is not too old, the key to nutrition is to not feed too much. If you cannot feel a rib, your dog is too fat!

I am happy to report that Dr. Lisa Freeman, a professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts agrees.  

In a profile in the Tuft's Daily newspaper she notes that "The most important thing is the manufacturer," and that that a good dog food company should have at least one full−time, qualified nutritionist on board, as well as a research and development department, and that it should operate its own manufacturing plans.

Dr. Freeman says to stay away from dog food manufacturers who contract out with third party manufacturers, who do not have their own nutritionists and research departments, and who do not subject their foods to AAFCO feed trials, but instead assemble a package of kibble based on a recipe. These companies are investing in marketing, not nutrition.

Dr. Freeman also says we can ignore most dog food labels -- they are a kind of advertisement and are not a meaningful window into the actual ingredients in the food or the nutritional needs of your dog.

What about dog foods that advertise themselves as "organic" or which claims they are made of  "human−grade," or "premium" ingredients or which say they are "holistic"? 

It's all meaningless nonsense, designed to separate a gullible public from their wallet.

So what's not nonsense?  

Dr. Freeman says that labels which say they are a "complete" food are telling you something (it's a legally defined term), and so too are labels which are targeted at certain life stages, such as old age and puppies (terms defined by AAFCO).

What about animal byproducts?  Dr. Freeman says there is nothing wrong with them --  they are not poor quality meat, no matter what the chattering masses might claim.  And I guess Dr. Freeman might know -- she's not only a Veterinarian, she also has a Ph.D. from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition" (DACVN).

So how can you tell if your dog is too fat?  Dr. Freeman has a perfectly simple instruction tip:

Make a fist and feel your knuckles. If you were feeling your dog or cat's ribs, that's too skinny.

Now flat hand, palm up and feel the base of your fingers. That's overweight.

If you make a flat hand, palm down and feel your knuckles … that's just right. That's what it should feel like, with that amount of pressure.

Nice! A simple instruction tip you can use with dog owners everywhere!


PipedreamFarm said...

You should also add that Dr Freeman is a "Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition" (DACVN).

PBurns said...