Friday, May 13, 2016

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 poor children.


jeffrey thurston said...

Is this a reprint from earlier days? I agree with most of your essay but not the dog/wolf speciation part. Same species- no doubt- just as surely as black Tasmanian aborigines are the same species as Eskimos or Finns. I thought I already "won" this argument- do a bit more research and some critical thinking and you'll see that what you're trying to say is that wolves and dogs are very different animals who are the same species. Dogs are domesticated wolves with all that implies- including a far more varied diet and slightly different behaviors. Dogs and wolves are interbreeding in the wild- in the Eastern USA and in Khazakstan just to name a couple of places. Latest research shows dogs and gray wolves diverged tens of thousands of years ago from the Tamyr wolf- far too short a time span for speciation- especially when the genetic difference between them both mitochondrial and nuclear is so tiny- .2%- about the same as the genetic differences between humans. I agree with you that using today's gray wolf as the model for the diet of a dog today isn't necessarily good science but I am sure that most dogs could survive on a wolf's diet.

jeffrey thurston said...

I meant to say "Eastern North America" not "Eastern USA in my last diatribe...

PipedreamFarm said...

By your logic Neanderthals and homosapiens are the same species; along with many other examples of wild hybrids.

jeffrey thurston said...

Not exactly- exactly not! Wolfdogs aren't hybrids- coydogs are! Humans and Neanderthals diverged hundreds of thousands of years ago- wolves and dogs only 30,000 years ago at the most. Wolves and dogs share 99.8 % of genetic material- humans and Neanderthals 99.7% and some scientists consider them to be the same species. However a modern human isn't a domesticated Neanderthal whereas a dog IS a domesticated wolf! Not a hybrid...

PipedreamFarm said...

Putting "is" in capital letters does not make it fact. Wolf and dog both come from the same ancestor canine which they developed from on parallel paths; which is why domesticating a wolf does not get you a dog.

jeffrey thurston said...

Domesticating today's gray wolf is not possible (I think you meant to say TAMING) and does not get you a dog- I agree- but that does not make them different species- they are different SUBSPECIES! Their common ancestor was Canis Lupus- a ancient SUBSPECIES of which is not extant today. Dogs are a very special sort of Canis Lupus SUBSPECIES- possibly predisposed ancestrally to taming and then worked on radically by the forces of human selection- but they ARE wolves taxonomically. Remember our argument is purely one of taxonomy and that was settled years ago.

PipedreamFarm said...

The problem here is the use of "wolf" which is not clear as to "Canis lupus" or "Canis lupus lupus". Dog was not domesticated from "Canis lupus lupus" as is the popularly exposed notion by many on the internet and implied by pet food advertising using images of "Canis lupus lupus".

Then there is the popular argument that two different species will not breed in the wild; therefore dog and "Canis lupus lupus" must be the same (sub)species. Coydogs are hybrids of two species "Canis latrans" x "Canis lupus familiaris" refuting this argument as is the proven hybrid of "Ursus arctos horribilis" (Grizzly) x "Ursus maritimus" (Polar).