Friday, February 20, 2009

Dog Food: Let's Try Science!

Did you know that there have been no long-term, peer-reviewed, double-blind studies which conclude any benefit to a RAW diet for dogs?


And can ANYONE find a single long-term, peer-reviewed, double-blind study which shows that ANY dog food is better than another?

Can anyone find a single long-term, peer-reviewed, double-blind study which shows that corn in dog food is bad?

I keep asking, and so far no one has anything.


Here we have a billion-dollar-a-year industry in a country with hundreds of thousands of scientists, thousands of wonderful laboratories, hundreds of peer-reviewed journals, and there appears to be NOT ONE study, anywhere, that says one dog food is better than another based on evidence gathered in a real live-dog double-blind feed trial.

Nor is there ONE study which says corn in dog food is bad.

Not one.

And, let's face it, it's not because the for-profit high-dollar pet food industry is not heavily incentivized to find such a study.

If you build a better dog food and can prove it, people will pay.

But, of course, no one can.

Silence can also tell a story.

But to hear silence, you must clear your mind and really listen.

  • Note: If you actually have SCIENCE, i.e. a long-term, peer-reviewed, double-blind study please post in comments, otherwise do not. I am looking for evidence, not more recycled mumbo-jumbo, anecdote and opinion. Read the title.

    This country (this world!) is crawling with large commercial kennels and crowded dog shelters. Most real dog food companies run live feed trials. And yet not one will make a claim that their dog food is better than anyone elses.

    Think otherwise? Prove it. Post a link or citation to a long-term, peer-reviewed, double-blind dog food study conducted with real dogs.



Ark Lady said...

Studies as they are related to dogs and cats are fairly limited--even referenced as so in at least one paper from 1995 on nutritional requirements of aging pets.

Also, they seem to be done (or funded) by the food producers themselves.

Like many things--there is a lot of anecdotal observations. People have a lot of different preferences--and ease and cost often influence the choices on what to feed.

You might have better luck trying the professional organizations who deal with diet.

There are a few for the zoo industry but the American Society for Nutrition is one group that does studies for both humans and animals:

They also publish a journal which might be helpful in your quest for science.

Find them at:

Enjoy your quest...

LJS said...

Good post.

Perhaps there are other studies, but the only peer-reviewed randomized prospective long-term research study that I'm aware of on the subject of dogs and dog food had to do with amount of food the dogs were fed, not the type of food. So while not exactly what you were writing about, it was interesting nonetheless.

Labrador Retriever pups from several litters were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The restricted fed group got 75% of the food that the other group got. The same food was fed to both groups. Given that Purina funded the study, presumably it was one of their kibbles.

The study was continued throughout the dogs' natural lifetimes.

Compared to the overfed group, dogs in the restricted fed group had less than half the incidence of hip dysplasia, a lower incidence of some other diseases, and they lived significantly longer. They were normal weight while dogs in the overfed group were overweight/obese. Owing to the randomized design of the study, these differences were not due to genetics.

The study was published in several separate reports in peer-reviewed veterinary medical journals.

The study demonstrated the kinds of serious ills and shortened longevity that overfeeding causes dogs. It appears to me that most dogs in America are overweight or obese, thus are likely overfed. Maybe we should spend less time worrying about what we feed our dogs, and spend a bit more time learning how to feed them the right amount?

Laura Sanborn

chip1972 said...

I was just poking around for fun and found the following. If Patrick already found this, apologies.

The article, Daniel J. Joffe and Daniel P. Schlesinger, "Preliminary assessment of the risk of Salmonella infection in dogs fed raw chicken diets" says the following regarding the claims made for raw diets:

"No publications, other than anecdotal testimonials, support or refute these claims. In one small-scale study, the nutritional adequacy of several “natural” diets was examined: significant nutritional imbalances existed."

So much for all that, I guess: Raw diets lead to nutritional imbalance and bacterial infection, great!

On the other hand, I also found that feeding raw ONIONS seems to have a positive effect (assuming you can stand the resulting "effects"):

So much for the all meat diet, eh.

Jacob said...

The only thing I can add is why spend the money on science when marketing works so well without it?

jacob letoile

Gina said...

I don't have a problem with people who put their trust in processed food produced by massive multi-nationals from ingredients from god-knows-where produced in god-knows-what conditions. It's your money, and you spend it as you want, for yourself, your kids or your pets.

And heaven knows I've known lots of pets who do well and live long lives on these foods, just as I know people who live long lives doing things that make preventive-health experts scream.

So why do I prepare most of my pets -- and my own -- food from scratch? It's my choice, and I have my reasons.

When I prepare food at home from ingredients I buy from locally known sources, I live my values. I have control over the source of the ingredients, and I support small, regionally-based farmers and humane, environmentally sustainable agricultural practices.

Some of the meat the dogs and cats eat is raw, some of its not. I don't think that matters. They also eat dairy products and our home-produced eggs. As much of the meat I can find for them is the cheap leftovers of slaughter, the animal parts people generally won't eat. (Albeit still from the sources I know.)

Like me, the animals also enjoy the occasional slice of pizza or what-not. And some chicken or horse poop whenever they can get it -- and no, we don't share that.

Preparing our own meals takes more time and more planning, but not as much as most people imagine. With time and planning, it doesn't cost much more money, either.

For me, this isn't about whether the meat in the meal is raw or cooked, but where it came from, how it was treated, and what I'm supporting with my money.

The "science" behind my choice isn't a believe that a home-prepared diet will prevent or cure disease, or ensure a longer life. Rather it's about not supporting unsustainable practices of fossil-fuel heavy agribiz and global trade. I think those scientific issues have been pretty well documented.

Oh, and the meals taste better, too. Well, mine do. I can't say much about how they feel about theirs, and I wouldn't put much stock in the opinion of the dogs here anyway, who like most are just as happy to eat cat poop as kibble or steak. -- Gina Spadafori, (yeah, I still can't get your new verification thing to work for me)

PBurns said...

No problems with any of those reasons Gina.


PBurns said...

Just got about 500 words of "not every protein is the same," etc. etc. Someone trying very hard to sound smart, but offering NO studies, NO citations, and NO deficient dog foods.

Enough TYPING people!

I asked for EVIDENCE.

The title is "Let's Try Science," and I was rather specific that I was looking for peer-reviewed double-blind trials with live dogs.

I do not need a lecture about dog food; I have probably read more about it than you have. In fact, I have read so much that I know what is NOT out there -- real research supporing any of the TYPING which swings between prattle and nonsense.

Let's try evidence-based science, eh?


john said...

Ive been looking for science based evidence of better feed for years with no such luck only sales pitches and mine is better than yours company propoganda. I have just quit buying a name brand dog food because of all of the BS that they have continued to try and pump down my throat. I am ashamed that I supported this company for years because they are ripping off the public with their advertisement and scare tactics about dog feed. They have got the last of my money. Keep up the good information.

wickedgoodpetcare said...

Does this count?


Jewell, D.E. (2003). Einfluss der Futterung auf altersbedingte Verhaltensanderungen beim Hund. [Effects of food on age-related behavioural changes in dogs.]. Praktische Tierarzt 84(3): 178-182. ISSN: 0032-681X.
NAL Call Number: 41.8 P882
Abstract: A clinical trial, including 142 dogs aged 7 years or older, was performed in order to investigate whether age-related behavioural changes could be influenced by feeding a special diet. The trial was designed as a randomized double blind study. The control interval was 60 days. Age-related behavioural changes were categorized by the DISHA-system and evaluated with the help of a standardized informant-based questionnaire completed by pet owners. The dogs fed the special diet showed significant improvements in behavioural attributes as compared to the control dogs receiving a leading consumer brand.
Descriptors: age, animal behavior, behavioral changes, diets, dog feeding.
Language of Text: German, Summary in English.

PBurns said...

It might if it actually said anything, but the summary does not tell us what the diet was, what the dogs were, what the outcome was, how significant the outcome was, how many dogs were impacted, what the confidence interval was, who was doing the study, etc.
In short, we know nothing from this summary!

All we know for sure is that it involves 142 older dogs that were studied for all of 60 days. As a demographer I would suspect simple "data wobble" out of so small a sample for so short a period. Data wobble occurs whenever you deal with very small samples. In this case, the researcher is actually looking at only 71 dogs for 60 days. Are the dogs identical in health, age, size, breed? I doubt it. You see, there is a *reason* true health trials on humans have narrow protocols (controlled for sex, age, weight, race, cholesterol and even ethnicity) and large sample sizes. I suspect this is not too close to science, but if you can scare up an English translation (or even the German text), I will check it out. For all I know they are using laboratory-bred beagles (how we tend to do dog science in the US, by the way).


wickedgoodpetcare said...

Ah-ha! The point is that there is some data out there (even if it is in German) but it's not nearly enough -

The same way we (Dodds/Schultz and concerned dog owners world wide) are trying to challenge the public's opinion on vaccines with science (Schultz is using beagles BTW), we need to do the same with diet.

Or, we can use common sense - I mean really, dog food is only about 100 years old. And the species is (conservatively speaking) 15,000 years old. Given the fact that breeds have changed greatly (from working to non-working) we know that a dog's dietary requirements has changed as well. But cereal?

I refuse to feed inferior food to my dogs just because the science is still in the background. And I'm sure you'll agree that the science is only as good as the investigator.

Now, let's see what I can find -


PBurns said...

This is not data. This is a summary does not summarize, or if it does, then it is a study that says nothing and has dubious foundations from the start. This is to data what the lightning bug is to lightning.

And yes, you are right that dogs have been around a very long time, mostly dying at a very young age and living off of garbage. "Trencher feeding" (how dogs used to be fed) refers to the bread trenchers that were the hard bread "liners" that were placed on wooden plates before there were ceramic plates. They were tossed out at the end of a meal, and that was dog food, along with more rotten loaves of bread (bread was baked only once or twice a year), rotten meat, rotten potatoes, and any other bit of detritus that could be scavanged. Across the world Pye Dogs or Pariah dogs still eat this way.

If you want to feed your dog its "natural diet," then feed it garbage and dead rats. That is the natural food of dogs, and it is the natural food of most coyotes and fox as well.

As I noted on this blog in a post entitled "Feed Me Like a Wolf," ( ), "The preferred diet of the wolf is not cooked backstrap from the pride of the herd, but raw flesh ripped from the diseased rectum of a downer cow." Read that sentence carefully, or see the post, as it's about as good a description of "natural dog food" as exists.


wickedgoodpetcare said...

Hummm - not all scavengers are urban. Wolves and coyotes here (in Upstate NY) eat well and don't expect a handout from people or farmers!

I've seen the pictures of your guys at work! They are a perfect machine - and I might add - as happy as sh**! So, what does happens to the meat after the kill?


Excerpts below taken from the International Wolf Center webpage:

For six decades, gray wolf research conducted near Ely has informed the world about this dwindling species and has contributed to its repopulation in the north woods. Sigurd Olson, a world renowned naturalist, made the first noted studies in the 1930s. Milt Stenlund conducted a second wolf research project from 1948-1952. The quality and sophistication of wolf research in the area grew throughout the years and continues today under the direction of Dr. Mech, who has tracked and studied wolves there since 1966. The foremost international expert in the field, Dr. Mech generously interprets his research for the Center's educational programs and serves on the board of directors.

General FAQs

What do wolves eat?

Gray wolves prey primarily on large, hoofed mammals such as white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, elk, caribou, bison, Dall sheep, musk oxen, and mountain goat. Medium sized mammals, such as beaver and snowshoe hare, can be an important secondary food source. Occasional wolves will prey on birds or small mammals.

Red wolves primarily prey on white-tailed deer, raccoons, rabbits and rodents.

How much do wolves eat?

Gray wolves can survive on about 2 1/2 pounds of food per wolf per day, but they require about 5 pounds per wolf per day to reproduce successfully. The most a gray wolf can eat in one sitting is about 22.5 pounds.

Red wolves eat an average of 5 pounds of food per day, but have been known to eat up to 12 pounds in one sitting.

How many prey do gray wolves kill per year?

In Minnesota, wolves kill the average equivalent of 15 to 20 adult-sized deer per wolf per year. Given the 2008 estimate of 2,922 wolves in Minnesota, that would equal about 43,800 to 58,500 deer killed by wolves. In comparison, hunters killed approximately 260,000 deer in the 2007 deer harvest. In addition, several thousand deer are killed during collisions with vehicles each year.

How long do wolves live?

Gray wolves in the wild have an average life span of 6 to 8 years, but have been known to live up to 13 years in the wild and 16 years in captivity. Red wolves in the wild have an average life span of 8 to 9 years, but have been known to live up to 12 years in the wild and 16 years in captivity.

puzzelo said...

I came across this blog and read a lot of interesting things that I thought I'd comment on.

There actually aren't any published peer reviewed long term studies on cat and dog food. Dog food and cat food trials aren't run that way. The normal length of an adult animal trial is only 26 weeks long.

Also there's no way to make a perfect dog food since we don't know 100% about dog nutrition. There's a lot of aspects of dog nutrition that just haven't been researched.

Also some people say that dogs and cats need protein. Dogs and Cats need Amino Acids, not protein, so technically, just because protein doesn't come from meat doesn't mean it's worthless.

Raw food is not better than kibble.
Corn is not bad for dogs
Most of the things that are published about dog food come from biased sources.