Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Single Greatest Dog Food Toxin

Toxic Chinese dog food is less of a threat than something far closer to home.

The greatest toxin in dog food is not salmonella or aflatoxin. It's not melamine or botulism. It's not ecoli, ethoxyquin, BHA, or BHT.

My son came home for the weekend, and he brought with him a bag of "Dick Van Patten New Balance" dog food.

In short he damn near brought poison into my house.

He did not mean to.

He loves his dog, and he wanted to get her some "really good food" for her, so he did what so many people do -- he went into a pet store.

Of course a pet store never has any normal brands, does it? No Purina. No Pedigree. Just "fancy" boutique brands.

Just poison.

I say poison because almost none of these boutique dog food labels actually make their own dog food. They are simply "lick and stick" companies that invent a dog food recipe, pay an advertising company to make up a label, and then contract out with a third-party manufacturer to fill up the bags. Another company is paid to market the dog food, and no one ever gets their hands dirty or even sees the product one month to the next. Feed trials? You must be kidding. That would cut into the profits.

And the result? Poison in a predictable number of cases.

The latest cockup is Diamond Dog Food which makes the junk put out by Dick Van Patten, an overweight, fleshy, no-talent actor that used to star in bad sit-coms in the 1980s.

What's Dick Van Patten know about dog food? Not a damn thing, as I noted a while back in a post entitled Canned Beaver as Dog Food?

This is dog food made by who-knows-who, from who-knows-what, which has been sitting around who-knows-where for who-knows-how-long.

Of course, Dick Van Patten's "Natural Balance" dog food is not the only pet profiteer that has contracted with Diamond Dog Food to crank out suspect dog food. Other companies implicated include:
  • Canidae
  • Apex 
  • Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul
  • Country Value
  • Diamond
  • Diamond Naturals
  • Wellness
  • Premium Edge
  • Professional
  • 4Health
  • Solid Gold
  • Taste of the Wild
  • Kirkland (Costco) dog foods -- a wide variety, as well as
  • Natural Balance
  • Kaytee Forti-Diet (mouse, rat and hamster food)

All of these companies have hired Diamond Dog Food to "co-manufacturer" their brand. "Co-manufacture" is fancy-talk for "you make the crap while we lie about it in the ads and on the label."

The simple truth, as I noted in a past post entitled What Dog Food Hysterics Won't Tell You is this: "No brand of dog food has ever been shown to be better than any another brand of dog food".

That's still true to this day, which means you can kick to the curb such high-priced nonsense brands as "Blue Buffalo" and Wysong. You can also dump all the dog foods that have these words on the label:
  • gourmet 
  • holistic 
  • homeopathy 
  • organic 
  • human-grade 
  • premium 
  • no filler. 

None of these phrases mean a damn thing other than the company that put them on the label thinks you are an idiot. You're not an idiot, are you?

So what food do I feed my dogs? Dry Purina kibble that comes in a bag.

Purina is a company that has been making dog food for more than 100 years and if you visit a kennel of working fox hounds or bird dogs, it's the food you are most likely to find in the shed.

I feed dry kibble because time and experience has shown fewer quality problems with fire-treated dry kibble dog foods.

I feed Purina because Purina has its own factories, it has a long-established chain of stock suppliers, it invests in canine research and performance sports, and it is not spending a lot of money paying payola to pet stores in order to get their food stocked. In fact, Purina dog food is available at Safeway or Giant or Target, and it moves fast off of store shelves which means it's generally pretty fresh. In addition, grocery store dog good like Purina has generally been stored in a large, temperature-regulated warehouse, not the back of a rat-infested strip-mall pet store with a leaky roof.

Does this mean Purina has never had a quality problem? Nope. Everyone who manufactures anything has a quality control problem sometimes. That said, Purina has a 100-year reputation to defend, and it's not likely to blame some third-party manufacturer for its problems if and when they do crop up.

The bottom line is that Purina makes its own dry food,and they didn't just start doing that yesterday.

Does that mean you should feed your dog Purina? Of course not. Feed your dog any damn thing you want. I do not care.

Just be advised of the most important thing about dog food: the single greatest toxin in dog food is not salmonella. It's not aflatoxin. It's not melamine or botulism. It's not ecoli or ethoxyquin or BHA or BHT.

The single greatest toxin in dog food is YOU.

About 40 percent of all dogs are obese, and that's not the dog's fault or the dog food manufacturer's fault. That the owner's fault.

Now I know it's become somewhat politically chic these days for overweight people to say there's nothing wrong with being fat.

I get it -- let's not be rude. That said, from a health point of view, it's complete nonsense. Obesity kills, and it kills every damn day.

Fat people have wrecked knees and wrecked hips and chronic back problems. They have liver damage and they have high blood pressure and diabetes, and all of that costs this nation scores of billions of dollars a year.

And what is true for humans is also true for dogs. A fat dog will have a shorter life, more joint and back problems, more liver and other organ failure, and far more expensive veterinary bills.

Is that a secret?  Is that "The Dog Food Secret "They" Don't Want You To Know About?


PipedreamFarm said...

I have no sympathy for the companies who must recall their food because the company they contracted to make their food had an issue with Salmonella. Why, because when they contracted the work they set the rules that the contractor follows. If they wanted their finished food tested for X, all they needed to do is put it in their contract.

One of these companies, Wellness, does test their finished food for Salmonella prior to shipping to customers; and they have chosen to recall any way. Why would they do this? Perhaps because, as the FDA points out in their Salmonella guidance document, initial tests of product could yield negative Salmonella results and upon later retesting yield positive results. How could that be, you ask; because tests cannot detect a single "bug" and "bugs" continue to grow when provided "bug food". What a wonderful life for a “bug” to live in a bag of dog food (26% protein, 16% fat).

Pet (petpisces) said...

I've always fed my dogs whatever I could afford- preferably dog and puppy chow. My dogs are house dogs when I'm away but when I'm home they run and run and run- trying to catch deer, rabbits, the local lone coyote and my 1 year old Engligh Pointer was thinner than I liked (visible hips and ribs)!! After some research, I decided to go with Diamond for the fat and protein. Trial and Error.

They are working on the second 50lb bag and for the cost ($26 at TSC) isn't a bad deal since 2.5 cups is filling them up where it was taking 4-5 cups a day for the pointer on the Dog Chow... I'll stick with it until they give me signs to turn my back on it.

Great post.

Pet (petpisces) said...

GREAT- extended recall...

Must go back to Purina... for the reasons you stated above!!!!

eric said...

In my experience, some dog food are better than others, and the best for real working or sporting dogs are not found in a convenince store. Pro Plan (Purina)and Royal Canin, are the best in my opinion, because they use good sources of protein and fat, most of it real meat, the cheaper brands use blood, bone, and other stuff. But if tou have a house dog, that is not doing a real, big calory demanding activity, that kind of food is not only a wast of money, is a ticket to obesity and behavior problems for the excess of energy supply not being ussed.

Nora said...

Just out of curiosity, have you any opinion on Bil-Jac fresh frozen? It's manufactured local to me (Medina, OH) at their own plant. Interestingly to me, many of my raw food feeding friends use it as training treats, although from the "pet food advisor" (who CHARGES for her list of the best and worst pet foods--in her opinion, I guess) perspective it has entirely too many dubious ingredients. It's not cheap (although a 5-lb bag for $7 isn't TERRIBLE), it's available at my local grocery stores, and it's been around since the 40's, which to me signals that they are doing SOMETHING right. I mix it with 1/4 cup of dry food (Fromm's, another company who makes their food at their own facilities) to add volume.

PBurns said...

I have no direct experience with BilJac but it's main claim to fame is that it has a fair amount of fat so dogs like it and it makes small stools (Is that a good thing? Why? Why is roughage a bad thing for a dog if it's a good thing for humans and wolves?).

You are right that a 50-year old food is a good thing, but look past that and you find no AAFCO notation that I can see.

This is a company that basically processes slaughter house scraps by freezing rather than with fire and drying as with most kibble makers. The result is that you pay for water shipping, energy and freezer space to store, and it's also a bit more work to feed. But is it bad food? Not that I can see. No different than the rest, I think, but certainly a processed food (which is NOT a bad thing).

See the ingredients:

Beef, Meat By-Products, Cereal Food Fines, Poultry, Poultry Meal, Animal Liver, Fish Meal, Eggs, Cane Molasses, Dried Beet Pulp, Wheat Germ Meal, Brewers Dried Yeast, Phosphoric Acid, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Salt, Niacin, Biotin, Choline Chloride, Folic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), DL-Methionine, Vitamin B12 Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Manganous Oxide, Inositol, Ascorbic Acid, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Cobalt Carbonate, Potassium Oxide, Sodium Selenite.

amelie said...

I have to agree and disagree at the same time. Purina IS a fine food, for pet dogs or even even light working dogs. I know though that for hard working dogs that it just doesn't cut it. I live in interior Alaska (where winter temps fall to -40F on a regular basis) and have sled dogs. I feed a popular, proven high protein high fat kibble and add a blend of raw meat that is made for hard working dogs.

I also have some dogs that live in the house and only get light work, walking, fetching, occasionally running with the quad....they eat whatever kibble I buy them, sometimes dog chow, sometimes the sled dog food, they foxtail fine on either.

Stoutheartedhounds said...

I don't think Diamond Pet Foods is really the right target in this discussion, it's the other companies that contract with Diamond to produce their food rather than owning their own facilities and doing their own quality control.

Diamond has been manufacturing its own food, and marketing it under its own name since the 70's. The company started as a livestock feed producer and later switched to pet food. I don't know when they started accepting contracts to manufacture food for other companies, but they own, and have for several years, all the facilities that produce their own name-brand products, and all the Diamond brand foods have AAFCO seals.

There is no food that is objectively better than another food, but there are foods that work better for individual dogs. Does that make those foods better on the whole? No.

I think Purina makes a very good product and I like the fact that they have been in the business for a very long time. Unfortunately not all of my dogs tolerate their foods very well, and some of their varieties are quite expensive (i.e. Pro Plan).

One thing I wish Purina hadn't discontinued was their Hi-Pro variety for sporting dogs. Hi-Pro was the base of a lot of racing Greyhound diets, and it works really well for them. But I guess the market wasn't big enough for Purina to justify producing it anymore. I now buy an alternative high protein brand, but I would rather buy Purina Hi-Pro.

PBurns said...

Someone posted a link to this post on a board (thanks!) and someone on that board wondered if I was a Purina salesman. Nope. So far as I know, there are no Purina salesmen. At least no one going around to Safeway or Giant or Kroger's offering payola. And, for the record, I do not accept ads, do not accept free trial products, etc. This blog has a very strict NO PAYOLA policy as noted on the side. It's not that I love Purina (I know no one who works for them), it's that I hate liars, thieves, cheats and charlatans and there are a LOT of those in the dog food business. I also have respect for products that have proven themselves over tine, folks that do research, folks that fund working dog activities, etc. Purina hits all the marks. Pedigree does fairly well too, as so several other makers. Again, as always, feed what you want, but do not LIE to the world or invent attrtibutes about boutique dog food brands that are sold with buzz words, are not tested, and have no source for their manufacturer or ingredients.

As for the folks who say "not all dogs tolerate their products well" I am OK with anyone feeding their dogs anything they want, but Purina does NOT make one type of dog food. It makes ProPlan (Susan Butcher fed her dogs this) and PurinaOne and Beneful and Beneful and Shredded Blend... Chicken and Rice... Beef and Rice... Lamb abd Rice... it goes on and on. It makes food formulate without corn, soy, artificial colors and preservatives, and ...well it goes on and on. All of it comes from a company that has been in business for over 100 years, that feed trials its foods, that has a laboratory, that has nutritionists, that invests in science, that sponors working dog events, that owns its own factories and has long-term reliable suppliers. Very few dog food companies can say that!

Stoutheartedhounds said...

I am well aware that Purina makes more than one brand/variety of dog food. That doesn't mean that all dogs will do well on all those brands. I'd like to be able to feed Pro Plan but it's a bit out of my price range. Greyhounds in particular do very well on Purina ONE, but that too is out of my price range. Diamond offers one of the best values on dog food I've seen.

Dog Chow has worked very well for most of my dogs, and the price is right too. My terriers still eat it and I always recommend it to people that adopt dogs from me.

Nora said...

BTW, checked the Bil-Jac bag and it does carry the AAFCO seal.

PBurns said...

Excellent on AAFCO for Biljac... np mention on their web site. Is it the feed trial standard or the lesser one?

Nora said...

It's the feed trial statement.

PBurns said...

Excellent. Long term company, AAFCo feed trials. All good.

amelie said...

I had the pleasure of meeting the wonderful Susan Butcher and speaking at length all things sled dog before she passed away. Wonderful animals she had. Purina actually used her kennel to test different formulas of their performance feed. I agree it was a fine food, though the dogs actually running iditarod were supplemented fat and meat. I have noticed their formula has changed since her heyday and winning days. Not to say its not a great feed. I just am more inclined to feed a kibble that is currently in the bucket of the winning Quest and Iditarod teams. (And yes my kibble has that eeeeevil corn in it :)

kevinmaik said...

Nice post, and great information share by others, Thanks.
Pet food normally sold in pet food supply stores and pet food supermarkets, it is usually exact to the type of animal, for instance dog food or cat food. A big quantity of meat used for non-human animals is a by-product of the human food manufacturing.
dog food

seeker said...

I've gone back to Purina One Beyond after reading your article. I had changed several years ago because I do have a dog that is skin sensitive to grain (rescued Puppy Mill dog) but stupidly didn't know Purina now had a food for his needs. Thanks for pulling my head out. I'm also paying 1/2 the price for P1B that I was paying for Natural Balance. Thanks for all the good info about the Expensive Stuff.

Debi and the TX JRTs

lexi said...

Thank you for this great article, my baby boxer is 2 years old.I adopted him about a month ago.And what a picky eater, after so much research i decided to choose purina one shredded beef, I was skeptical since my baby was mostly eating table food from previous owner, to my surprise he enjoyed his food and ate ever last bit of his food. so far i had no issues with allergies etc, my baby is happy. And so i am, and feel confident i made a great choice,and highly recommend purina one shredded beef or chicken etc.

Brian S said...

As a longtime dog owner and shelter volunteer, I encounter a lot of people who get sucked into dog food marketing and drop $60-$70 on a bag of kibble. Great article.

One small quibble. While most of the marketing words you listed are gimmicks--most notably, "holistic" and "human grade," which have no defined standard whatsoever by the FDA or AFFCO--the term "organic" has explicit qualifications. Any human or animal food that has the word "organic" printed on the label must by law be 95% organic, i.e. 95% free of artificial food additives and not processed by artificial methods, materials, or conditions like chemical ripening, food irradiation, synthetic pesticides, and GMOs.