Feb 25 2013

Dog Food Industry

The debate about “holostic” and “all natural” diets as compared to plain-old doog food has been growing recently.  I’m very happy about this, to tell you the truth, because it is increasing everyone’s awareness about what they are putting into their pet’s body.  However, two red flags come up when we talk about new food for our animals.

1.  New isn’t necessarily better – new just means new – it may not have been tested thoroughly in order to get to market as quickly as possible (oh, and different isn’t necessarily better either, it is just different).

2.  The race to “healthier” and newer products is driven by corporations who are driven by profit.

Again, no negativity here, just a caution that many of these corporations who produce these newer, so-called healthier foods are just trying to follow market trends and look for profit where they can find it.

Some of our prescription diets

Before I talk about prescription diets (next blog), I want to talk a little about corn and chicken byproducts in normal diets.  Corn, everyone says, is a “filler,” and chicken byproducts just sounds dirty and gross.  However, corn is a good source of protein and carbohydrates that are available to be absorbed easily, and chicken byproducts are packed with nutrients when compared to whole chicken breasts.  I don’t want to come down on the side of “processed food,” but just because it has gluten in it or “byproducts” that doesn’t make it bad for every dog.  What is means is that these companies have found what they think is best for dogs and cats to eat while still making a profit.

This is where AAFCO comes in http://www.aafco.org/.  The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) maintains guidelines for what dogs and cats should eat at certain life stages.  Foods that meet these guidelines (%protein, %calcium, etc…) are allowed to be labeled as AAFCO approved.  Many of the newer foods out that claim to be best for dogs with whole chicken breasts for protein and tapioca for carbohydrates have AAFCO approval.  However,  while AAFCO guarantees a certain percent of protein in the food, the animal may or may not be able to metabolize it – AAFCO does not require this distinction.  So the best diet in the world by the label may be completely imbalanced, and you, AAFCO, and your dog would never know.

Some of companies have actually gone above and beyond AAFCO.  They have conducted feeding trials to ensure that animals are receiving, metabolizing, and utilizing every thing that they say is in their food.  Science Diet, Purina, Royal Canin, Eukanuba – they have all performed feeding trials and have verified that the ingredients listed are used and are good for the health and well being of the animal.  They may use corn and chicken products, but they know the ins and outs of their food.

I’m really not sure where this will end – with so many new “purer” dog and cat foods, surely there are some great all-natural foods, and some who really don’t do what they say.  They may be better for some dogs with allergies to corn, and certainly it makes you feel like you love your dog more when you are buying expensive bags of food with Alaskan-caught salmon.  However, I want everyone to know there are companies who believe that research is the best way to take care of our dogs, and they base their ingredients on this.  Could these companies make even better food with better ingredients?  Maybe.  Are these products currently better than “all-natural” foods?  Until I see the research, I say yes.

So before you reach for any food, read the label claims:  formulated to meet AAFCO doesn’t mean much. feeding trials in accordance with AAFCO standards says a whole lot more than the ingredients.

(No pet food has paid me to write anything)

– Doc Cleland

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