DOG FOOD DILEMMA

We are asked by clients every day about pet foods: what should I feed my pet? Grain-free? Gluten-free? What about raw diets? It is becoming an increasingly difficult conversation as our views on nutrition often conflict with national marketing campaigns or grassroot fads that have little or no basis in proper pet food nutrition. The only way to provide our clients with the best nutritional advice and truth about pet food is to rely on thorough investigation of the products we are recommending. I hope the information contained in this article will help you gain the information you need to choose a food with confidence.

First and foremost, let’s identify the criteria for a high-quality pet food manufacturer. Does the manufacturer make the food in its own facility? Does it have an american feed control official feeding trial statement? Does the company practice strict quality control measures and conduct and publish research on animal nutrition? Does the pet food bag read manufactured by as opposed to manufactured for? Many foods are co-packed or made by several different manufacturers then labeled by the end-of-the-line company that sells it.

A great place to start is by reading the annual manufacturer list published by the whole dog journal. An excellent example of how effective this list can be is the changes to blue buffalo food, which was reported to have been manufactured by several companies and then packaged. In part, because of the publication of the whole dog journal list, blue buffalo built a multi-million dollar facility with the idea of bringing its product in house.

The flip side of co-packing is mass manufacturing. Diamond foods produces over 30 different dog foods! One of the plants was the home to a major salmonella outbreak which led to the largest recorded recall of pet foods. Over 30,000 tons of food was recalled! In 2012, a sample of diamond pet food tested positive for salmonella liverpool. It is shocking to know that regulatory agencies do not require manufacturers to test their final pet foods for salmonella. This is why we are recommending that you ask the manufacturer if they regularly test as part of a quality control standard.

If your favorite food is not on the whole dog journal list, consider calling or emailing for your answers to the questions: do they manufacture in-house, employ a veterinary nutritionist, practice strict quality control measures and conduct nutritional research.
The next problem we face when we recommend food is guaranteeing that the label ingredients are actually present in the food. A recent article reported that 20 of 52 foods that were pcr tested for ingredients showed a discrepancy between labeled ingredients and what was actually in the diet. The study found that the most common ingredient is chicken and that 20 mislabled foods contained either additional proteins or none of the advertised proteins. Pork was the most commonly undeclared protein and two foods claiming to contain beef had none at all. Talk about disturbing. This can be a problem when a client is trying to avoid a potential food allergen for their pet.

Another study found that four over-the-counter venison diets also contained beef, corn and soy which were not listed on the label. Royal canin was found to contain only venison and potato.

When trying to rule out food allergies, we have to recommend prescription diets or supervised home-cooked meals as a better choice for the pet. Another option is custom-blend diets.

Grain-free. The new buzz phrase. The problem is that grain-free does not mean hypo-allergenic and there is no set aafco definition of grain-free. So grain-free can mean different things to different manufacturers! Did you know that dogs are of the carnivore species but are omnivores in their eating habits, so complex carbohydrates are necessary for normal stool formation. Obesity is thought to be a problem of high carb diets but it is actually more of a concern with a high-fat diet.

Many of you have gravitated toward raw dieting because that’s what is natural of the 36 regions of genomes that differ between wolves and dogs, 10 play a role in digestion and metabolism, indicating legitimate nutritional differences between the two. Wild animals have a short lifespan and the raw diets may not provide complete nutrition for the long life that our domestic pets enjoy. Most raw diets are labeled for intermittent or supplemental feeding-not long-term nutrition. A recent article for and against raw diets reported that 60 percent of recipes used in homemade raw diets were found to have nutritional imbalances. In an earlier study, five raw diets (two commercially prepared, three home-cooked) had incorrect calcium/phosphorous ratio, vitamins a and e deficiencies and twice the aafco recommended amount of vitamin d.

Safety risks for freezing and unfreezing raw diets are concerning. It was estimated that 20-48 percent of raw diets are contaminated with salmonella. Another study found one-third of raw diets to be contaminated with listeria. Blood work abnormalities for raw diet eaters include increased lymphocyte and igg, elevated thyroxine and changes in bun.
Pay attention to life stage labeling on diets aafco requires separate nutritional profiles for gestation and lactation. Commercial diets should state whether they are adequate for a particular life stage and have undergone feeding trials for that stage. If the diet states that it meets all aafco requirements, then it has undergone trials for gestation, lactation and growth. If your breeder sticks to a home-cooked diet, ask if a board-certified veterinary nutritionist laid out the guidelines for the diet they have chosen. Breeders are a first line of defense group and should always be vigilant in nutritional monitoring. Furthermore, studies have shown that clients ask breeders almost as often as a veterinarian about nutrition for a new pet.

In summary, it is a daily battle to provide clients with the best possible information about pet health. We have found that royal canin, hill’s, nestle purina and iams manufacture in-house, employ board-certified veterinary nutritionists, publish research in peer-reviewed journals adhere to strict quality control measures, actually feed their food via aafco feeding trials and can provide a complete nutritional analysis of their products.
We hope this helps. You are not the only one out there concerned about making the right choice of food for your pet. Please call or email with any questions. I am going to find the list from whole dog journal and link it to our website.

Thank you,
Sarah, Manager, Hope Vet