What we eat has a direct impact on our health and how we feel. Our food choices also affect the likelihood of developing many chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The same is true for dogs and cats. When it comes to dog food and feeding dogs, there is a lot of misinformation that pet owners believe. Here are 7 food myths that we often hear and the truth behind them.
1. Dog and cat food is manufactured and packaged by the brand name it is sold under.
95 percent of the brand name dog foods are owned by parent companies which are huge multinational corporations (e.g. Mars, Nestle/Purina, J.M. Smucker, Colgate Palmolive, General Mills). These companies use large production plants to make and package their pet foods. Many smaller pet food companies have recently been bought out by these large corporations. Decide for yourself if this is a good or bad thing, but it’s important to know who really owns the brand that you use.
2. Dry food (kibble) cleans your pet’s teeth.
This is like saying that eating crackers will keep our teeth clean – ridiculous! In fact, dry food will actually promote dental problems because it has a lot of carbohydrates, which break down into sugar. Dogs do not have the enzyme amylase in their saliva to break down this starch, so the bacteria in the mouth feast on these sugars. This leads to rapid tartar and plaque buildup, which explains why dogs that feed on kibble have more dental issues than those which feed on raw diets and bones. Raw meat (frozen in patties or nuggets) has enzymes that help prevent plaque and tarter build up, as well as ground up bones that act as a toothbrush when your pet in eating.
3. Meat is better than meat meal.
The American Kennel Club, as well as many other nutrition experts, say that, “If your goal is to have the most meat nutrients, choose meat meal. Ingredients appear in descending order of their weight; that weight includes any water in the ingredient. When you see chicken listed, it means unprocessed chicken, complete with water. Chicken meal means chicken with the water and fat removed. It weighs less than chicken but actually contains a higher percentage of protein.” With either one, it’s crucial to find a company you can trust that uses only high-quality ingredients and proper processing methods.
4. Pets need life stage appropriate diets, like puppy, kitten, and senior formulas.
According to Holistic veterinarian Dr. Jean Hofve, “Life stage diets were created as a marketing tool: the more formulas manufacturers develop, the more shelf space they command. While it is true that puppies and kittens need more food for their size than adults, they don't need a specially formulated puppy or kitten diet. Younger animals may need more frequent meals and older animals may not need as much. But no matter what life stage, they require excellent nutrition from a high quality, varied diet.”
5. People food is bad for dogs.
People foods like vegetables, lean meats (without skin or bones), most fruits, and yogurt are actually a terrific supplement to your dog’s diet. Some – like blueberries and kale - can even be considered “superfoods” that give a significant health boost. People food adds some fresh ingredients to the bowl – and fresh is always good – while giving pets a nice variety of nutrients. However, certain people foods, such as onions, grapes and raisins, should NEVER be given to dogs or cats. So don’t feed pets anything unless you know it is safe.
6. Feeding raw food is dangerous due to the risk of Salmonella and E. Coli.
All raw meat – including meat for human consumption - probably contains some sort of questionable bacteria. In fact, 20-40% of grocery store chicken has salmonella and it is also found in dry dog food! Companies that make raw food diets take measures to control against the presence of bad bacteria, so frozen raw diets are a good option. However, a dog’s digestive system is much different than humans, so even if they do happen to ingest some harmful bacteria, it doesn’t cause a problem. They have very short digestive tracts that are highly acidic, so pathogens are killed off and do not have time to grow as they pass through their body. Of course, you should always use common sense and safe handling techniques – just like you do when handling raw meat for yourself.
7. Do not change formulas or brands.
The truth is that rotating foods offers several benefits to your dog. First, it ensures they are receiving a wide variety of nutrition from varying proteins and other ingredients. Secondly, if your pet eats the same thing day after day, they often develop an allergy or intolerance to that food. Many dog owners are afraid to switch-up their pet’s food because they’ve seen what happens to their dog’s poop! But healthy dogs shouldn’t have a problem eating different types of ingredients and foods. Adding digestive enzymes and probiotics can help with any transition issues.
So how many of these myths do you believe? We hope our research will help you make food choices for your pet based on credible evidence rather than based on marketing claims or something you’ve heard. Separating the fact from the fiction will go a long way in helping your dog or cat enjoy a long, happy, healthy life.