Today began much like any other day until my wife looked at me with an expression suggesting she had been enlightened by some unseen force in The Universe, and then declared“I had a dream last night and I dreamed of…dog food.” Then she suggested I write an article on the topic of dog food nutrition. “Well OK, if that is what your dream told me to do” I wisely kept to myself. “Uh, I guess so”, I passively said out loud. Having been married for three decades I knew enough to agree with anything she suggested. Besides, who wants to challenge the forces of The Universe?
Obviously her brain was nutrient starved after a long night of sleep without food, or she would not have suggested such a kooky thing. Naturally I searched for the truth of the matter and saw the most obvious and simple explanation. Our dogs have psychic power. What? You don’t get it? OK, try to follow my logic.
What do Labradors think most about in their waking hours? Food. Therefore, what do hungry Labradors
dream most about in their sleeping hours? Food. If you put three food obsessed Labradors in your bedroom and then fall asleep, what sort of doggie mind power psychic messages are they going to express? Food! To compound matters, one dog is named Buddha and the other is Gandhi, so you just know there is a whole lot of weird cosmic stuff going on while we mere mortals are fast asleep, dreaming of normal things like winning the lottery, flying like a bird or listening to the colors of the rainbow. Dogs are much more focused in their dreams and all they want is more food. In fact, their food dreams are more like prophecies, since they actually do get food shortly after waking up the next morning.
So what is the big deal about buying dog food? I mean, it is all the same stuff, right? You just hop in your car, go to the nearest gas station or food store and grab the cheapest bag of dog food you can find, right? Well, no. Look past the cute photo of the healthy playful dog on the label and the advertising lingo boasting a
“complete and balanced diet”, and read the ingredients list. Chances are the first thing you will see is corn, and the first ingredient is the one the product has the most of.
So what is wrong with corn in dog food, you ask? First, grains are not naturally part of a dog’s diet and they can only digest about 50%. That means half the hard-earned money you spend on dog food will end up in smelly little piles in the yard, drawing flies, and your dog will not even have got the nutritional value you paid
for. Corn also reduces serotonin in dogs, and serotonin is important for reducing anxiety. Dog food manufacturers use corn and other grains as cheap fillers, not to satisfy the food needs of dogs.
Imagine about 20-30,000 years when wolves first gathered near Upper Paleolithic human camps and thought about getting their next meal. You never would have heard Rex the wolf say to his pack mates, “No thanks. You guys go on and hunt without me. I am going to hang out with these hunter gatherers and hope they toss me some of those yummy corn tortillas again. Ah, if only I could eat corn every meal for the rest of my life!
That would give me a complete and balanced diet.”
Heck no, those wolves hung around primitive humans hoping for some scraps of meat and bone. What might have happened if Neanderthals had hoarded all that juicy tasty fire roasted mammoth meat for themselves, offering only corn to the wolves? Hah! Rex’s buddies would have hung around the camp alright, waiting for those overfed Neanderthals to fall asleep, or to stray just a bit too far from the camp when they got up in the middle of the night for a drink of water…and then meat would have been back on the menu. Gee, maybe that is what happened to the Neanderthals after all?
In this modern age do you suppose local farmers hang out at the farm center complaining “Gosh darn if those stray dogs didn’t raid my corn field again last night. I need to put up some of those scarecrows and dress ‘em like dog catchers or something. If only I had a herd of sheep or a flock of chickens instead. Everyone knows that Canis Lupis Familiaris don’t like eating meaty lambs and chickens and such.”
In my research I went to a local food store and grabbed a bag of puppy food, produced by a major national dog food company. The photo on the package showed a plump little puppy and the caption above it read “Complete and Balanced”. Does that sound familiar? I counted 40 things in the list of ingredients, half of which were chemicals; I doubt anybody but a chemist would understand what those things were.
Of the remaining 20 things the first few were whole grain corn, corn gluten meal, chicken by-product (Don’t ask!), brewers rice, animal fat with artificial preservatives, barley, chicken flavoring, and three artificial colors. Yum! Artificial flavors and colors sound really nutritious, but Mike Sagman wrote an article titled “The Dangerous World of Dog Food Preservatives”
(http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/red-flag-ingredients/dog-food-preservatives/) and the first line in his article declared “Artificial preservatives might just be some of the most dangerous ingredients in dog food.”
He named several that you might see in the ingredients list for your dog food: propylene glycol (banned in cat food, allowed in dog food), ethoxyquin (pesticide, hardening agent in synthetic rubber, under suspicion as a
carcinogen), butylated hydroxyanisole or BHA, and butylated hydroxtoluene or BHT (named by the World Health Organization and suspected carcinogens), TBHQ and propyl gallate (suspected carcinogen).
So what about artificial colors and flavors? The Dog Food Project (http://www.dogfoodproject.com/index.php?page=badingredient) lists numerous additives, binders, carbohydrate sources, coloring agents, fat sources, fiber sources, flavoring agents and more. Thus far the “complete and balanced” dog food product I examined has flunked on every level. The ingredients list sounds like a complete and balanced diet for arodent, not my beloved canine best friends.
If a hungry puppy could read the label he may well ask“Where’s the beef?” or wonder “Do chicken by-products include beaks and claws?”and offer sarcastic thanks for including the fake chicken flavoring and food colors. “How about giving me actual food that will help me grow big and healthy and give me a very long life?” he might plead. “And why are you feeding me things that are forbidden in food for people and may cause cancer?” Well, since puppies can’t read and plead their case, I will speak for them.
Now let me tell you about the dog food I feed my boys. There are 28 ingredients, the first several of which are bison, lamb meal, chicken meal, egg product, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, canola oil, roasted bison, roasted venison, natural flavor, tomato pomace, ocean fish meal, blueberries, raspberries and a whole bunch of vitamins. There was no grain whatsoever, but it did include protein and amino acids, antioxidants, Omega fatty acids, natural preservatives and an all-life-stages diet designed to meet the nutritional needs of dogs.
So what are the pros and cons of the two types of dog food products? Grain based foods are not digested well by dogs and can result in food allergies. In her book “Scaredy Dog!” Certified Pet Dog Trainer Ali Brown wrote on page 44 “The top dog food allergens are corn, wheat, soy and chicken. Food allergy develops when too much of a certain food are consumed over time, with little variation. Dogs do not naturally ingest grain and can only digest about 50%, resulting in less nutrient absorption and the increased possibility of symptoms. Symptoms of food allergy in dogs present as skin discomfort or itching, irritable behavior, barking, snapping, difficulty focusing, quicker and more intense response to stimuli. Their arousal threshold is lower and they are more likely to lunge and bite.”
Low quality dog food can make your dog sick.
There are many highly digestible and nutritional dog foods containing good quality ingredients and they offer several advantages. First, you get the good nutrition you are paying for, without all the worthless grain fillers.
Second, you can switch dog foods without worry about digestive tract problems because the higher quality foods are far more digestible to start with so there is less wasted food or money. I also switch to a new high-quality food each time the previous bag runs out, minimizing the risk of developing food allergy. Third, you may reduce the amount of food you offer per meal because your dog can eat less and get more actual food value. The higher cost per bag of the good quality food is offset by the lesser amount of waste and the lower amount of food you need to give per meal, and you avoid the problems of food allergy and whatever veterinary expenses you would pay as a consequence. Most dog owners would see and feel an improvement in your dog’s coat within a week or so, and may observe previous food allergy behavioral problems promptly disappear.
So show your dog that you are smarter than a Neanderthal and read the label, or you may find your dreams controlled by a hungry canine curled up at the foot of your bed as you fall asleep. Worse yet, Rex might just be pretendingto sleep, keeping one eye open in case you make a late night groggy trip to the kitchen for a drink of water!