Category Archives: Research

A unique look at what’s happening in research and its implications for pets.

Research from 1979 Refutes Current Dog Food Pyramid

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There is a common notion that dogs are omnivores. And, the bottom line is that they are omnivores. Of course that’s because they have no choice but to eat what we feed them. This is typically processed kibble containing at least 30% carbohydrates.

Think about this; if we captured all the polar bears in the world and started feeding them nothing but bananas, we could say that all polar bears are bananavores. Of course that is not the best diet for them. They naturally eat what is best for them from their normal environment.

Since dogs have been removed from their natural environment, how can we tell what they were meant to eat? What does their genetics dictate is best for them to eat for optimal health? What does science tell us?

This study, published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association in 1979 starts by stating the purpose of the research. “A good deal of disagreement exists within the veterinary profession about the proper diet for dogs… We conducted a review of the available wildlife literature, with the intent that the information gathered concerning food selection among feral carnivores might influence future considerations regarding the feeding of domestic carnivores…”  Unfortunately, today there is little disagreement among veterinary nutritionists – dogs are omnivores they say.

The researchers in this study surveyed the stomach contents of the coyote, fox, wolf, bobcat, cougar, and lynx. That’s an interesting approach to the mystery. But, is it valid? Why would they think that dogs should eat like wild carnivores? What do they have in common? The researchers offer this explanation.

“Anatomically, our domestic breeds of dogs possess gastrointestinal systems similar to those of the feral carnivores studied. They share in common strong carnassial teeth, simple stomachs of great digestive capability, thickly muscled esophagus, stomach and intestine, residual cecae, and simple non-sacculated colons.”

In other words, the fact that the domestic dog’s digestive tract is very similar to that of the wild animals studied indicates they evolved to eat similar diets. Anatomy dictates function. Dogs appear to be genetically programmed to eat like a wild carnivore. I am not saying that dogs are identical to wolves (I would not want one of those in bed with me). However their digestive anatomy indicates that they are adapted to eat similar diets.

So, what did the researchers conclude that dogs should eat? “From these many studies into the food habits of feral carnivores, it may be concluded that the staple diet of carnivores living in a natural setting includes other animals, carrion, and occasionally fruits and grasses… carnivores in their natural environments consume diets high in animal protein, bulk, and roughage (not plant fiber, but indigestible or poorly digestible parts of animal carcasses…) and low in carbohydrates, and caloric density.”

I am not proposing that we feed our pets carrion (dead and decayed animals). But notice that the diets that appear to be best for our dogs are high in animal protein and low in carbohydrates. This is basically the opposite of what dogs foods offer. We need to turn the current, dog food pyramid upside down.

Have you turned the dog food pyramid upside down?

Answers Pet Food Beats FDA

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I believe that probiotic bacteria are a missing nutrient in the diets of our pets. Think about it, the ancestors of dogs and cats were regularly exposed to bacteria in their food from the intestines of their prey. Here’s more information on the benefits of probiotics. With all the health benefits of probiotics, it makes sense that pets need them as a regular part of their diets.

The Answers Raw Pet Food Company has recently proven the benefits of probiotics. In the past few years the FDA has been policing the pet food industry to be sure they are free of disease-causing bacteria. (You may have noticed the recent uptick in pet food recalls.) Since food made with raw meat is prone to bacterial contamination, the raw pet food industry has been a favorite target of the FDA.

For this reason, raw pet food companies have been forced clean up their foods. For many this has meant resorting to High Pressure Pasteurization (HPP). HPP basically is the use of very high pressures to kill the bad bacteria. The concern I have about that strategy is that if there is enough pressure to kill bacteria then there may be enough to damage nutrients.

Answers has taken a different strategy to fight disease-causing bacteria. They use fermentation to culture probiotic bacteria in their foods. These good bacteria compete with the bad bacteria for resources and overwhelm them. That sounds good in theory, but does it work?

Recently the FDA cultured salmonella from a batch of Answers’ food. (The culture technique the FDA used killed off all the probiotic bacteria). The agency then tried to force Answers to do a recall on their food. But Answers fought back.

Answers took a sample of the supposedly contaminated food and incubated it at 80o F for 48 hours. This would cause the bad bacteria to greatly multiply in any other raw food. But just the opposite happened. As the people at Answers anticipated, the “spoiled” food tested negative for salmonella. The good guys won. The mighty FDA was forced to back down.

Does your pet get probiotics?

Damning Report on Pet Foods

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A sustainable foods-oriented, consumer advocacy organization, The Cornucopia Institute, recently released a scathing report on commercial pet foods. Of course, most of what they found will not be shocking to the readers of this blog. It is interesting to have such a group back up many of my concerns and come up with a few of their own.

The report starts by exposing the regulations that pertain to pet food manufacturing. It shows the loopholes in these regulations and how the pet food companies exploit them to hide the poor quality ingredients used and the toxins permitted in pet foods. The report emphasizes that pet food is basically the dumping ground for food that is unfit for human consumption.

Next, the report takes a close look at pet food ingredients. It gives details about toxins such as carrageenan, synthetic preservatives (which may not be listed on the ingredient list), BPA, sodium selenite, and food dyes.

The report exposes unsavory ingredients such as rendered meat byproducts which may contain dead cats and dogs.  It looks at inappropriate ingredients like grains and carbohydrates. It even takes on pea protein meal which is a poor quality protein containing an incomplete amino acid profile. It is also a prime target for melamine adulteration.

An interesting thing about this Cornucopia Institute report is that they come at the critique from an environmental point of view. They point out one particular ingredient, forage fish. These are small fish that serve as food for larger fish. In part because of the pet food industry, these fish are being over-harvested which endangers world fish populations.

The report next looks at the marketing ploys used to fool consumers about so called organic pet foods. The report ends with a section on the virtues of homemade diets recommending Dr. Karen Becker’s diet book (a book that I also recommend).

Of course, the best way to avoid all this nonsense is to feed a balanced raw diet.

If you still feed conventional pet food, you must read this report.