The importance of a diet’s macronutrient balance cannot be over stated. Studies show that the percentages of protein, fat, and carbohydrate in an animal’s diet affects their grow rate and size, level of obesity, longevity, and disease resistance. In fact, research shows that predators select food on the basis of the macronutrient balance that enhances their survival.
Two weeks ago we explored the ideal macronutrient balance for cat foods. Today we’ll look at research regarding the balance of dog foods. To this end I have found a very interesting correlation.
In the book Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet, Steve Brown estimates the macronutrient content of the diets of our dogs’ ancestors. The idea is that although your dog may not look much like a wolf on the outside, her digestive tract and thus nutritional needs are very similar. From his work I calculated that the ancestral diet of dogs consisted of approximately 50% ME protein, 44% ME fat, and 6% ME carbohydrate.
Recent research looked at the nutrient profile selection of present-day, adult dogs. They studied 5 diverse breeds including the papillon, miniature schnauzer, cockerspaniel, Labradore retriever and St. Bernard. They found that all of these very different dogs consistently chose a diet consisting of 30% ME protein, 63% ME fat, and 7% ME carbohydrate. Now we can quibble over the percentage of fat and protein, but look how close these levels of carbohydrates are to those of Steve Brown’s estimates. Two independent studies find that the ideal level of carbohydrates for dogs is between 6% and 7%.
Interestingly, the research on dog nutrient profile selection concluded that “the recent rapid divergence among dog breeds is not substantially reflected in their macronutrient priorities compared with other phenotypic features such as size, color, and temperament.” It follows that even though dogs look and act very different than wolves, they require similar diets.
Meanwhile, back at the AAFCO ranch, adult dog food standards call for diets consisting of 19% ME protein, 12% ME fat, and 69% ME carbohydrates. Once again, AAFCO and the pet food industrial complex are way out of range. Why they insist that grains and other sources of carbohydrates are good for pets is beyond me.
Actually, the reason for the excess carbs is clear. It has nothing to do with the healthiness of the food. It is all about keeping the pet food cheap and convenient (you can’t make kibble without starch to glue it together). Cost and convenience are important, but not more important than the health of our pets.
As one of my holistic clients put it last week, “You can pay for good food or you can pay expensive veterinary bills.”
What’s your choice?