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DOG FOOD: WHAT’S IMPORTANT ?
By Dr. Bob Encinosa
An enormous amount of money is spent on pet food marketing campaigns every year and also by pet owners on the food they buy for their dogs and other pets. I will tell you, very directly, that spending a lot of money on dog food is rarely worthwhile. Most of the modestly priced brand name dog foods, such as Purina, are just as good for your dog as brands that cost two or three times as much. The major exceptions to that rule are the prescription type diets that are specifically formulated for dogs with certain health problems, ie bladder stones, kidney or liver failure or diabetes.
I personally try to avoid the generic brand dog foods, although many of those are quite adequate for most dogs. The fact is that dog and cat food makers generally adhere to some pretty strict government guidelines regarding contents and manufacturing methods. What cuts of meat go into a food is unimportant. What is important is the digestible protein content. Prime cuts of meat don’t go into hot dogs, hamburgers, cold cuts, potpies, canned soups and most other prepared human foods, yet many pet owners, without a good scientific reason, insist that their pets eat better than they themselves do.
Dogs are not strict carnivores any more than their owners are, yet many people spend more than necessary to give their dogs foods that advertise “beef before corn”. Vegetables and certain grains are very good for dogs and diets too high in protein can be detrimental, especially for today’s sedentary dogs.
Preservatives are as important for safety in dry dog foods as they are in for packaged human foods. How well and how long foods are stored can vary greatly and preservatives help insure that our pets don’t consume spoiled proteins or rancid fats. If you really want to safely avoid preservatives, try canned or frozen foods, which generally have no preservatives.
As veterinarians, we see tens of thousands of dogs from birth to old age and most veterinarians will tell you that most of the hype surrounding super expensive dog foods is just that…hype.
Here is the biggest problem with dog foods. Owners feed too much of it in most cases. At least 60% of dogs and cats reflect their humans’ problem with healthy eating which is that they eat too much and are therefore obese to varying degrees. Eating less, without regard to what is eaten, for humans and their pets, translates to longer lives, less diabetes, less heart disease, less arthritis, lower blood pressure and even less cancer. So even if you still insist on overspending on dog foods, you can probably still save money by feeding less of it!!