What Should You Feed Your Dog?
The pet food industry has come so far in the last 100 years, expanding with new diets, and changing the way we feed our companions. Pet food has become commercially available in so many forms such as dry, canned, fresh, and raw foods. With so many options, it can become quite daunting for the new pet owner to decide which food is best suited for their canine companion.
Let’s have a closer look at some of these diets to evaluate how they are processed, how they are able to maintain their nutritious integrity, and how they will be able to meet the biological requirements of your pet, so that we can ensure we are providing our companions with the best choice.
The Truth About Kibble
In order for us to understand more about kibble, let’s break it down based on a few key factors; the history of kibble, pet food regulations, and how kibble is manufactured.
Dry dog food has not been around for very long. Before the invention of kibble, dogs survived off of table scraps, carcasses, raw bones, vegetables, bread, and leftovers. The first extruded food was produced in the 1950’s, dominating canned food sales. In the 1960’s Mark Morris developed Hills Science Diet which was the first ever prescription veterinary food. It was not until the 1980’s that dry food sales boosted exponentially.
Albeit that kibble provided more sustenance than just table scraps and leftovers, there was an undeniable shift that transpired in the pet food and veterinary industry since the production of processed food, which we will discuss in a later subtopic.
Kibble was increasingly becoming the food of choice for many pet owners, as it was able to offer a scoop-and-serve convenience, and an affordable price point with a promise of a lengthy shelf-stable life.
It was apparent that this style of feeding would not only prosper in the pet food industry, but it would overlap many food inventions to come. Since the start of kibble, hundreds of different kibble companies developed new dry-food diets for dogs, each one marketing their brand to attract their own client base. This brings us to the pet food regulatory body. It is interesting to see how the pet food industry is regulated, and what the standards are for the nutrients that make up that bag of food.
Pet Food Regulations
You’ve probably been told that you need to serve an AAFCO-certified food, in order to ensure that you’re feeding a complete and balanced diet, so let’s take a look at that really qualifies AAFCO certification.
AAFCO, The Association of American Feed Control Officials, is a private corporation, not a government regulatory agency. They are primarily in charge with regulating pet feed, not food.
What’s the difference?
Animal Feed supplies your pet with the minimal nutrition for survival, whereas Animal Food is to support optimal health and longevity.
AAFCO also establishes the minimum requirements for complete and balanced pet feed, and do not provide companies with maximums. An example of this is the situation regarding Hills Science Diet and their excessive vitamin D levels, which was responsible for the deaths of thousands of animals.
AAFCO publishes a pet food labelling guide, which is 159 pages in length. Fifteen of those pages are dedicated to nutritional requirements, whereas the other 144 pages are all dedicated to how the packaging looks.
AAFCO formulates protocols for feeding trials, consisting of eight healthy dogs assigned to one trial, and the trial must last a minimum of 26 weeks using one formulation of food as the sole source of nutrition.
What’s interesting about these feeding trials is AAFCO states that a quarter of the dogs may be removed from the study for “non-nutritional reasons” and the data from the dogs removed does not require recording. If the subject’s blood values and body mass are within normal ranges, and they have survived for six months on the food, then the formulation will be determined as nutritionally complete and balanced.
While Canada has no pet food regulatory body, they will adhere to AAFCO’s standards.
From the FDA:
“Rendered animal feed ingredients include the various poultry, meat, and marine products which result from the rendering of these animal tissues. Rendering of poultry and other animal tissues has been practiced for over a hundred years as a means of salvaging valuable protein and fat content from otherwise waste material. For many years’ end products from rendering have been used to feed animals. The rendering industry utilizes packinghouse offal, meat processing waste, restaurant waste and animal tissues from other sources including animals that have died otherwise than by slaughter.”
This means that the use of 4-D Meats (dead, diseased, dying, destroyed animals) are deemed acceptable and legal to include in pet food, so long as they are listed on the product ingredient list.
Here’s what you can take from this information: the governing bodies in the pet food industry do not protect or safeguard the pet foods with as much care and caution as human quality control. This leaves a lot of room for nutrient depletion, nutritional gaps, denatured food, and illness to occur.
In order to make the best food choices for your dog, it is important to not be led so much by marketing tactics, and how the packaging may look, or label themselves as, but to concern yourself with the integrity and quality, sourcing, traceability, and bioavailability of the food.
How is Kibble Made
There is no doubt that kibble-feeding comes with the convenience of just portioning the meal, and serving. However, have you ever stopped to wonder how that style of feeding was made possible?
The process of manufacturing a kibble requires mixing all of the wet and dry ingredients consisting of animal meat, fruits, vegetables, grains, and so on, to form a dough. The dough is heated under pressure, and then pushed through a tube to form cuts of kibble.
When you heat food above 300 degrees Celsius, a very toxic reaction between protein and sugars occur which forms a by-product and when consumed. Kibble is mass-produced, and as a result obtains the highest levels of Advanced Glycation End Product. Over 8,000 studies demonstrate when AGEP are consumed, they are highly toxic and can lead to DNA damage, heart, liver, kidney disease, diabetes, and delayed wound healing.
During extrusion, there are two carcinogenic by-product processes that happen when protein and starches are heated to very high temperatures: heterocyclic amines and denatured proteins.
Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs)
Heterocyclic amines are chemicals formed when meat is cooked using high-temperature methods during the extrusion process of kibble. Studies have shown that exposure to HCAs can cause cancer in animals. The hotter and longer a meat is cooked, the more HCAs, which makes the production of kibble heavily affected by this.
Kibble undergoes a double cooking session, meat meals are pre-cooked, and then cooked again under high heat. The end result is essentially like feeding carcinogens, therefore making every bite of extruded responsible for reducing your dog’s ability to have a functional, full vitality.
Denaturing is a process, not an ingredient. Denatured means to alter the natural qualities of a food or ingredient. These modified proteins can trigger food “allergies” or sensitivities because the immune system might not recognize the altered protein and will treat it like a foreign invader. This leads many pet owners to believe their dog has a “chicken allergy” but instead, their dog’s immune system is not recognizing the chemically, and molecularly changed protein.
Commercial kibble not only harbours harmful toxins, they are also stripped of their nutrient value, becoming a “lifeless food”. Well-intentioned pet owners who want to provide their pets with a high-quality commercial diet may choose to feed grain-free kibble, however even if these kibbles contain high-quality ingredients, with no additives or preservatives, they still endure a cooking process which nullifies much of the nutritional value these quality ingredients would have contributed.
The kibble is left with proteins that have been denatured, enzymes rendered inactive, and any natural beneficial micro-flora or good bacteria are no longer viable. These components provide a synergistic effect for complete digestion, absorption, and assimilation of nutrients from the food.
Fresher is Better
It becomes a lot easier to understand the value of fresh food feeding, and the benefits your dog will gain from it when discussing kibble. Fresh food feeding is completely different than just serving a bowl of dry, dehydrating food. Not only will fresh food entice even the pickiest of dogs, but it will completely change the way your dog view’s the food bowl. Mealtime will no longer involve begging your dog to approach the bowl through the use of treat toppers, grated cheese, and crushed liver. Fresh food feeding is a guarantee for a happier, and healthier canine companion.
Offering your dog fresh food means there are no more guessing games with what is included in your dog’s bowl, like when we feed kibble. With a complete and balanced fresh food, your dog will acquire a better, healthier, and faster digestion. Your dog will also have more stable energy levels, fresher breath, reduction of intolerances, a stronger immune system, and overall improved health. Switching your dog to a fresh food diet will help them maintain an ideal body weight, which has been linked to a 20% longer lifespan. Additionally, real food is packed with antioxidants and essential nutrients to help support heart function, unlike processed foods which increase inflammation in the body, which is considered one of the leading drivers of metabolic disease.
In more recent years, pet owners are beginning to move away from processed foods, and more towards fresh, wholesome diets for their dogs.
With the inclusion of fresh food, our dogs completely bypass inflammatory foods, denatured proteins, HCAs, and synthetic minerals found in many dry-food bags. Instead, they gain those vital nutrients straight from the source, which is whole food!
While some pet parents elect to make their own homemade diets for their dogs, which will demand much of your time, space, and finances. Aside from that, it is not uncommon to be missing some key trace minerals without the use of rebalancers or whole food supplementation. Although it is a healthier food to offer your dog, we want to make sure we are getting it right, and there are no nutritional gaps.
A brand like Dog Standards, prepared by a veterinary-nutritionist, ensures that the metabolic and nutritional needs of your pets are being met through wholesome, nourishing food that you can feel good about feeding. Dog Standards is a human-grade food for your dog, produced in commercial grade kitchens in Canada, and contain zero preservatives.
Raw Food Feeding
A raw food diet involves uncooked meat, bones, organs, and some egg and vegetation inclusion. Raw food feeding is gaining popularity, along with fresh food feeding, as pet parents are moving away from highly processed, extruded foods. Raw food suggests that the food is unadulterated, and has not been heat-manipulated whatsoever, which allows your dog to benefit from the whole food.
In the process of feeding our dogs a raw food diet, our dogs absorb up to 95% of the nutrients, and excrete a low 5%, which cannot be said for any high-heat produced food. Even the highest quality dry foods, dogs are only able to absorb up to 70% of the nutrients. Dogs are able to consume this style of food safely, so long as you are sourcing the appropriate cuts of meat, or balanced raw food brands. Some pet parents may shy away from raw food, as they have concerns about the safety and nutrient value of the food, or perhaps their vets have shut down the idea upon inquiry.
While it is believed by some that raw food diets are “unbalanced” this only means that we aren’t doing it right. You can make any diet unbalanced, regardless of the processing level. If we aren’t filling in those nutritional gaps with whole food supplementation, or rotating our animal proteins frequently with as many options as you have available, then absolutely: the result is an unbalanced diet.
There is a lot to know about raw food feeding, and if that is something that you wish to pursue for your dog, then it’s a great idea to get in touch with an animal nutritionist to ensure that you aren’t missing anything from the diet.
So What Do I Feed My Dog?
After reviewing the breakdown of the most three popular food styles, you might still be wondering what the best food to feed your dog is. The answer is simple: feed whatever diet works best for your dog, and always make informed choices.
It is very easy to be led by the way a packaging of dog food looks on a shelf, however that is not always a promise of optimal health. Real and healthy nutrients have not been denatured, extruded, and subject to high heat. Real and healthy nutrients live in whole foods.
That being said, there are a number of great dry food options on the market that will offer more bioavailability, and less heat processing, making it overall the better choice for your dog if you wish to pursue a dry food diet.
Fresh food diets, like Dog Standards, is what we consider the most optimal choice for your dog, being that the food has been lightly cooked, contains no by-products, artificial flavours, or preservatives, and each recipe is cooked by hand in small batches. A premade fresh food diet means all of the prep work has already been done, and the food is pre-portioned and frozen for easy serving. Dog Standards also offers food services offered by subscription and delivered to your door.
Raw food is an option for the pet owner who wishes to feed a species-appropriate food, and recreate the diet that their dogs would have survived off of before the invention of processed foods. Raw food diets are able to offer the best health for your pet, similar to fresh food feeding.
No matter what you decide to feed your dog, just make sure that it feels like the best choice for them and for you!