When it comes to nutrition, it seems there is the same confusion when it comes to our four-legged friends as it is with people. The confusion stems around what a healthy diet actually means. Often, the food manufacturer marketing influences our view of what is healthy for our dogs. Moreover, sometimes we are fed with persistent misconceptions from supposedly dog industry ‘experts.’
During this post, we will address some of these myths and give some clarity regarding ideal dog nutrition.
Myth 1: Dry Food fights the Build-up of Tartar
Everyone knows that dry food works against tartar, right? After all, it states on most dog food packaging and advertising. However, there is nothing true about it! It is just a part of the marketing strategy in order to make the purchase of dry food palatable to the dog owner by allegedly helping the dog’s dental health as well.
The hard-dry food is to prevent the tartar build up as while consuming the food, the teeth rub against it which results in deposits being removed. So the dog not only gets something nice to eat, but also does his teeth a favour. However, the dry food crumbles too fast for it to have this effect or alternatively the dog swallows the croquettes too quickly.
Moreover, the dog’s teeth are shaped so that it is difficult for the dry food to reach the lower parts of the teeth anyway! Therefore, even if dry food was having this effect on a dog’s dental health, it would only be occurring to half of the tooth rather than the full.
In nature, there is no dry food. The ancestor of the dog, the wolf, gets along well without any dry food. Tartar is rather to be regarded as a “civilization disease” of the dog and has nothing to do with its natural diet. On the contrary, dry dog food can be detrimental to the health of the dog. Thus, the dog must eat extra liquid when eating dry food, which can lead to kidney problems. In addition, the crumbled items also stick between the teeth and promotes the growth of bacteria. The result from this is bad breath and bacterial attack.
Myth 2: Dogs only need Meat
Similar to humans, a dog needs different nutrients and thus a balanced diet. Meat is especially important for the dog because it contains valuable proteins, fats and various other nutrients. However, these are not the only substances a dog requires.
In a pure meat diet, the animal would be missing other important food components. So, if you feed your pet only meet, it is important to include bones and eggs, organ meats, vegetables, fruits and other carbohydrates occasionally in the food bowl. Thanks to the plant-based food, the dog gets plenty of vitamins and carbohydrates with the bones providing a lot of calcium and offal for folic acid.
That should not be surprising, because as a descendant of the wolf, the dog is not a pure carnivore. The wolf is a prey and it not only consumes the meat of its prey, but also its interior, the contents of the stomach and intestines, bones and the blood. From time to time also fruits or eggs are found and consumed by the wolf. The dog has not gone so far from the wolf that a pure meat diet resembles that of their natural diet.
Myth 3: The Dog should always have Food Available
Humans have two different receptors that determine when we feel full. One in the stomach, where the receptors gauge how much more fits into it and the second in the brain, which measures the nutrients in the blood.
The dog is different as there are no receptors in the stomach. With this in mind, the dog never gets a feeling of fullness in the stomach and will continue to eat more and more, if food is available. The dog will only stop when enough nutrients have reached their blood. Providing high-volume food such as fruit, vegetables and dried food is therefore a big mistake, because the animal will probably continue to eat well beyond its own limits. The dog may eventually stop, because they find that nothing fits in the stomach, but they will still try to eat small bites due to the brain has not signalling that enough nutrients have arrived.
Myth 4: There should be a Fasting Day in the Week
A stubborn myth based on two ideas: wolves would not eat every day and fasting cleanses the gut. On the latter, it can be said that fasting may make sense in a gastrointestinal infection and was recommended or prescribed by a veterinarian. In the normal case, fasting does not cleanse the intestine, on the contrary fasting can even be harmful to the animal. Dogs have become accustomed to eating regularly. Avoiding daily feeding can cause more of a stress to the dog, especially if fasting is used irregularly.
This also leads us to the other argument that wolves do not eat every day. They would, however, if they could. In addition, as already mentioned, the dog has become accustomed to getting food every day.
Myth 5: Dry food contains all the important Minerals and Vitamins
Again, it is the advertising that wants to make us believe that all essential minerals and vitamins are included in the dry food. Often this is nothing more than a slogan that only corresponds to half the truth. Although the pet food often contains vitamins and nutrients, it is merely an artificial substitute. Moreover, most of the time a dog’s body cannot absorb all the nutrients anyway! These synthetic substances can even be harmful to the dog’s body if too much is consumed. A natural diet is still the best for the dog.
The problem is that the natural nutrients are lost during the manufacturing process. Thus, artificial nutrients on the dry croquettes are “sprayed” on rather than being contained in the food itself.
Myth 6: Bones are Dangerous for Dogs
People often warn against feeding dogs with bones as they believe bones can lead to digestive problems, intestinal obstruction, stomach rotation and even suffocation. In addition, the bone fragments can injure the throat, oesophagus and stomach. But that only happens if you give the animal the wrong bones!
Again, and again dog owners are warned about chicken bones and the risk they pose when given to dogs. However, there are still so many alternatives! You can safely give the dog lamb ribs, oxtail, leg slices or breast of veal. Even the chicken bones should not pose any danger unless they are too soft. The heating process makes the bones porous which causes the bone structure to splinter easily.
For untreated bones, this risk usually does not exist. Furthermore, if possible, attention should be paid to the age of the animal from which the bone originated. In older animals, the bone mineralises and becomes more porous. On the other hand, the bones of young animals are elastic and soft, which is why lamb and calf bones are ideal for dogs that first have to get used to harder bones. Tubular bones are generally discouraged because they are hollow and splinter more frequently than others.
Bones are important for the diet of dogs, because they contain a lot of calcium and serve as a snack. At the same time, they clean the dog teeth and strengthen the masticatory muscles. For a balanced, natural diet bones should not be waivered.
Myth 7: A Veterinarian sells High-Quality Dog Food
Veterinary practices often sell dog food, which is offered at high prices and has high promises. With this in mind, customers tend to believe the products being sold should be full of nutrients and extremely beneficial to the dog’s health. However, a closer look at the ingredients is worthwhile. The dog food being sold at the vets usually contains more protein from cereals than normal dog food. Or the proteins come from grain by-products such as corn gluten meal, rice, wheat or brewer’s yeast.
Natural meat is sought in vain here. The dog food may also consist of poultry by-products, remnants of feet and beaks, which are actually indigestible, or underdeveloped eggs and leftovers from the intestine. Ultimately, these are inferior sources of protein and artificial from the remains of the food industry stricken together.
The high price is not justified, but many a dog owner falls for it, because after all, buying food direct from the vets much be the okay, right? The answer is no. It is better to pay more attention to the ingredients than relying blindly on where to buy your pet food. The protein in your dogs feed should mostly come from an animal source, not from grain or cereal.
Myth 8: A large amount of Protein pollutes the Kidneys
That’s only partially true. A high proportion of plant proteins can damage the dog’s organs. However, this argument is advanced by dog food producers, who conceal that they are vegetable proteins. Many dog food manufacturers feed their food with low quality vegetable proteins that can be unhealthy for the dog.
The dog has difficulty digesting these protein sources properly. An increased amount of plant proteins may even be a burden on the dog. The organs must first work properly to separate the indigestible substances from the body.
Animal proteins are different as they are very important for the diet of the dog. A look at the ingredients is worthwhile. A high protein content of soy or corn is to be avoided, while animal proteins such as beef or chicken, is the ideal food for the your four-legged friends.