Monday, 1 November 2010

Dog food

Recently I sent my dog to a commercial kennel, and as I was chatting with the owner, he asked what kind of dog food I used. The conversation went pretty much like this:
"Mostly dry stuff, with a few leftovers thrown in occasionally"

"What kind of dry food?"

"Whatever's cheap. Usually Pedigree I guess"

"Do you eat McDonald's everyday?"


"Well that's what you're feeding your dog. Dogs fed on that stuff end up with all kinds of problems as they get older, like liver disease. If you are using dry dog food, buy the most expensive stuff you can find. It still works out pretty cheap in the end. Frankly, you make me sick!"
(I may have made up that last sentence). So I left my dog and went on holiday feeling like a prick and a cheapskate. But then I started to think about it and wondered, is there any evidence that the pricey dog foods are actually any better for dogs than the cheaper one's? I figured a couple of hours of research to justify my tight-arseiness would be time well spent, and if it turned out I was the worst dog parent in the world, well, I suppose I could fix that.

Compare the brand I currently buy from Kmart, Pedigree Real Mince and Vegies (approx. $20 for 12 kg, on special, of course - less than $2/kg), with the one they sell at my local Vet, Hill's Science Diet Adult Lamb Meal & Rice Recipe (about $120 for 15 kg - $8/kg).

First, let's see what they say about their own products.

"... our Adult Complete Nutrition recipe is specially formulated to provide adult dogs with the complete and balanced nourishment they need to live long and healthy lives."

"Hill's® Science Diet® Adult Lamb Meal & Rice Recipe dog food provides precisely balanced nutrition to maintain lean muscle and promote digestive health."
Both make pretty much the same claims regarding balanced nutrition, so no help there. What about the ingredients list?

Meat & meat by-products (beef, poultry & lamb); wheat &/or sorghum &/or barley; wheat bran, glycerol, sunflower oil; beet pulp; salt; minerals (including calcium, zinc, iron, potassium); safflower seed; vitamins (including A, C, D3, E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B5, B6, folic acid, B12); preservatives; antioxidants and food colourings

Lamb Meal, Brewers Rice, Brown Rice, Whole Grain Wheat, Whole Grain Sorghum, Corn Gluten Meal, Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Cracked Pearled Barley, Chicken Liver Flavor, Flaxseed, Dried Beet Pulp, Soybean Oil, Potassium Chloride, Iodized Salt, L-Lysine, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, vitamins (L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Taurine, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), L-Tryptophan, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid, L-Threonine, Phosphoric Acid, Beta-Carotene, Rosemary Extract
Fairly similar, with meat products first, followed by grains, fats/oils, salt, minerals and vitamins. Hill's certainly has more ingredients listed, but is that better?

Any other claims I should know about?

Omega 3 + 6: Shiny Coat
Dental Kibble: Healthy Teeth and Gums
Beet Pulp: Healthy Digestion
Antioxidants: Immune Support

Vitamin C + E: Healthy immune function
High quality ingredients, such as lamb meal: easy to digest
Omega-3 and Omega-6: Healthy skin and radiant coat
High quality lean proteins: lean muscle and ideal body weight
Controlled levels of minerals including sodium, magnesium and phosphorus. Supplemented with taurine and soluble and insoluble fiber: Healthy vital organs
Pretty much the same, yet again. How about the nutritional information

Protein 22.0 %
Fat 10.0 %
Protein 24.6 %
Fat 16.8 %
and a bunch of other stuff (carbohydrates, sodium etc.). Interestingly, neither mentions anything about % of recommended daily allowance, because I guess there is no such thing for dogs.

Hill's sells itself as scientific, but what's to say that's not just a marketing gimmick. After all, Mars Inc. (maker of Pedigree) funds the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, "unarguably the world's leading authority on pet care and nutrition", so I can't even separate them on the sciencey stuff.

Interestingly, neither of these companies publicise any actual research publications that give details into their food development, and I couldn't find any using Google Scholar, so we basically have to accept their word for it, or do we. Thankfully, the good people at Choice have looked into the independent research, and they conclude:
Do we need to buy premium pet food? Unless your pet has specific dietary problems, probably not. Any pet food that says it's 'complete and balanced' contains all the required nutrients at appropriate levels for the maintenance of healthy pets.
That'll do me.

Some call me a cheapskate, I call them suckers. Both are probably right.


MeatPopsicle said...

I ain't gonna eat dog food, well actually I might have to if the Commonwealth Bank keeps raising interest rates over the Reserve's.

Daniel Bryan said...

I am advocate of natural foods for dogs. No artificial foods for my dog. dog boarding cleveland

Kelly Kete said...

My dog eats Pedigree and I think it's a complete nutrition recipe. My dog is very healthy.

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Pet Shops said...

Great thing to give a healthy food for your pet.

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