Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Practical Advise on feeding your dog



Introduction

All the discussion and controversy centring on what is the most appropriate diet to feed your dog should make one appreciate how adaptable and diverse a dog's nutrient requirements are. To understand this let us follow the dietary evolution of the dog for over the fourteen or more thousands of years that they have associated with humans, "a relationship for mutual benefit". We found a loyal and eager companion and worker; they found a welcome and safe home where survival did not depend on hunting. Prior to this the dog (aka wolf) feasted and flourished when prey was abundant; starved, and suffered from diseases and parasites when it was not. Only the strongest and the most adaptable survived. The first processing of food occurred when ancient man discovered fire; this process may have introduced a host of potentially nutritious vegetables and roots which were not well digested in the raw state. Thus man and his dog evolved from a hunter and gather to an agrarian life style, domesticating animals and growing crops. Highly processed and dissected and reconstituted (convenience) foods have only been part of our diet and that of our pets for a little over 200 years.  Less than one percent of the time, that dogs have been associated with man.


History

 Although physically diverse, the dog is genetically, anatomically, and metabolically similar to the wolf. [i]  What has changed dramatically over the last one hundred years is their environment, diet and our relationship with them. The majority of dogs are no longer working and allowed to roam freely in the rural country side supplementing their " human food" diets with small prey, manure, livestock feed, carrion and any other foods that appeals to them. “A complete and balanced diet" meant nothing to them or their guardians. Death was by accidents or an infectious disease. Now dogs are confined, over vaccinated, their activities are controlled by us, their environment polluted and sanitized, and their food and treats made primarily from highly processed waste products from the human food chain.

The first nutrient requirements for dogs were published by Gaines in the1950’s. These were based on prior research which, had been done on dogs often as a model for human nutrition. The National research Council was next to publish requirements. The American Association of Feed Control Officials[ii] (AAFCO) followed with their version adjusted for what they felt processing had on nutrient availability. European[iii] and Canadian requirements have been published.[iv] The conclusions of all publications are similar and reflect minimum requirements not necessarily the maximum or optimal requirements. A new set of requirements may be needed for raw and whole food diets.[v]

Recalls

Dog food can be recalled for a variety of reasons. Many of the recalls are made voluntarily by the manufacturer or by a governmental regulatory agency[vi] if the dog's health is discovered to be compromised by a diet. Recalls can be for many reasons [vii] related to inappropriate and contaminated ingredients, excessive or inadequate nutrients levels, altered nutrient availability by processing errors and a host of miscellaneous problems.  Manufacturers of raw foods are very much aware of the potential for salmonella and microbial contamination and go to great lengths to avoid it. Where the contamination of raw foods occurs is when the raw diets are made at home with ingredients from the super market or scrape meat or poultry from the local butcher shop. Recent recalls have involved salmonella contaminated commercial treats and kibbles, with related human infections, not commercially prepared raw food. vi

So what should you feed your dog?

This may shock you. Variety is the key. Kibble, whole foods, raw, dehydrated, freeze dried, and healthy table scraps can all be included on the menu.


 Guidelines for selection of a dog food

There are thousands of pet foods to choose from and there are hundreds of new diets brought onto the market each year. Some websites have interactive programs, where you can compare their food to others available in the marketplace. These interactive programs are heavily biased towards the company that is selling the pet food.  There are several independent websites, checklists and interactive programs that you can use to evaluate the suitability of the diet. If you ask your veterinarian he/she may recommend a wellness or therapeutic diet sold through their clinic. But this still does not answer your question ‘what is the best diet for my pet?”
Now is the time for me to add my recommendations to the millions of others out there:
If you discuss nutrition with your veterinarian or pet store owner/employee most common comment is “find a diet that is complete and balanced and meets AAFCO’s nutrient requirements for the life stage of your pet”. That seems like sage advice except you will find very few diets that will not indicate this on the label. But it is a place to start
.

The Ancestral Diet [viii]

The ideal diet for your dog and cat is not just a single diet but that one that contains a wide variety of foods. Many nutritionists and owners consider the ancestral diet appropriate, but how does one define an ancestral diet? To some the ancestral diet contains only meat and bones representing the natural prey. Advocates of these diets do not take into consideration that for dogs the ancestral diet not only includes bones and meat from their prey but also gastrointestinal tract and contents and internal organs. They don't consume all the bones but eat the only softer bones, the end of the long bones and the marrow. When times are lean and prey is not available the dogs’ ancestors will eat berries, grains, and other food sources.

Variety is the Key (My conclusions after over 30 years of teaching veterinary clinical nutrition)

Do not be afraid to add variety to your pet’s diet. Variety in the diet can include healthy table scraps (not leftovers often laden with salt and fat), homemade diets, kibble, canned, freeze-dried and dehydrated foods. Variety keeps a pet from becoming fixated on one diet with a special flavour. Variety also gives you flexibility in choosing pet foods and a selection of available foods while on vacation or when someone else is looking after your dog 

Choosing a Commercial Diet

If you wish to feed a commercial diet find a company that is small, family owned and accountable. The company should instill confidence in you when you contact them and should be willing to share information on ingredient sources as well as the level of quality control they have in place. Ask them who formulates their diets and type of feeding trials they do. They should be willing to take you on a tour of the factory. Some small pet food companies manufacture their own diets but others often depend on companies that manufacture or co-pack diets. These small companies do not have the facilities to manufacture their own diets. If these diets are being co-packed you should ask who formulates the diets and again the source of the ingredients put in the diets. For some small but credible companies co packing is the only way they can produce their product. After the 2007 Menu food scandal revealed that even some of the big pet food companies relied on some other manufacturer of some of their diet, the drawbacks of this form of manufacturing came to light.   

The Ingredients:              

·  Purchased as close to home as possible  “100 mile diet”
This may not be practical for some ingredients but the major ingredients should all be available in the country were the food is being manufactured
Premixes that balance the minerals, vitamins, can be manufactured in house or can be purchased from a company that specializes in premixes. If the right combinations of ingredients are selected, premixes may not be needed
Very few major pet food companies purchase their ingredients directly from local sources; most purchase their ingredients through brokers or directly from the manufacturer of those ingredients. Some manufactures are fully integrated owning their own feedlot, poultry and swine facilities, and slaughter house. Many have manufacturing plants off shore and bring in the pet food and package it in North America.   As mentioned previously most of the major ingredient sources are by products (land fill waste) of human food production, meat production and aquaculture.
Ingredients labelled by products if a protein source are either frozen or fresh organs of animals not used for human consumption or secondary products from the agricultural industry.
If the label indicates a specific meat or poultry or just meat or poultry then this product contains primarily muscle tissue with some attached bone and tendons.
If the label indicates meal after the main descriptor then the ingredient has been processed either rendered by heat or is a secondary product from the production of a primary product.


Rules:

Rule #1: Protein sources must be animal based
Two of the first 3 ingredients should be the protein sources and should be animal or fish based:
 **Note if the first ingredient is added as a whole meat/poultry 70% of it is water and during the manufacturing of a kibble that water will be removed making the actual amount of meat/ poultry 50 to 60 % less weight than when added.
Canned foods are more likely to meet these requirements than dry foods.  Over the counter diets can be more compliant than veterinary therapeutic diets. (Tables 1&2)

 Table 1: Therapeutic Diets vs. OTC diets manufactured by the same company ** Note the  similarities of the ingredient lists even though  the diets are intended for different purposes and chicken by product meal is the first ingredient in the OTC diets the third one in the veterinary diets
Therapeutic Diets
Brewers Rice
Corn Gluten Meal
Chicken By-Product Meal
Brewers Rice
Corn Gluten Meal
Chicken By-Product Meal
Brewers Rice
Corn Gluten Meal
Pork Fat
Over the Counter Diets
Chicken By-Product Meal
Corn Gluten Meal
Brewers Rice
Chicken By-Product Meal
Whole Grain Corn
Brewers Rice  and Corn Gluten Meal
Chicken By-Product Meal
Brewers Rice
Corn Gluten Meal
Chicken By-Product Meal
Corn Gluten Meal
Whole Grain Corn


Table 2 The first 3 ingredients of canned diets made by the same company

Canned Therapeutic diets
Water
Turkey
Pork Liver
Water
Turkey
Pork Liver
Water
Pork Liver
Pork By-Products
Canned Over the Counter diets
Water
Pork By-Products
Fish
Water
Turkey
Turkey Giblets
Water
Ocean Fish
Chicken
Water
Tuna
Chicken
Water
Beef
Liver

Rule #2: Carbohydrates requirements in dogs have not been established. Dogs can survive without a source of carbohydrates in their diets

The carbohydrate content of a diet is seldom indicated on the label but you can calculate this information several ways:
1)     If the nutrient breakdown is given on the label then you use the following formula :
%Carbohydrates=100-(% Protein+%Fat+% moisture+% Fibre+%Ash (If not given use a value of 7% for Kibble and 1.5% for canned)
For dog food the carbohydrates should be between 15 and 30% for kibble and 4 and 7.5% for canned
2)   If the energy density of the diet is given  Kcal of metabolizable energy (ME)/1000g of diet as fed and the protein and fat% are given our calculations are a little more complicated :
         An Example: The energy density of a diet is 3750kcal/1000g (375Kcal/100g) As Fed:
§ the Protein % is 22 (22g protein in 100g
§ the fat is 10% (10g  Fat in 100g)
               Using Atwater’s coefficients of:
§  3.5Kcal of ME per g of protein
§  3.5 Kcal of ME per g of carbohydrates
§   8.5 Kcal of ME per g of fat.
The energy in the diet from:
·  protein is 22x3.5=77kcal/100g or 21% of the energy
·    fat is 10x8.5=85 Kcal/100g or 23% of the energy
·       A total  of 54% of the energy comes from protein and fat
·     The remainder is for carbohydrates=66% of the energy or 278 Kcal or 70g/100g or this diet contains 70% carbohydrates, which is not appropriate for the dog.
The fat content can vary anywhere from 5% (weight control) to 30% (very active) of the diet as fed. The primary fat source should be animal based. With fish oil or flax oil added for the Omega6 and 3 essential fatty acids. Products containing unidentified vegetable oil should be put down low on your preference list as you do not know the source or the fatty acid profile of the fat.

Rule #6 do not be misled by marketing strategies and words: Examples premium, super premium, human grade, holistic, veterinary recommended or approved, high digestibility, etc



Ratliff E. New tricks from old dogs. 2012. National Geographic, Vol. 211#2:34-51.

American Association of Feed Control Officials. 2012. AAFCO Official Publication (www.aafco.org)

European Pet Food Industry Federation 2011 Nutritional Guidelines for Complete and Complementary Pet Food for Dogs and Cats. (www.fediaf.org)

Canadian Veterinary Association Pet Food Certification Programme this  CVMA Operation was suspended in 2007

Nesselrodt A. 2012. Does raw food warrant a unique set of nutrient Requirements? www.dramyrawdogfoodresearch.com

Smart M. Mills J. and Haggert C.2007 The Pet food Industry: A necessary review for veterinarians. www.petnutritionbysmart.blogspot.com

Brown S. Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet. 2010. Dog Wise Publishing (www.dogwise.com)

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