by Pat Rock

Dog Food

The recent deaths of dogs as a result of eating food that contained toxic levels of Vitamin D are shocking to anyone who loves their pets. We all hate to lose them to old age or an illness that we could have done nothing to prevent, but to have put your faith in a dog food manufacturer only to discover that the food was poison—how do you recover from that? The scary thing is that there are probably many more dogs affected whose deaths were never officially proven to be as a result of the dog food. There is an old saying from research laboratories “Dogs and rats are as old as their kidneys.” I used to think that was true, at least of dogs, but in my own experience once I stopped feeding kibble dog food I haven’t had an old one die of kidney failure in the last 20 years.

Dry dog food is way too popular for dog owners to stop feeding it, but the risk is real. There are risks associated with canned foods, too. And there are plenty of people ready to advise against feeding raw food, usually without a shred of evidence. I have had conversations with veterinarians on numerous occasions when they have claimed that a client dog was infected with Salmonella. I always ask what species and strain, because as a microbiologist I am always interested in learning more about infectious disease in dogs. I have yet to be told anything but, “Oh, we didn’t do a stool culture or PCR testing, but I’m sure it was Salmonella.” The usual risks with raw diets or home-cooked ones is that the owners don’t do enough research to learn how to balance the diet properly. For mature dogs, there seems to me to be much less risk to the dog if there is a lack of a vitamin or mineral causing a chronic condition that can be easily reversed, than taking an 8 or 9 year old dog in for a check up and discovering irreversible kidney failure. I’m just saying…

The solution for most people who are concerned but don’t want to or can’t go whole hog into learning about canine nutrition and diet formulation is contained in an old saying (and old sayings persist because of a kernel of truth so often is contained in them): “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” If you feel you must feed kibble, don’t listen to advertising and at least do a little research in how to read labels intelligently. It is called “commercial” dog food for a reason—companies make it to sell at a profit, and usually behind most dog food companies are cereal mills. That is how kibble came about. Not “What is the best way to feed a dog optimal nutrition?” but “We’ve got all this glop left over from the cereal milling process. What’s the least amount of meat we can add so we can market it for dog food?” The government is in bed with the dog food companies; don’t doubt that for a minute. Here’s one example: In order for a dog food manufacturer to put on the front of the bag labeling that indicates two ingredients (e.g. Lamb and Rice or Fish and Potato) the food must consist of 25% of those two ingredients. Sound good? Not so fast. The rule also states that either of the 2 ingredients must be at least 3%. Lamb, Fish = expensive Rice, Potato = cheap. Get the picture?

If you feed a kibble, plus some canned food, and some fresh food (raw or lightly cooked at low heat) you have a chance of saving your dog from death from contamination. What are the odds that all three parts of his diet would be contaminated at once? Also bear in mind that for years the best terriers in the world came from the UK. The custom used to be to feed a diet based on “biscuit” (commercial dry food) but topped with a “stew” that was cooked weekly using offal, meat, vegetables, bones, etc. I vividly remember meeting Miss Irene Morris (of Kelda fame) at the millennial show (July, 2000). She was in her 90’s. She was accompanied by her last Lakeland, Kelda Campbell. He looked like a young dog, but he was 10 years old. I asked what she fed him and the reply “Oh, he gets his biscuit, and some tripe and some fish.” I was always taught to learn from my elders…

(Recommended reading: CANINE NUTRIGENOMICS: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health, by W. Jean Dods, DVM and Diana R. Laverdure, Dogwise Publishing, 2015)