Dogs eat anything, right? Well, yes and no! Dogs may wolf down whatever is put in front of them (or that they find…) but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for them. Here’s what you need to know about the risks of the ‘traditional’ dog diet and what Lively Paws dog supplements can help supplement your pooch’s meals.
A short history of dog food
It’s believed that dogs became ‘pets’ about 33,000 years ago. In the beginning, they were mostly given scraps of meat and bones. It wasn’t until 1860 that the first dog biscuit was made out of wheat, vegetables, beetroot, and beef blood. Canned food followed in the 1920s, mostly made from dehydrated meat and grain mill scraps. During the Great Depression, 90% of the pet food market was canned—but during the war years, the only dog food that owners could afford was the dry stuff: kibble and biscuits.
The making of kibble improved in the 1950s when a process called extrusion was used to boil meat, scraps, and fat together. Vitamins and minerals were added, then starch. Since then, most commercial dog food has been mass produced in this way.
What dogs are designed to eat
Dogs certainly didn’t start out eating kibble! In fact, it’s only in the last few decades that dogs have been fed commercially-made dried food. Before that, their diet was very much ‘real’ food: meat, scraps, and bones. A dog’s jaw and triangular shaped carnassial teeth are designed for tearing flesh and crushing bone. Their digestive system also supports eating meat and bones.
When we talk about biologically appropriate food for dogs, what this really means is a balanced combination of protein, fat, and vitamins and minerals from whole foods—that is, items like turkey and duck necks, beef bones, pork riblets, rabbit, whole fish (like sardines), and more. This is what dogs were designed to eat, and it’s the type of food that they thrive on.
There is plenty of research to back this up. One study out of Sweden found that while puppies fed a processed diet appeared healthy while young, as they matured they rapidly declined and developed symptoms of degenerative disease. The group that was raised on a raw, uncooked diet did not show these symptoms and remained healthy. A Belgian study gathered data from more than 500 domestic dogs over a five-year period and found that dogs fed a homemade diet had a life expectancy of almost three years longer than dogs fed commercial pet food.
1. Grains can cause serious inflammation and digestion issues
Corn, wheat, and rice are often contaminated with molds due to poor growing conditions or and storage. These molds can produce a very potent carcinogen known as aflatoxins, which can be devastating to a dog’s system even at low doses, causing anemia, liver or kidney failure, cancer, and even premature death.
2. Grain-free kibble increases the risk of DCM
In 2018, the FDA began investigating reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating grain-free pet foods. These were typically the commercial dog foods with a high content of peas, lentils, other legume seeds (pulses), and potatoes. Many of the reports included breeds of dogs not previously known to have a genetic predisposition to the disease. This is typically the result of a taurine deficiency—and while supplementing can help, switching to a species-appropriate diet (i.e., raw) is a better option.
3. Kibbles contain questionable palatability enhancers
Yeast, fat, sweeteners, and/or concentrated flavours are used to improve the taste of traditional dog foods. Excessives of these additives in a dog’s diet can cause uneven energy, blood sugar spikes, nervousness, and make a puppy difficult to train. When these foods are eaten over a lifetime, high amounts of sugar can cause numerous physiological problems such tooth decay, cataracts, obesity, arthritis, allergies, and canine diabetes.
4. Low moisture content
Dry pet food typically has a 10–12 percent moisture content, while wet food is around 75–78 percent moisture. A dry food diet can slow digestion and increase a dog’s need for water. In contrast, a biologically appropriate diet contains all the moisture dogs need—naturally. This is why raw-fed dogs typically drink so little water from their bowls.
5. Heavy on carbs can lead to obesity
The National Research Council has stated that no carbs are considered essential for a healthy canine diet. They don’t need corn, wheat, barley, rice, or potatoes, either. But carbs make up most of the content of dry dog foods—typically about 60%. This can lead to obesity and a host of other issues, including digestion problems, gas and bloating, and allergies.
Switching to a biologically appropriate diet
The B.A.R.F. diet (biologically appropriate raw food) is simply about giving a dog the foods he evolved on: meats and greens that are fresh, uncooked, and wild sourced. The genetic makeup of domesticated dog breeds actually supports this type of eating.
A raw dog diet is high in protein, moderate in fat, and low in carbohydrates. It comprises mainly muscle meat, raw meaty bones, organ meat, vegetables and fruits, and dog vitamins.
There are numerous health benefits to feeding your dog a raw food diet. It’s been shown to improve a dog’s physique and help them build lean, healthy muscle. Many dogs end up overweight or obese after eating a ‘traditional’ dog food diet, which contributes to a number of health issues.
The B.A.R.F. diet also helps improve their skin and coat, as well as their dental health. It boosts their energy levels and reduces odor.
Best of all—a B.A.R.F. diet doesn’t have to cost the earth. Most raw meat ingredients such as organ meats and offcuts can be purchased fairly cheaply, and vegetables can be grown in your garden. Even some leftovers for your own meals can suffice! The key here: ensure it’s balanced. There are plenty of resources online to help you with that.