There have been a lot of discussions lately regarding dogs’ diets and what they should be eating. I have seen people recommending that the diet must be grain-based, avoiding exotic meats and grain free foods. They are also recommending the avoidance of “boutique” foods and that the food should be a diet that meets The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines, which would only include Royal Canin, Purina, Hill’s Science Diet, Eukanuba, Iams, and all veterinary prescriptions diets. They are saying companies should have full-time veterinarian nutritionists on staff and that the diets should be complete and balanced.
Here are some things to consider when reading these articles. I am going to use cats to illustrate some points because they are strict (obligate) carnivores. Carnivores feed primarily or exclusively on animal matter. Cats cannot sustain their life without meat. The taurine deficiency that we are all hearing so much about was first discovered in cats. They suffered from blindness, tooth decay, birth defects, as well as DCM. Cats cannot internally make taurine like dogs can. This discovery happened long before grain-free foods ever existed; before exotic meat foods or any category of boutique food came to market. These inadequate foods that created malnutrition in cats happened under the watchful eye of veterinarian nutritionists with what were then said to be “complete and balanced diets.”
What I am about to say may sound silly but, considering the majority of cat foods on the market are grain-based, including veterinarian formulas, or mostly have ingredients that do not come from animal matter, I think this is a valid point. If your local zoo was feeding the giraffes a diet of meat, or at a Sea World they were feeding corn to the dolphins, how would you respond? Would you not be outraged? Yet, everyday millions of people feed their cats a grain-based diet. How is this acceptable? If I was to feed my child dirt it would clearly be child abuse. Yet, the dirt is full of minerals and other nutrients that would show up on testing and could be listed on a label to make it sound appropriate.
Science and nature are your true resources. Science and nature show that a cat should have a diet primarily or exclusively of animal matter. How did we get to a point where we believe anyone telling us cats can thrive on a diet of grain or that we can feed them anything as long as we add the right supplements back in? That is what has been happening for years in the pet industry. That is why we have so many overweight and diabetic cats. These are two ailments that cats should never face if they are being fed a species appropriate diet. For me, feeding an animal something nature did not design for them to eat is abuse. Thankfully, there are companies that realize we should feed cats and dogs the foods they are designed, by nature, to eat. This gives YOU, the consumer, choices. Your choices on how you spend your money create change faster than any laws ever will. Making the species appropriate choice for your animal will improve their health and have ripple effects for the entire industry.
I love the history of marketing. Two of my top five marketing scams are:
1) The “Smoking is good for your health and stress” ads of the 40’s-50’s, with brands being approved and promoted by doctors.
2) Cats eating foods made primarily of grains and non-animal matter being presented by veterinarians as a healthy food choice.
Currently too many companies make our companion animals an experiment in “what cheap ingredients can we feed them and then what supplements can we add to their diets to keep them alive”. Just as smoking is no longer accepted as being healthy for us, we need to move into the age of enlightenment and change what is acceptable to feed our dogs and cats. Start with ingredients they are designed to eat (meat) and reduce the unnaturally addictive nature of foods by reducing carbohydrates and avoiding additives like artificial colours and flavours designed to increase palatability. Let’s make the inappropriate feeding of non-species diets to our pets a thing of the past.
Co-Founder of Tail Blazers