Seeing through a dog’s breakfast

Stephen Curtis's picture
An empty bowl waiting to be filled “feed me”, a bowl of dry food, some fresh mince being made, and a very confused lady in a red dress holding her head

I seem to spend a lot of time talking about pet food. From little furry rodents to giant dog breeds, what to feed and how much of it is a constant topic of discussion. Raw food is all over the place at the moment and the corresponding raw meat-based diets (RMBD) are a newish trend in dog food.

On one hand, the move to RMBD in dogs comes from the right place, a desire to improve the health and well being of people's pet dogs and a recognition that food can be a part of that.  Good nutrition is a cornerstone of welfare and similarly, if a feeding system is found that promotes over the current one, then it should be encouraged. 

The issue with RMBD for many vets is that, despite being around since 1993 and promoters and manufactures making many claims, there is still no studies to support the health benefits they claim. In an era of evidence based medicine, individual anecdotes like "My dog lived to 17 years old" or " She seems much happier" are as useful as " My granny smoked very day until she was 97" or "I wasn't wearing a seat belt, woke up three fields away and didn't have a scratch on me" for evaluating health outcomes. 

Studies have shown that raw diets do little for dental disease. Researches studying the skulls of African Wild Dogs have found that despite as natural diet as possible, they had similar rates of dental disease as domestic dogs. Brush people, brush!

Other studies into RMBD have shown nutritional imbalances, increased pathogen exposure to pets and owners as well as the problems with eating bones themselves.

As for claims that dogs are just funny looking wolves so should eat like them, a study published in Nature (Dog's dinner was key to domestication) has shown that not only do dogs behave differently to wolves but they have different genes to them, so they digest differently as well.

The reality is that feeding raw meat and by products carries inherent risks to both pet and owner as well as the difficulties of balancing a diet for long term health. 

To quote Robert Wayne, a geneticist from UCLA, involved in studying the genome of ancient dogs, commenting on the paper in Nature- "Every day I get an email from a dog owner who asks, should they feed their dog like a wolf? I think this paper answers that question: no."

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