Busted! 5 dog food myths you’ve believed for too long

Beware that the pet food industry is riddled with vague claims and false marketing gimmicks about your dog’s health and nutrition.

Your dog’s diet is key to prolonged good health. But in an industry riddled with vague claims and false marketing gimmicks it can be next to impossible to choose the right food for your pup.

What’s true and what’s not?

Myth 1: High protein diets can cause kidney failure in dogs

Contrary to popular belief, a high-protein diet is not a threat to your dog’s health.

Many dog parents are convinced their pups are at high risk of developing kidney problems if they’re fed a high protein diet.

In healthy dogs, a high protein diet is not a threat to health. Absorbed protein is used for energy and unabsorbed excess protein is excreted as by-products.

A source suggests that the myth can be a result of the high inclusions of plant products like corn and wheat in some pet foods.

Plant products contain protein but don’t supply the amino acids dogs need. Typically, these poor protein sources can be difficult to digest and do more harm than good.

Therefore, it’s important to make sure that your pup gets his protein from a solid protein source.

Myth 2: A grain-free diet is always better for a dog

In general, dogs are allergic to certain foods only if they have a genetic predisposition for it.

Grain-free diets have grown steadily in population over the past years. But are grain-free diets necessarily better for dogs, and is there any scientific backing to the claims?

Allergies are a hot topic when it comes to grain-free diets. It’s easy to come across articles and statements that claim all types of grains are more likely to cause an allergic reaction.

In general, dogs are allergic to certain foods only if they have a genetic predisposition for it.

But do note that some dog food companies formulate foods that contain more than 50% carbohydrates – may or may not be of low-quality sources – to boost the crude fibre percentages. This can trigger allergic reactions.

Grain-free – not carbohydrate-free

It’s also easy to associate grain-free with carbohydrate-free. Not to say that carbohydrates are bad but the problem arises when high quantities of carbohydrates are consumed by your dog.

Large amounts of carbohydrates may be present in dog food produced by some pet food manufacturers, even in cases where the food is labelled grain-free (PS: potato isn’t a grain).

Grain-free is often thought to be “premium”, and therefore sold at a higher price than other foods. Some companies utilise this to boost margins by charging a higher price for products that are high in fillers such as tapioca or potato.

These ingredients are technically grain-free but definitely not the best choice for dogs. Here you can learn about the tricks used to hide poor ingredients on labels.

Thus, it’s better to take note of the quality and amount of carbohydrates, rather than the type of carbs itself.

A few examples are brown rice and oats. They are popular in home-cooked diets for dogs and supported by most veterinarians and dieticians – although being under the grain-family.

Allergies and symptoms

A situation that could lead to the grain-free myth may be when a dog has a condition known as leaky gut. Chronic gut inflammation erodes the layers of the lining in the small intestine (where enzymes to digest glucose is produced).

This leads to glucose not being absorbed and pulls water with it as it travels along the intestines, resulting in bacterial inflammation. Over time this increases, and eventually will also cause discomfort and diarrhoea.

However, these “allergies” are not permanent and a low-carbohydrate or grain-free diet, as well as consuming probiotics, could improve the situation; but the underlying problem remains in the gut.

Myth 3: Older dogs need a low-protein diet

Not all older dogs need a senior diet or a diet containing less protein.

Most people’s nutritional needs change as they age. It’s the same with dogs. However, there’s no universally nutritional requirement that applies to every single senior pup.

Not all older dogs need a senior diet or a diet containing less protein – it depends on his or her body condition and health.

Studies show that some senior dogs can experience weight loss and a reduction in lean body mass – in this case, a protein-rich and calorie-dense diet may help.

On the other hand, studies also illustrate that it’s possible for older pups to more easily gain weight due to slow metabolism and less activity. Therefore, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian before changing the diet.

Myth 4: All bones are good for dogs

Inclusion of raw bones in a dog’s diet would be beneficial to them – in terms of improving oral health as well as providing optimal nutrition. However, not all bones are shown to be beneficial for dogs.

Cooked bones, in fact, do more harm than good. Cooked bones are brittle, fragments of bones may be caught in the linings of the oesophagus, stomach or intestines, which could lead to tears and eventually peritonitis (inflammation of the stomach lining).

Do be cautious when feeding raw bones to your dogs, and avoid raw bones that split easily. A good way to avoid hazards such as broken teeth, choking, tearing of internal linings, is to have the raw bones ground up before feeding.

Raw bones are good for dogs’ oral health. Image credit: Pet friendly house.

Myth 5: Raw feeding gives your dogs salmonella

This is partially true, but many times exaggerated. Salmonella spp is a group of bacteria that resides in the intestinal tract of human beings and warm-blooded animals and are capable of causing disease.

The general precautions to avoid contamination of Salmonella infection still holds, which is to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw meat.

The popularity of the BARF diet inevitably raised the public’s concern as well, regarding environmental contamination with Salmonella spp from the stools of dogs fed with the BARF diet – but there are no published studies examining that aspect of this trend.

Salmonella spp is usually eliminated in the process of drying meat, and the low-moisture content in air-dried food restricts the growth of Salmonella spp if any.

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