The Myth of Commercial Dog Food

Long ago, in places near and far, wolves, the orig­i­nal ances­tors to our dogs lived and hunt­ed in packs. A wolf pack was a fam­i­ly, just like a human fam­i­ly.  Work­ing together,wolf packs were able to take down large ani­mals. Eat­ing prey fol­lowed a strict social order by giv­ing the alpha male first dibs. Over time wolves evolved into pro­to­type dogs and became depen­dent upon humans for food.

The first man­u­fac­tured dog food was a bis­cuit cre­at­ed by an Ohio Elec­tri­cian named James Spratt in 1860.  This bis­cuit was made from wheat, beets, veg­eta­bles and beef blood.  It was called Spratt’s Patent Meat Fib­rine Dog Cakes and came in a tin box with the say­ing “My faith­ful Friend’s Own Bis­cuit Box.”

Milk Bone was first mar­ket­ed as a com­plete dog food and appeared on the mar­ket in 1907 by F. H. Ben­nett. Canned horse­meat for dog food was intro­duced in the Unit­ed States after World War I.  Ken-L-ration was a brand of dog food owned by Quak­er Oats. The brand’s name was a play on the World War II-era K-ration and the dog food’s “orig­i­nal” main ingre­di­ent was “U.S. Gov­ern­ment Inspect­ed horse meat,” adver­tised as “lean, red meat”.

The next big jump in dog food came in 1946 with the intro­duc­tion of dry dog food. In 1957 Puri­na invent­ed the extru­sion method used for mak­ing break­fast cere­al and  “Dog Chow.”

The pet food indus­try cre­at­ed the “Pet Food Insti­tute” and began a media cam­paign that warned dog own­ers to feed their dogs ONLY DOG FOOD.

                          Who’s Who

Manufacturer                                        Brand                                     

Nes­tle                                            Alpo, Mighty Dog, Puri­na

Heinz                                            Gravy Train, Kib­bles-n-Bits, Nature’s Recipe

Col­gate-Pal­mo­live                        Sci­ence Diet

Proc­tor and Gam­ble                     Iams and Eukanu­ba

Mars                                             Cal Can and Pedi­gree

Leap­ing to cur­rent trends and the Decem­ber 2015 Mar­ket Research Report pre­pared by IBIS World we learn the pet indus­try in the Unit­ed States is boom­ing.  Growth can be attrib­uted to both the increase in pet own­er­ship, as well as, from increased spend­ing per pet.  Since 1988 pet own­er­ship has expand­ed from 56% of house­holds to 62% with cats slight­ly out­num­ber­ing dogs.

The IBIS report made note of find­ings from the research com­pa­ny Mintel stat­ing nutri­tion­al val­ue and fla­vor are two top rea­sons own­ers cite for choos­ing food for their pets, just after price and val­ue.  Per­son­al­ly, I paid atten­tion to the sta­tis­tic doc­u­ment­ing that price and val­ue are less impor­tant to con­sumers than nutri­tion!  I also made note that basic pet sup­plies such as dry pet food show lit­tle dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion among brands.

Where’s the Protein?

Like Wendy’s fast food icon­ic 1984 catch­phrase “Where’s the Beef?” we need to ask, on behalf of our canine bud­dies, “where’s the pro­tein?” A true canine “hap­py meal” must con­sist of 50–60% pro­tein.

Dry dog food is low in pro­tein.  A lack of pro­tein in a canine’s diet caus­es:

  1. Dull coat
  2. Lack of eye lus­ter
  3. Dull teeth
  4. Off bal­ance atti­tude
  5. Aggres­sion
  6. Low ener­gy — a lack of vital­i­ty
  7. Prone to chron­ic dis­ease
  8. De-natured food lacks vital force (life ener­gy) and vit­a­mins

Recall notices for dog food are hap­pen­ing more and more in today’s mar­ket place. Recalls range from mold con­t­a­m­i­na­tion to inad­e­quate lev­els of vit­a­mins and min­er­als, sal­mo­nel­la and Lis­te­ria bac­te­ria. Typ­i­cal­ly dry dog food is recalled more often than canned dog food.

What’s the difference between natural and organic?

When you buy food labeled “nat­ur­al,” what exact­ly are you get­ting? In the US, the word “nat­ur­al” has no reg­u­lat­ed def­i­n­i­tion. “Nat­ur­al” can mean any num­ber of dif­fer­ent things, depend­ing on where in the US you are, who the food man­u­fac­tur­er is and what store is car­ry­ing the prod­uct.

Fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions strict­ly define the term “organ­ic.” When you see “organ­ic” on the label, you know that food was made with a set of farm­ing and pro­duc­tion prac­tices defined and reg­u­lat­ed by the USDA.

Organ­ic” tells you you’re buy­ing food made with­out the use of tox­ic per­sis­tent pes­ti­cides, GMOs, antibi­otics, arti­fi­cial growth hor­mones, sewage sludge or irra­di­a­tion.

Nat­ur­al Organ­ic
Tox­ic per­sis­tent pes­ti­cides and her­bi­cides allowed not allowed
GMOs allowed not allowed
Antibi­otics allowed not allowed
Growth hor­mones allowed not allowed
Irra­di­a­tion allowed not allowed
Ani­mal-wel­fare reg­u­la­tions No Yes
Low­er lev­els of envi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion Not nec­es­sar­i­ly Yes
Audit trail from farm to table No Yes
Cer­ti­fi­ca­toin required, includ­ing reg­u­lar inspec­tions No Yes
Legal restric­tions on mate­ri­als allowed No Yes
Chart adapt­ed from

In the past five years retail­ers have increas­ing­ly pro­vid­ed nat­ur­al and organ­ic food prod­ucts. These pre­mi­um pet foods tend to be high­er priced.  Based on the IBIS research the nat­ur­al and organ­ic foods and treats will con­tin­ue to gain pop­u­lar­i­ty as more house­holds view their ani­mals’ diets as a means of improv­ing their pet’s over­all health.  Nat­ur­al and organ­ic foods were once clas­si­fied as a niche mar­ket.  Today major food man­u­fac­tur­ers such as Nes­tles, Mars, and Del Monte Foods all mar­ket nat­ur­al prod­ucts that are sold at major retail­ers.

The instinctual  and  species appropriate diet for canines is a raw food diet.

The human diet varies cul­tur­al­ly, geo­graph­i­cal­ly and eco­nom­i­cal­ly.  Those same vari­a­tions do not hold true for canines. Despite genet­ic manip­u­la­tion and train­ing for spe­cif­ic char­ac­ter­is­tics, mod­ern dogs, like their wolf ances­tors are car­ni­vores. Dogs remain unchanged anatom­i­cal­ly, phys­i­o­log­i­cal­ly, bio­chem­i­cal­ly, and have the same diges­tive sys­tem and dietary needs as their wolf ances­tors.

Regard­less of breed, a raw food diet is  ben­e­fi­cial for most dogs. This is not an old par­a­digm, nor a new par­a­digm; rather, a mod­i­fied species appro­pri­ate diet.  Dogs in the wild would typ­i­cal­ly eat all parts of their prey, includ­ing feath­ers and oth­er parts that we can­not repli­cate in today’s mod­ern world.

Peo­ple are wak­ing up to the poor qual­i­ty and tox­ins present in processed and man­u­fac­tured food. An ide­al canine diet  is a clean vari­ety of fresh raw pro­tein. Clean means free of tox­ins and chem­i­cals. A raw food diet con­sists of feed­ing your dog raw meat, raw bones, and raw organs.

For the major­i­ty of dogs, good health and resis­tance to ill­ness and dis­ease is a com­bi­na­tion of genet­ics and envi­ron­ment (nutri­tion, exer­cise, and sleep).


Coming up next

  • Plan­ning a nutri­tious raw meal for your dog
  • Shop­ping for organ­ic ingre­di­ents
  • Sim­ple meal prepa­ra­tions and freez­er stor­age
  • Adding  Cal­ci­um, Trace Min­er­als, and Oils for a bal­anced meal
  • What are the ben­e­fits of detox­ing your dog?