Your dog is important to you. If a pet food company has a food tailored specifically for your dog, you want it, right? Well that is exactly what pet food companies are hoping with their breed specific dog food product lines. But what is special about these diets? How do they target the specific needs of your dog’s breed? Or maybe they don’t. A careful reading of the ingredient list of a popular company’s breed specific diets would suggest that indeed, they aren’t so breed specific.
Ingredient List of Breed Specific Foods
The following is a list of breeds and the first 11 ingredients in foods specifically formulated for those breeds offered by a major dog food maker.
Corn, chicken by-product meal, brewers rice, wheat, corn gluten meal, chicken fat, natural flavors, pea fiber, dried plain beet pulp, wheat gluten, fish oil,
Brewers rice, chicken by-product meal, brown rice, wheat gluten, chicken fat, oat groats, natural flavors, pork meal, dried plain beet pulp, fish oil,
Corn, chicken by-product meal, brewers rice, wheat gluten, oat groats, brown rice, chicken fat, natural flavors, dried plain beet pulp, fish oil,
Brewers rice, brown rice, chicken by-product meal, oat groats, chicken fat, corn gluten meal, wheat gluten, natural flavors, dried plain beet pulp, fish oil
Brewers rice, chicken by-product meal, brown rice, wheat gluten, oat groats, chicken fat, natural flavors, dried plain beet pulp, fish oil
Brewers rice, chicken by-product meal, brown rice, oat groats, chicken fat, pork meal, natural flavors, powdered cellulose, wheat gluten, dried plain beet pulp, fish oil
Chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, brown rice, oat groats, brewers rice, barley, natural flavors, chicken fat, dried plain beet pulp, pea fiber, wheat gluten, pork meal, fish oil
Brewers rice, chicken by-product meal, brown rice, oat groats, wheat gluten, chicken fat, corn gluten meal, natural flavors, chicory, salt, fish oil
Brewers rice, brown rice, chicken by-product meal, chicken fat, oat groats, wheat gluten, natural flavors, dried plain beet pulp, powdered cellulose, fish oil
Brewers rice, brown rice, chicken by-product meal, chicken fat, wheat gluten, corn gluten meal, corn, natural flavors, powdered cellulose, dried plain beet pulp, fish oil
I don’t know about you, but I don’t find any major differences in these ingredients that would indicate breed specificity. And in fact, dog food makers know that there isn’t. We are in the infancy of understanding the dog genetic code and its implications for individual nutrition or nutrigenomics . We are not yet sure how we can feed specifically to turn on the right genes for optimum metabolism and health. As I hope you see, at this time it is more about marketing than about fact.
What Health Benefits Do Breed Specific Diets Have?
You notice all of the diets included fish oil. Fish oil contains the omega-3 fats called DHA and EPA. Research suggests that these to fats help regulate the immune response and reduce the inflammation. That means they help reduce itching for dogs with allergies and symptoms of internal inflammatory conditions like inflammatory bowel diseases. DHA and EPA are thought to also aid neurological development in puppies, reduce joint pain, and reduce dementia in aging dogs.
All of the diets also included vitamin E a powerful antioxidant to protect cells from metabolic damage. Research suggests that antioxidants are a great “brain food” for dogs and help prevent or slow dementia, hearing loss and other age related brain disorders. Vitamin C is also an excellent antioxidant, but was only included in a few of the diets.
If DHA, EPA and antioxidants are helpful for dogs, why aren’t they in all dog foods for all ages? What is so breed specific about that?
The only breed specific ingredients were those targeted for common conditions of certain diseases. For instance, for breeds predisposed to hip dysplasia and other arthritic causing conditions, the food maker adds chondroitin/ glucosamine to lubricate joints and reduce joint pain. However, they add mostly glucosamine, the lubricating chemical. The amount of chondroitin in these diets is 1/12 of that necessary to relive pain.
For those dogs with tendencies to become over weight or have heart disease, L-carnitine is added to the diet. L-carnitine is an amino acid that aids fat transport into the mitochondria of the cell to be burned to produce energy. Research has shown that the addition of L-carnitine to the diet does indeed aid failing hearts and animals on weight loss programs. But they only help if the animal has those problems.
Healthy animals probably derive little extra benefit. And their addition to the diet won’t prevent the conditions form developing. But that is exactly what the company wants you to believe. That is what is behind their marketing concept of breed specific diets.
Homemade Dog Food
At this point in time, the expense of breed specific commercial dog food is probably not justified. There is no “breed benefit” worth the extra cost. Homemade recipe ingredients can be manipulated to meet the specific needs of individual dogs with breed associated medical conditions. No food can prevent the eventuality of breed specific medical conditions at the present time. But homemade is a far better approach to treating existing conditions.
Dr. Ken Tudor,
THE DOG DIETITIAN