It's not in the Bag!
There's a lot of contradictory advice regarding
raw foods for dogs. Some people fear that it
will make their dog aggressive and others think
they have to feed dry, canned or cooked food
to prevent their dog from getting parasites or
dangerous bacteria. Then there are those that
just can't believe their "best friend" is
actually a meat-eating carnivore... or is that
omnivore? Some people feel that handling raw
food for their pet is just plain repulsive.
Many people never consider exactly what their dog is really eating or look at the back of the package when they are deciding what to feed their pet. They may have seen an advertisement on television or in a magazine that has influenced their choice. Nutritional guidelines for pet foods have been defined and are displayed on the products but for the most part this doesn't really tell anyone about the actual quality of the food itself.
The guaranteed analysis
on any pet food label lists the minimum level of
crude protein and fat as well as maximum amounts
of water and crude fiber on a dry matter basis.
The analysis does not guarantee the actual amount
of protein, fat, water and fiber. Rather, it indicates
legal minimums of protein and fat and the legal
maximums of water and crude fiber content. Ingredients
are usually listed in descending order of weight
but some companies may list them alphabetically
or may display an incomplete ingredient list. No
reference to quality of an ingredient is listed.
Therefore, it is difficult to evaluate a product
solely on the basis of the ingredient list.
The statement "complete and balanced" indicates
that the product contains all nutrients presently
known to be required and that they are balanced
to the energy density of the diet, but that doesn't
mean it's balanced for a dog's individual needs.
Feeding trials must substantiate the "complete
and balanced" claims, or the food must contain
at least the minimum amount of each nutrient
recommended according to present guidelines.
That doesn't mean that it actually contains every
nutrient your dog needs to thrive. It merely
means the food contains those nutrients that
will keep a dog alive.
Imagine going to the grocery store to shop for
and every shelf contains bags of 100% "complete
dry, processed human food, guaranteed to meet
needs of all humans... you have no idea what's
in the bag.
You never get to eat any fresh food. Ever.
You eat this food day after day for your entire
Dry dog foods, being the top selling convenience
product, contain either 'meals' i.e. 'meat meals',
'by-product meals' or 'digests'. The poorest
grade meat comes from animals not fit for human
consumption and they are rendered into meat meal.
This rendered product comes from "mammal" tissues,
and does not contain hair, blood, hoof, hide,
trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents "except
in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good
processing practices". Meat by-products
by definition, consist of the non-rendered, clean
parts, other than meat derived from slaughtered
'mammals'. It includes, but is not limited to
lungs, spleen, kidney, brain, liver, blood, bone,
low temperature fatty tissue, stomachs and intestines
without their contents. Digests are dried material
resulting from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis
of clean and undecomposed animal tissue. The
animal tissue used does not contain remnants
of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, "except
in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably
in good factory practice".
You might be thinking "just a minute, this
all sounds like good food for a carnivore, doesn't
it?" While many of these ingredients may
be acceptable foods for a carnivore, the problem
is none of these descriptions ever mention where
these food sources come from.
Just about anything unfit for humans or animals
finds its way into rendering plants. This material
is then denatured, preventing its return into
the human food chain. Machines grind the material
and then it is cooked at high temperatures. The
grease is extracted and becomes a source of animal
fat in many dog foods. These unstabilized fats
undergo oxidation, become rancid and they also
contain high levels of extremely harmful peroxide-free
radicals. Did you know that rancid fat can legally
be used in dog food?
dog foods contain fats, a stabilizer is needed
to maintain the quality of the food. Common preservatives
include ethoxyquin, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole),
BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and vitamins E and
C. Ethoxyquin was first used as a rubber stabilizer
and an insecticide and pesticide. It is probably
one of the most powerful preservatives available.
BHA and BHT are used in human food as well as dog
foods and have a long history of suspected carcinogenesis.
Companies that buy ingredients, such as fat, that
have already been preserved with a chemical like
ethoxyquin do not by law have to list ethoxyquin
as an ingredient of the food. Even vitamin E could
have the potential to cause problems as only 'alpha'
tocopherol acts as a preservative. The tocopherols
often used in dog foods may be other types such
as gamma, beta and delta. In short, foods containing
these antioxidants have longer shelf lives, but
the continued feeding of them may cause long-term
health problems for dogs.
The main ingredient in the majority of dog foods is grains, rather than meat. If grains are not listed as the first ingredient they are usually the second or third and more often than not, comprise a good portion of the protein source in the product. Grains not suitable for human consumption may be used and can include broken grains, crop and weed seeds, hulls, chaff, joints, straw, elevator or mill dust, sand and dirt. Worse yet, they may contain herbicides, fungicides and pesticides. Dog food manufacturers often manipulate the order of the ingredients listed in several ways. Grain ingredients are listed as separate fractions, rather than together as a single grain, in order to increase the likelihood that the meat ingredients are closer to the top of the list.
Essential Fatty Acids are virtually non-existent
in commercial food as they are destroyed by heat
during manufacturing. Some companies add essential
fatty acids to the food after processing, but
they are so fragile that they become rancid when
exposed to light and air. That means that once
the bag of food is opened, the fatty acids are
destroyed and they become dangerous to the dog's
Nutrients in food are depleted, destroyed, and
altered by cooking or heat processing. The degree
of alteration is only a matter of temperature,
cooking method, and time. High temperatures create
cross-links in protein. Cross-linked proteins
are implicated as a factor in the acceleration
of the aging process as toxic substances and "by-products" are
created. The higher the cooking temperature,
the more toxins are created. Studies have concluded
that cooking meat at high temperatures, to the
well-done stage, produces chemicals called heterocyclic
amines (HCAs) that can cause mutations (genetic
damage) to cells, a first step in cancer.
Most, if not all enzymes present in raw foods
are destroyed at temperatures as low as 117 degrees
Fahrenheit. Digestion of cooked food is much
more energetically demanding than the digestion
of raw food. In general, raw food is so much
more easily digested that it passes through the
digestive tract in half to a third of the time
it takes for cooked food to digest. Beneficial
intestinal flora becomes dominated by bacteria,
particularly from cooked meat, which may result
in intestinal dysfunction, allowing the absorption
of toxins from the bowel. This phenomenon is
called dysbiosis, or intestinal toxemia.
As cooked animal foods are generally lower in
nutrient value, individual cells in a dog's body
may not receive enough of the nutrients they
need. The immune system, having to handle the
daily invasion of toxins and toxic by-products,
eventually becomes overwhelmed and weakened.
The wastes, toxins, mutagens, and carcinogens
that build up within cells, as well as the daily
onslaught of excess free radicals, may eventually
cause some cells to become cancerous. In other
words, cooking food doesn't make it as healthy
or safe as we would like to believe.