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Nutrition

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 your family
and every shelf contains bags of 100% "complete and balanced"
dry, processed human food, guaranteed to meet the nutritional
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 life.


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?
 

Because conventional 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 health.

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.