Commercial pet foods are a relatively new concept in the history of man’s association with dogs and cats. The role of domesticated cats and dogs in society has evolved from working and predator, whose diets consisted primarily of table scraps and occasional prey, to that of companion animals whose diets are almost totally controlled by their human overseers.
The first commercial dog food was introduced in the 1860’s by James Spratt. This was basically a bone-shaped biscuit made of wheat, beetroot, vegetables and beef blood. Variations of this theme continued through the early 1900’s, when dry forms of dog food reigned supreme.
At the end of World War I, (and due partly to the increased demand for automobiles) huge numbers of horses and mules were slaughtered and turned into canned pet foods. Canned pet foods represented as much as 90% of the market until the start of World War II, when manufacturing of war related products, shortage of tin and the decline in horse populations drove the business back to dry foods. By the end of World War II dry pet foods dominated the market.
In the late 1950’s and early 60’s ‘kibbled’ dog food was introduced, and it is that form that dominates the market to this day. Entire train cards filled with cheap but readily available wheat, corn, rice, potatoes, soybeans, as well as animals parts are ground up, combined with ‘meat meal’ made from pork, beef, venison, chicken, lamb, turkey, and a variety of other animals (may also include the skeletal bones, beaks, feet, hooves, and horns). To this they add vitamins, minerals, additives and some coloring and both natural and/or artificial preservatives which allow you to buy big bags of food that last for longer periods of time.
As more and more large corporations entered the business, good nutrition gave way to convenience and consumer appeal. Convenience is an important factor, but not at the expense of your dog’s well being. Obviously this combination of products is not a natural diet for either dogs or cats, both of which are carnivores whose natural diet is primarily meat protein supplemented with the occasional ingestion of fruits and/or vegetables. Have you ever seen a dog or cat out in a field or garden eating wheat, potatoes, or soybeans?
Since human diets of processed and fast foods require additional supplements either incorporated in them or taken separately, it is only logical that the same requirement applies to the ‘processed and fast foods’ we would feed to our pets. Despite our knowledge of nutrition and what is appropriate, our love affair with inappropriate nutrition is a major cause of health problems in both humans and pets. Increasing incidence of obesity, hip dysplasia, mellitus, Type 2 Diabetes, food allergies, heart disease and cancer are in the headlines of our media on a daily basis. The evil of fats, refined sugars, synthetics antioxidants and potential carcinogens are frequent discussion points, as are the benefits of natural minerals, vitamins, anti-oxidants, nutriceuticals, and probiotics are buzzwords frequently heard, but seldom understood.
Virtually every brand of ‘balanced’ pet food manufactured today requires the addition of supplements or chelated supplements because the main ingredients of the food are either lacking in these nutrients, or the natural nutrients have been destroyed during the processing of the foods.
For more than 100 years we have been told that prepared feed is better than real food. The majority of pet owners and veterinarians have been subject to the promotion of prepared feed to the point where they have become convinced that these ‘modern’ diets are superior to the dog’s ‘natural’ diet. Not only does this defy common sense, the simple test is to offer your dog the choice between the two and you will see that the dog immediately recognizes the difference. If it does not look like food, then it is not food, it is feed. If the content of all of the ingredients in the bag are supposed to be good for your dog, ask yourself why it is ground up and formed so that it is unidentifiable?