Today I wanted to have a quick chat about a study that recently came out from the university of Illinois because I found it, how should I put it… disappointing? Especially when it was reviewed to reach a wider audience – you and me, in other words.
The study that included beagles fed with fresh food was run by a few people with PhDs, which to any layman would most definitely look like a sure sign of quality and confidence. The beagles got some fresh food made with a few ingredients and naturally produced less poop compared to a group fed kibble.
The scientists then concluded that fresh diet is better for dogs, but did it in a way that could easily mislead any normal non-science’y dog parent and, as a result, potentially put their dog’s health at risk.
Granted, I don’t have a PhD, but I do know nutrition. That is why I need to explain a few study statements and my concerns.
First of all, “producing less excrements” isn’t really a new thing. It’s just another trend that was mimicked on countries like Japan where high urban population and clear lack of space meant that dogs foods had to be adjusted to result in less poops. It had nothing to do with dog’s health, but obvious need for yet another space-saving know-how.
Secondly, the diets included “two fresh diets made using only USDA-certified human-grade ingredients” The ingredients were listed yet it wasn’t clear who created the diet, whether or not it was nutritionally balanced or how it would affect the dog long-term (the feeding regime only took 4 weeks, which isn’t enough to see any abnormalities or deficiencies should they happen, especially in healthy dogs previously fed a balanced complete diet)
The researches tested the dogs before the trial and after the trial and noted that blood test results did not change. Which means that the dogs were good to go on their original food.
The worrying part is that I can easily picture a health-conscious pup parent cooking up a feast using the list of ingredients mentioned in the study review thinking that it’s the best thing for his dog because “a guy with PhD said so”. And if one can’t trust google, one can surely trust a guy with PhD, right?
Also “human grade” fresh food doesn’t actually mean that kibble would not be made with “human grade” ingredients. In fact, there are strict rules to ensure that our dogs don’t end up eating road kill or any animal that died of natural causes or old age. The dogs would eat the same cows and chickens as their human family, but different, less palatable (in human view) parts of them (think hearts and organ meats, not hooves or feathers).
Then the study went into a human diet (really?) to say that people would be more satisfied with fresh food than processed food and as a result, would lose weight and be healthier.
The only problem is that processed human food is not the same as a good quality kibble. Ask any board-certified nutritionist – and they will confirm this. Letting people assume that kibble is nothing more than a dog version of a human junk from a famous food chain is not just wrong, it is harmful.
Now… the trendy microbiota…. because they simply had to mention gut bacteria as some of the levels changed. Not for better, not for worse. They just changed. But the study folks assumed it would be better because their previous studies said so. Which is so not PhD…
But if we do talk about microbiome and good bacteria, we need to jump straight to the beginning of this study and the rice and broccoli vs “horrible” kibble and carbs comparison.
Yes, kibble often results in more poop. But is it really a bad thing? Nope. Not. At. All. A good quality complete and balance kibble will contain good quality carbohydrates and fibre that will add bulk to the faeces. But it is vital to remember that besides the bulk, good carbs and fibre can play an important role in keeping your dogs healthy…
Well, the fibre itself will work like a brush to rid the gut from toxins and bacteria.
The soluble fibre will feed the good bacteria.
The good bacteria will take care of your dog’s digestive health, immunity, vitamin levels, reduce risk of allergies and possibly cancers.
The insoluble fibre will also look after the anal glands.
And carbohydrates and fibre will supply vitamins and minerals that your dog may not always get from other foods.
Plus, good carbs will keep the dog fuller for longer and may help him maintain healthy weight or even loose some.
On the other hand, an unbalanced fresh diet may cause deficiencies and affect digestive health due to lack of fibre. The reduction of carbohydrates and fibre also means that they are either replaced with another form of bulking ingredients that dogs may not always be able to digest so well or without side-effects (think bloating). Alternatively, less fibre and carbohydrates often mean higher fat content, which can increase the risk of weight gain, pancreatitis and any disease caused by excess weight.
And upon checking on some foods used in the study as “better alternatives” I noticed ingredients such as garlic (think, Heinz bodies and risk of fatal haemolytic anaemia), potatoes (nightshades and risk of arthritis, plus potential link to DCM), spinach (think oxalates and risk of kidney stones), and pea fibres (potential bloating and increased risk of DCM) to name a few.
It absolutely pains me to say negative things about a study because I really love science and this is a bit like a car crush…
Image credit: cocker spaniel puppy by Switlana Synonenko via 123rf.com